From the President: Valuing teachers, improving their status

As adult human beings, we have all been shaped by the relationships we have had during our lifetime. Countless people have come and gone, each influencing who we are and who we are yet to be, some minutely, some dramatically. But of all the hundreds of people we encounter as we proceed through life, few have as great an impact on us as our teachers.

All of us can look back into our formative years and identify a teacher who made a difference, who inspired, encouraged or emboldened us to follow our dreams. It’s a cliché, but it is also true. In fact many of us will have chosen to join the profession after being inspired by a great teacher in our school years, and we have also been inspired by teachers who went beyond what was required to mentor and support us in the early parts of our careers.

But it’s a truth that the wider community often forgets. One of the downsides of teaching is having to put up with the jokes and jibes about short hours and long holidays. Hearing in the media about how overpaid and ineffective you are, that anybody with a solid business background can do what you do. We’ve all been there, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

There is no escaping the fact that our profession has seen its status eroded over recent decades. Unfortunately, this has largely been driven by politicians, who are only too happy to buy in to the neo-liberal conceit that education is simply a commodity like any other, that it can be bought and sold, that it is “measurable”, that problems prompted by underfunding and systemic failings are actually the fault of underperforming teachers or school leaders.

We all know that is nonsense. Education is an investment, not a cost. It cannot be done on the cheap by undertrained, underpaid automatons teaching by rote. To provide Queensland students with the education they deserve, you need high quality, dedicated and inspiring teachers. Teachers like you.

Fittingly, the theme for this year’s World Teachers’ Day on 28 October is “Valuing teachers, improving their status”.

A teacher is an inspiration, a guide, an instructor, a disciplinarian, a colleague and a friend. Your influence extends far beyond the school gates. Every day, you and every other teacher build the future of our local community, our state, our country and our world. It is one of the most important roles there is. Very few others even come close. You are a highly qualified professional, and you deserve recognition as such.

The QTU works hard to ensure that members get the recognition they deserve. Only recently, the Union secured an EB offer that contained a number of key proposals acknowledging the status, knowledge and importance of classroom teachers, most notably the creation of highly accomplished and lead teacher positions designed to enable experienced teachers to remain in the classroom, strengthened consultation measures, and a review of the promotional classification structure.

But improving the status of teachers in the wider community will require more. And it starts and ends with you. Teachers need to overcome their inherent modesty and start talking to the members of their local community, demonstrating the power and complexity of the work they do. It requires us to speak up for our profession, loudly and proudly, in whatever environment or location we find ourselves. In meetings, at sports events, in the pub, wherever. You do important work and you care about what you do. Don’t be shy, make sure everyone knows why!

On behalf of the Queensland Teachers’ Union, thank you for your professionalism, collegiality and dedication to the children and young people of Queensland. 

Happy World Teachers’ Day 2016!

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 121 No 7, 30 September 2016, p7