I wrote this column for a recent issue of the Suns newspapers in the NT. The matter is one that has exercised my mind for a long time.
TRUST NOW A RARITY
For better or worse, the innate trust that was once vested in schools, principals, teachers and support staff has diminished. There was a time when those working in schools were trusted to do their jobs. They were generally appreciated for the way they went about delivering on their educational commitments.
While there were some who did not fully live up to that trust, the great majority of school based employees did the right thing. There was also a time when teachers and parents could work together proactively to help students overcome poor learning attitudes. They were on the same side. These days there is a tendency for teachers to be blamed if student learning outcomes do not meet expectations.
Most educators worked far beyond the school day. The majority of educators were at work early and stayed until well after students departed in the afternoon. Weekend and holiday work were common.
Those who worked in schools during the 1960s until the mid 1990s would remember those times. It felt good to be trusted and appreciated for the work done in schools. That appreciation came from within the community and the Education Department.
An era of accountability, assessment, and compliance requirement now has a major influence on education. Times have changed. People are now called to account more zealously than used to be the case. Appreciation is less forthcoming and demand for results within narrow academic strands of accomplishment are front and centre. Trust in teachers and school staff to do their jobs without their efforts being closely monitored has all but vanished. Conversations with school based educators confirms that most feel under growing stress and pressure.
Accountability and compliance pressures have resulted in a refocus of teaching strategies and data collection. Data is all about justification. It is the number one topic that occupies the agendas of educational meetings in both schools and higher departmental levels. Focus on data, student results and comparisons of Northern Territory students with those elsewhere are the major drivers.
This pressure puts stress on educators in a way that causes many to feel they have their noses constantly on the grindstone. There is no respite, no letup and no longer an enjoyment of teaching. This in turn is transferred to students in classrooms. Teachers and students are educational game players who MUST meet predetermined teaching and learning outcomes.
It may be a cry too late, but teachers and students must be trusted to teach and learn without the need for their every move to be minutely examined