I never intended it to be a place where I would discuss my least favourite subject....politics. But given what's gone on this week in Queensland politics with the Premier's announcements about Education Reform I feel that I must state my case.
I am not a big follower of politics and do not align myself with any political party more than another. I do care about what happens in my state and my country but really think that when it boils down to it they are all liars...
In case you missed it or don't live in Queensland the Premier has announced changes to the Education system that are to come into affect in 2015. He has called it Great Teachers = Great Results, and in a nutshell some of the main points are
- Teachers and Principals will have annual performance reviews
- A mentoring system pairing beginning teachers with experienced mentors (totally support this!)
- Rewards for high performing teachers
- Encouragement for teachers, principals and deputies to boost their qualifications with scholarships for Masters degrees
- Deploying 300 high performing teachers, or Master Teachers to where they are needed the most and offering the schools they are at a $75 000 bonus over 3 years.
I think that there are definitely pros and cons to these announcements. I think that there possibly does need to be some kind of accountability in schools. As a support teacher I worked with some amazing teachers and then, and I'll be honest, I worked with some teachers who I wondered why they were there. Sadly just as there are some dodgy builders, dodgy car salesmen, dodgy doctors, dodgy accountants and dodgy customer service in retail these days, there are some dodgy teachers however I don't think that offering rewards is going to change that, the annual performance reviews might but I wonder how they are going to do this, if it's based on student performance then that is not fair. Do other professions have such reviews? Are doctors, accountants, lawyers have annual reviews for their performance, I don't know?
I don't know, and there has been no announcement about how they are going to determine who gets these rewards or bonus pays. They have just stated high performing teachers. How are they going to determine this? They have also stated that there will be 300 'Master Teachers' deployed to areas that need them most. I can almost guarantee that a lot of these schools will be in rural and remote parts of our very large and sparse state and there will be a lot of areas that these 'Master Teachers' sadly will not want to go.
I started my teaching career 13 years ago when I accepted a 6 month contract in an Indigenous community over 2000km away from my family and friends. It quickly turned into a permanent position and I spent almost 18 months there. Not everyone would have said yes to this contract and to be blunt I was shit scared. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Since then I have taught in many rural and remote areas in our state and I have found each one rewarding and educational in its own way. However this is not for everyone and not everyone copes with the isolation and challenges that go with teaching in some of these areas. We already have certain rewards and incentives for people to go to these areas, more often than not the teachers that do go to these areas are the young graduates who will go anywhere just to get a job, that's what I did! People who 'do their time' and then move on looking for somewhere more desirable to live and work.
So having said all that, my concern for rewarding high performing teachers is how are they going to determine what's or who's high performing? This year I returned to the classroom for 9 weeks and wow, what a 9 weeks. I missed the initial implementation of the new National Curriculum into the classroom and so had a lot to learn in a short space of time and I can assure you it was FULL ON! So much new work that I had to get my head around. So most days I was at school between 7 and 7:30 in the morning and stayed until 4:30-5:00 in the afternoon and then more often than not worked through til 10:00-11:00 at night as well as putting in a good 3 to 4 hours on a Sunday just to get lessons organised, work marked, resources ready etc etc... Does that make me high performing? If it is then hand me my bonus! lol... Or is high performing determined by student results because if that is the case then you can cross me off your list. How are you going to get teachers to go to rural, remote, indigenous and low socio-economic schools if they know their pay is performance based. Don't get me wrong there are certainly high achieving students within each of those schools but as a whole they perform lower than other schools. You can easily have a class of 25 students where, for example 5 have some sort of learning difficulty, 2 are intellectually impaired, 1 has ASD, 3 that have English as a Second Language, 2 with ADHD and a range of other social and emotional issues and then at the front of all that is a teacher working their absolute butt off to provide each one of those students with the best possible education that they can even though they know that getting each of those students to meet national standards is damn well near impossible. I can't help but think of that saying 'It takes a Village to raise a child'....so it's not just great teachers that are needed to get great results.
The Education Minister in Queensland said in his statement to the media "If you are a compassionate committed teacher wanting to go beyond, we want to reward you for that".....This statement refers to EVERY teacher I know! That's why we are teachers, because we are committed to changing the lives of our students and go above and beyond for them every day of the week! And yet they wouldn't give us the pay rise we asked for but they are now going to find $535 Million over 4 years to help fund these changes.... (but they can't say where from just that it will be built in to a future budget...)
My teacher friends and I have obviously discussed this topic on several occasions at great length and we all agree that giving us more money isn't going to make our jobs any easier, it's not going to change our working conditions. It's not going to change the fact that out of a class of 23 students I only had 6 return part of their History Assessment that involved the students interviewing a member of their family and recording the responses. If it was a choice between more pay or for more resources, newer resources, more teacher aide and support teacher time, heck even more photocopying allowance I would pick the latter every day of the week! Hence I support the Gonski review and urge you to give a Gonski as well... http://igiveagonski.com.au/
I have just realised how long this blog post is....sorry... If you are still with me, thanks for hanging around. This is obviously something that I am passionate about and I am sure we haven't heard the last of this despite the Premier saying "This is going to happen and they need to get on board the train and come along"... Luckily for me there is no train near where I live!
I do believe there does need to be some sort of Education Reform but am not sure this, as it stands now, is the answer.... what do you think?
Linking up this week for FYBF with With Some Grace