From the VP: Crisis? Not in our schools...

Some conservative politicians and commentators are working very hard to generate a sense that we are a nation in crisis, that there is a values vacuum, that Australian identity is under attack. They are telling us that the Australian “way of life” is slipping away from us and society will never be the same. Anyone working in a state school knows that this is simply not the case.

Every day in state schools, teachers and school leaders are providing role models to students in exactly the sort of values that underpin Australian society. It’s there in the work ethic of the teacher putting in the hours to plan learning experiences that are differentiated to address the needs of students in the class. It’s there in the kindness of the staff member who takes the time to check in with the student who doesn’t seem quite themselves. It’s there in the honesty of the school leader providing the feedback to a student and/or their parents about the support or intervention that will be required if the student is to experience success. It’s certainly present in the courage of QTU members when they ensure that their rights at work are being adhered to, because as the mantra goes, “teaching conditions = learning conditions”.

We see the best of values and attributes on display in the resilience of teachers and school leaders in the aftermath of a school fire, or damage to communities and schools caused by natural disasters, or the compassion on display from school staff when a student or a member of the school community is very ill or experiencing grief as a result of a loss or a trauma.

We see it in the determination and persistence of QTU members who campaign for classroom environments that are conducive to learning or the additional teacher or teacher-aide time to ensure student needs are met. QTU Representatives displaying a kind of everyday courage when they ask questions on behalf of members in the school. The school leader who displays curiosity and questions the need to immediately implement an externally determined agenda if they know that it will increase workload with no obvious benefit for students.

National Public Education Day on 25 May was, as always, an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the life changing work that goes on in schools on a day to day basis. Because of public education and the work of state school teachers and school leaders, every child, regardless of their background, has an opportunity to engage in learning from prep to year 12. You don’t have to look too far back in history or too far beyond Australian shores to find that this right to an education is very special and can never be taken for granted. The QTU has a collective role to promote and protect public education. It’s an exciting task, because it is so fundamentally important, but it’s an exhausting task, because while it should be a no-brainer for governments to support public education and state school teachers and school leaders rather than undermine them, it seems that we need to continue to remind them. For example, even when the Prime Minister is espousing his support for needs-based funding for schools, he’s recommending that the funding be tied to a range of conditions that demonstrate a lack of trust and respect for teachers.

I’ve been conducting a series of assertiveness training workshops for QTU members across Queensland. At each of these workshops, I find myself talking with dedicated and hard working professionals who haven’t come because they want to assert themselves for personal gain. Many QTU members attending the workshops are exhausted and frustrated. The teachers and school leaders I meet at these workshops are seeking to be energised and empowered to demand respect and a fair go for their colleagues and their students.

Strong work ethic, kindness, honesty, courage, resilience, compassion, determination, persistence, curiosity. Every student who walks through the doors of a state school is experiencing the values enacted and modelled by QTU members every day. There is no values or identity crisis happening in Australia. In fact, the opposite is the case. And we can thank state school teachers and school leaders for that.

Sam Pidgeon                                                                                                                     Vice-President

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 4, 2 June 2017, p9