THE PROSPECT OF TEACHING IS A TURNOFF

How interesting to read and to hear about another salvo into the realm of trying to attract our brightest and most gifted students. Outstanding graduates will make brilliant teachers and uplift the standard of teaching for the benefit of students seems to be the thinking.

“Our top teachers aren’t becoming teachers and that matters” is the subject of a leading paper in today’s ‘The Conversation’. Co-authors Peter Goss and Julie Sonnemann suggest the bright young ones are giving teaching a miss. “They are interested in teaching, but when it comes to the crunch they choose professions with better pay and more challenge.”

A package of incentives is proposed that focus on extrinsic reward.

With respect, the authors miss the point and in my opinion by a wide margin. There is also an inference that the teachers we have in our schools are second best and recruitment needs to be fixed. That could be construed as a put down on those teaching students in our schools.

The first ‘missed’ point is that those contemplating teaching may becoming well aware of the increasing challenges teachers face when it comes to disciplining and managing students. Deliberately disinclined, disrespectful and aberrant student behaviours are commonplace. That is a problem growing in all schools and at all educational levels.

A corollary attaching to this issue is that teachers are having to manage a growing complexity of student abilities. Special education needs have to be managed within standard classrooms and that because of mainstreaming policies. While support assistants are employed to help, their capacities are often restricted by a number of factors.

The second issue is that of administrative and paper management responsibilities that have attached to and are being dumped on teachers at a level that is almost exponential.

Testing, measurement, evaluation and recording tasks prioritised by the system take increasing amounts of time and distance teachers from their students.

Teachers become desk bound, absorbed with data inputting. Students in turn are set tasks that have the computer rather than the teacher as their guide. For many teachers these requirements become dispiriting and off-putting.

Sadly, too few people want to address these issues. They bubble away. The joy of teaching is similarly leached from the souls of teachers.

These are the issues that need addressing. The Grattan Study is a study of peripheral matters rather than dealing with the substance of the issue.

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