Why is it that when a Government is in strife it immediately reaches for the knife and cuts the education budget?
Why doesn’t the Federal Government bite the bullet and institute the recommendations of the Gonski Report instead of holding endless meetings with education Ministers and then releasing warm and fuzzy press releases about how much they really care?
Why are teachers constantly under the pump?
These are some of the questions that teachers around the country ask themselves as they saddle up for another 40 with a rampaging Year 9 or try to inspire a surly Year 10. It is the question that flits across their minds as they are reminded to check the toilets in yet another staff meeting.
When it comes to marking their own efforts, teachers are very hard on themselves.
Quite often they think they are failing their charges, often they worry about whether they are on top of the subject they are teaching.
They spend their lives trying to re-invent ways to make their teaching interesting. No teacher wants their kids to do badly. I have yet to meet a teacher who wanted their Year 12 class to get bad marks in the HSC. Not one.
And yet teachers constantly feel under siege.
At a recent signing session for my new book Playground Duty, a teacher thanked me because she said it would make it easier for her to admit to being a teacher when someone asked her what she did for a living.
I was touched by her words but I was appalled to think that her confidence had been so eroded.
Every parent on the planet wants their child to get the best teaching available. A lot of parents will go to extraordinary lengths to get them into what they perceive are the “best” schools.
The relationship between teachers and students is unique.
Teachers see kids at their most vulnerable and most exposed. They care for them and quite often protect them. When children are struggling, teachers do everything in their power to help them find a way through the maze. This seems to go unnoticed by a lot of parents and the public at large. Many teachers spend sleepless nights worrying about how their charges are going.
When you consider they might have six different classes of 25, age range from 12-18, that’s a lot of kids to worry about.
Teaching is a wonderful occupation. That’s one of our best-kept secrets.
Lots of incredible things go on in classrooms around the country every minute of the school day. Lots of special relationships are formed and lots of young people are inspired to believe in themselves and go places they never dreamt of.
By the same token, lots of teachers are burnt out and frustrated. They wake up to news of more funding cuts or carping from sections of the media about their lack of professionalism.
Which brings me back to my initial question about why there are so few male teachers in our schools?
A lot of men consider teaching as an occupation but reject it because of the lack of respect for the profession in the wider community.
Teaching isn’t a high status occupation in this country. It is one of the most important but it isn’t high status.
How many stories do we read about great teachers? How often do we hear about what really goes on in the classroom? How often are teachers celebrated? How hard is it for teachers to maintain reasonable conditions? How attractive are the financial incentives to take up a teaching career.
There are more reports into education than most of us have hot dinners and yet, how many of them have been instituted?
How many, like the Gonski Report, are destined to be left to gather dust?
What is really strange about this is that nearly everyone has a story about a teacher who changed their lives, who provided that light bulb moment that inspired them to go somewhere they never imagined they could go.
Teaching is only deemed newsworthy when it’s time to cut the budget, make motherhood statements or when teachers have the temerity to try and improve conditions for our future generations.
It is high time we tried to understand and appreciate what teachers do and offer them the support they deserve.
*Join The Hoopla’s discussion on the teacher that inspired you here.
Nurses: Enough! We Quit! (nb: 1.2k Facebook likes)
* Ned Manning has taught in a number of high schools and tertiary institutions. He was a Senior Examiner in HSC Drama in NSW and is a past recipient of the NSW Premier’s Literary Award. He has written extensively about teaching, how to be a playwright and coaches drama students. He also works as an actor. You can find everything Ned at: www.nedmanning.com
Playground Duty received this review from Amanda Caldwell at the NSW Writers’ Centre:
While Playground Duty provides specific insight into the teaching of drama and performing, its lessons are wider than that. It shows the value that one person with drive, ambition and compassion can offer by applying themselves to teaching (or anything).