Friday 12 April 2013

to jump on my soapbox!

When I started this blog I never intended it to be anything other than the ramblings in my head put out there. Originally what really gave me the kick up the bum to do it was starting the 12wbt as a way of documenting my journey but it has quickly become more than that...

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.
First of all I love *insert sarcastic tone here* how it's called Great Teachers = Great Results. The Premier stated on one news bullentin that 'Better Teachers will deliver better results'. That kind of implies that teachers are the only thing that impacts on student results. And does he also think that the people working in schools at the moment are anything but great teachers?

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' 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...

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


  1. I actually agree that Teachers should receive performance reviews - not all teachers are equal and the harder workers with higher ability should be rewarded for their commitment and achievement. But it shouldn't come down to the results of the students, unless the results are considered in their proper context (such as child ability). Teachers should only be expected to get the best out of every child, not the best overall. Thank you for sharing a teachers perspective on this challenging topic

    1. Definitely agree with you Elise! We should be held accountable and have reviews I don't have a problem with that.. It's the who and how that concern me. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  2. firstly, our premier is a twat. now that I've got that out of the way, I can see how this topic is a double edged sword. the thing is, those dodgy teachers you speak of, i don't want them teaching my child. but i have to wonder what percentage of them are dodgy? I've been wondering lately if teaching is something I could do, and I honestly don't know. I know I couldn't/wouldn't want to uproot my family and head out west at this stage of our lives. but if you're not given a choice, what do you do? and who is going to do the performance reviews? the kids? so it will have to be based on kids results. it must be very frustrating to be a teacher and have people who have no idea what is going on make legislation and rules.

  3. I can totally understand the fears parents must go through sending their child to school and the fear of who is going to be responsible for their childs education... Must be daunting. I would definitely say that, like every other profession, the GREAT far out weigh the dodgy! I think that a lot of what is happening is possibly needed but it's the lack of details and consultation with our union that concerns me, the who and the how is what concerns me so I guess we just have to wait and see. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinion!

  4. I admire you lot SO much! There is always something that you have to stand up for and the passion for your career is inspiring. Hoping it all settles soon xx