The general feeling around Education right now is at an all-time low.
Teachers, educators, parents, and students are all feeling the weight of over a decade of excessive workload, a data-driven and overloaded curriculum, performance pressures, micromanagement from administration and an ever-growing lack of respect and support for the people giving their time to educate and improve the lives of our children.
Throw in a pandemic with online learning and forcing collapsed classes, mandates that impacted an already declining workforce plus multiple strikes for change and we have arrived at the sh*tshow we see today.
Veteran teachers are retiring early, school leavers are avoiding Education degrees like the plague and new teachers are lasting on average 5 years in the job.
And if you spend 5 minutes in a staffroom you will hear that morale is pretty low everywhere.
But all of this is nothing new and it’s happening in many parts of the world.
I feel for the new graduates, who went into Education with a dream to make an impact and work in a meaningful career doing something you love. Their minds are now full of doubt as they read and hear the depressing drone of what Education has become.
I feel for the experienced teachers who know what Education should be, not what it is today. The ones that have watched the joy of learning be sucked out of children right before their very eyes.
I feel for all the teachers and educators, struggling to keep their head above water and have some kind of work/life balance. Those teaching things they don’t believe benefits their students but must do it to tick the right boxes. Teachers being micromanaged from above, bullied and drowning in paperwork. My heart goes out to those that are taking stress leave in droves due to terrible working conditions or burnout. This is not what they bought into.
I feel for the students, who are taught by teachers forcing a curriculum they don’t agree with, down their students’ throats. Students that have had their love of learning squashed before they start Year 1 as they already feel inferior due to the unrealistic expectations set for our 4 and 5 year old’s. Students that should be experiencing wonder, learning, movement, friendships, laughter and fun but instead are finding little joy in a place they spend most of their days.
I feel for the parents who don’t wish for any of this for their children. Most parents want their children to go to school, build friendships, explore, create, collaborate, not sit exams for the sake of sitting exams, nor be crammed with information they could simply google. Most parents couldn’t care less about report cards, but do want to know if their child is kind and has friends. Parents want their kids to be creative and critical thinkers that have a chance to explore their passions and interests to thrive in what they are good at, and build the resilience and drive to work on the areas they lack in.
But currently, schools do not allow this.
Not because the teacher doesn’t want to, but because they have too many boxes to tick and assessments to cover and not enough support, allowing little freedom to explore much else.
Everyone knows that our system needs a MASSIVE overhaul, and whilst I don’t have the answers on how to make that happen, I do have some tips to help ease the problems we all face.
Parents need to support teachers, not burden them with more unnecessary stressors. If children hear their parents speak disrespectfully about their teachers, they will too. And we know their little ears hear more than we think. Know that (most) teachers have your kids’ best interest at heart so trust in their experience and knowledge.
Students are the reason teachers go to work and why they are sticking it out, despite all the stress, workload and unrealistic demands. Students are their ‘why’ and all students need to do is bring a respectful and have-a-go attitude, don’t interrupt other students’ opportunity to learn, and they will take care of the rest. Pretty simple really.
Teachers need to avoid toxic talk and jaded teachers. We all know the ones. Yeah, it’s a tough gig and it is SO important to vent. But when venting turns into 24/7 trash talk on teaching, it’s hard to see the magical moments or remember what you love about the job. Don’t let the Debbie Downers drain what little love you may have left. Distance yourself a little from those people and surround yourself with Positive Pams instead!
Our experienced teachers, you have paved the way and it is getting harder to enjoy this job you once loved. I get it. But your experience is invaluable and sharing your wisdom to the new grads is vital. You are the ones that have your Behaviour Management down pat. You are the ones that know all the shortcuts and tips to staying sane and keeping a better work/life balance. Plus, you are proof that you don’t need an Insta-worthy classroom in order to have a happy, successful classroom. #realteachergoals
And to our beginning teachers, those just started or still studying. Don’t get too disillusioned before you even start. Our kids need you. They need your enthusiasm, passion, and fresh ideas. Yes, our career is at a crisis point with huge shortages in many areas and regions. But it is the most opportunistic time to land contracts or casual work that I have ever experienced. So, relish in the fact that you are likely to land yourself work as soon as you graduate AND you may even get to be picky and choose where you’d prefer to teach. One less pressure off and unheard of in years gone by.
So, let’s start turning the narrative around. Let’s focus on the beautiful, funny, crazy, spontaneous, messy, silly and enjoyable parts of teaching whilst still advocating for change.
Let’s remember our ‘why’ and all the positive moments we experience each day. Give less energy to the negative aspects. There are downsides to any job and remember, where focus goes, energy flows.
Support teachers by joining rallies and strikes that encourage the change we want to see. Write to the Education Ministers as a teacher, parent or student and express your concerns. Join your P&C’s and get involved with your school community to help create a school environment our kids need.
Many of us are feeling helpless, but together we can all make small actions towards the change we want for the future.