Much angst has been aired in Australia since the relatively new government handed down its first budget just under two weeks ago. Demonstrations and protests have been held across the country with virtually all segments of society airing their grievances. Radio talk back shows continue to debate various aspects of the proposed budget changes as do TV current affairs programs. Newspaper coverage of the issues have been persistent and enormous. Postings on social media however have far outstripped all other traditional forms of media coverage. Ridicule and disapproval has been high.
While I’m not intending to get into politics here nor to express an opinion about which side of the fence I sit on regarding this rampant debate, there was one news item I heard this week which piqued my interest and set me thinking.
I happened to tune into a radio talk back program on which a couple of university professors were hotly debating a suggestion by Federal Education Minister Chirstopher Pyne that universities should no longer be required to conduct research but could, instead, focus solely on teaching. It comes as no surprise that there are two diametrically opposed bodies of thought on such a suggestion.
The discussion got me thinking though about what happens in our schools.
Clearly our focus has always been on educating the students in our care. The notion that teachers would have a time allocation to research what and how they teach or to explore areas of academic interest just simply doesn’t occur.
I couldn’t help thinking though, what if …..
- What if teachers were given the luxury to research as enjoyed by their university counterparts?
- What if teachers did have the chance to pursue research based around specific aspects of their teaching?
- What if teachers were able to conduct research in conjunction with their university counterparts?
- What if teachers did have the time to collaborate with teachers in similar disciplines in other schools?
- What if teachers did have the time to stop and think about what, why and how they do what they do in the classroom?
- What if teachers did have an opportunity to read, explore and learn different teaching strategies during their working day?
- What if teachers did have time to improve and develop technology skills at leisure rather than cramming it onto the end of a full day?
- What if teachers were given the luxury of sabbatical leave so that they could go off to explore and learn?
- What if teachers did get tangible rewards or recognition for their pursuit of further learning?
- What if teachers did have time to think and reflect on practice during the day?
Yes ….. I know ….. some will say that teachers do have time to go off to professional learning sessions during the school year and that they do have time to learn on the job. Yes ….. I acknowledge that life in schools is not quite as bleak as my words above may imply.
But ….. it needs to be acknowledged that the life of teachers in our schools is very full on and that the demands of the job are enormous. It is no wonder that come the end of the day, the week or the term – teachers are exhausted. The day job regularly continues into the night and weekend. Teacher burn out is high.
Taking a look at how structures in our schools can be altered to enable teachers the opportunity to pursue learning on the job rather than tacking it onto the end of the day is well overdue.