Madonna King: Teachers are the first people we should consult about educating our children


When did teachers become like the round bullseye target on a dartboard?

And why, at a time when we should be valuing more the role they play in our children’s development, are we are so quick to load them up with extraneous claptrap that can only further exacerbate staff shortages?

In prep classes now, teachers are routinely giving instruction on how to hold a spoon, tie a shoe lace, wash hands properly and use a tissue.

So is it any wonder that the role of filling their students’ minds with curiosity and wonder falls down the list of priorities?

Come primary school, many parents hand over a big chunk of their job – requiring teachers to provide lessons on good manners and appropriate tone, sharing and, again, hand washing.

In high school, full lessons are now being delivered on appropriate sleep hygiene, the need to be kind online, and the value of teamwork.

Teaching used to be a profession respected as much as doctors and nurses.

In country towns, particularly, where teachers held a special place in the community, adults would frequently defer to the wisdom of an educator.

Over time, that position has been eroded by low pay, greater parental expectations and even COVID-19, where many parents – in charge of remote learning – developed views on where their children should improve, and how that should be done.

Schools, since COVID forced online learning, have had a remarkable increase in parents wanting a bigger say in how their child learns, and what they are taught.

And ironically, as Omicron races through our community and moulds changes to school starting times and how it is delivered, teachers are rarely consulted in how it should work.

A spectacular example of that surfaced in Queensland this month, when the state government announced school would start later this year, and run for an extra week in the lead-up to Christmas.

Its backflip came soon after, after teachers were publicly informed of the revelation.

On a national level, Scott Morrison and the states can sit around a cabinet table and argue about what is best for our students – but the absence of strong educators in that decision making will increase the risk of a flawed decision.

Educators’ safety, pay, conditions and plans come second, third, fourth and fifth to what will make it easier for politicians.

And that’s evidenced through the recent proposals ranging from changing the definition of close contacts to demanding they undergo rapid antigen tests to changing school dates, without any consultation.

Perhaps if educators were consulted, they would find schools that had set up classrooms where teachers taught from the safety of their home – addressing whole classes.

Or ones that worked with parents and students to mould a plan that considered both teachers and students.

But the trajectory on how we treat the nation’s teachers is unlikely to change, given moves in other jurisdictions that show the herculean stake parents are now demanding.

In the US, for example, Florida lawmakers are debating a bill that would force teachers to wear microphones, and allow schools to place cameras in all classrooms.

Why? So parents are able to monitor what their children are being taught, and how it is being explained.

It’s a move that shows some parents have way too much time on their hands. But it also illustrates the poor collective view and the absolute mistrust we now have in those who teach our children.

In Australia, schools are already suffering from a lack of male role models, and the number of male teachers continues to dwindle.

COVID has led to the early resignation of experienced teachers, and almost every state has signalled a supply shortage into the future.

Imagine how much of a deterrent having little Johnny’s mother or little Jane’s dad listening in to every class might be to a dedicated educator wanting to take a novel approach to captivate the minds of their students?

It seems a search engine has made us more expert than the experts: So many people now appear to know better than the scientists who are chasing down the coronavirus, and the medicos who are delivering the vaccine.

Listening into teachers delivering a class is the height of stupidity.

It wouldn’t be accepted in any other profession. And it mocks the expertise of those who stand up in front of a class daily to empower our children.

We’ve Already Come Too Far To End This Now.

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