Editorial: Back to school, back to work
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 1, 12 February 2021, page no.5
This time of year, the media is full of back to school stories, whether it’s photos of our own children that we share on social media, preppies starting their schooling adventure or the opening of new schools or buildings. But we also hear from experienced teachers speak of the complexity of the role and how teaching has changed.
At the end of Week 1, my own children were telling me they were exhausted after only three days of school, and this statement was echoed by many of my teaching colleagues. The work that is expected of QTU members and students at times appears insurmountable.
We have been identifying workload as an issue for many years, but as there is also no single solution it can appear that the efforts to reduce it have barely scratched the surface. Since the finalisation and release of the outcomes of the workload reviews last year, there remains an apparent resistance to their adoption. A common response is: “At our school we’ve agreed to do it this way, so we aren’t going to change.”
I don’t question that consultation has occurred in some schools and processes are in place, but if the outcomes agreed between the Union and the department are not implemented, how will the issues around workload be addressed? Something’s got to give. That thing cannot be the wellbeing of our members.
To this end member, wellbeing has and will continue to be one of the Union’s priorities. The focus on this is multi-faceted, including addressing the impact of workload, student behaviour and occupational violence.
Research shows that the highest incidences of occupational violence (OV) are caused by student and parent behaviour. I’m from a family of teachers - when did it become OK to yell at/hit/kick/spit at/scratch/swear at a teacher or school leader? The answer is never. It has never and will never be OK for this to occur.
It’s time that terms such as zero tolerance were acted upon. It’s also time that we recognise verbal and online abuse as forms of occupational violence. While you can’t physically see the harm they cause, the psychological injury to teachers and school leaders is very real.
While the Union has called for policies and procedures to be reviewed and has acted to ensure that the department focuses on this issue, there is a feeling of a slow response rather than a concerted effort to act.
During the past year, the QTU has commenced rolling out training to address OV, and this will continue this year. We will also continue to push the government to do better, to walk the zero-tolerance talk.
Parental code of conduct
Each day QTU members work to provide the best learning outcomes for students. At times, they do this with limited resources and in the face of community pressure to “do better”. But parents and caregivers need to understand that education is a partnership - it involves the educator, the student, and their family. If what is being taught at school (both academically and socially) is not being reinforced at home, the partnership is broken. It becomes a blame game in which the educator is on the receiving end. This must stop.
While we have high expectations of ourselves and our students, we should also be able to trust that these expectations are reflected at home. Wouldn’t it be great if the first things that parents looked at on a report card was not the academic result but the comments for effort and behaviour? Then the questions might turn from “Why is my child only receiving a particular grade?” to “What needs to be done at home and at school to support the child to achieve?”
Work is currently occurring to finalise a “code of conduct” for parents and caregivers. It is unfortunate that this is necessary, but if this is a step toward rebuilding respect for our profession, it’s a step that we should welcome.
Last year, QTU members were hailed for the work that they did in the face of a very difficult and confronting year. They maintained their professionalism, making students feel safe and parents feel less anxious about the uncertainty of the pandemic, all while experiencing the same concerns and anxiety for their own families and their health and safety.
We cannot let that recognition and respect become a distant memory - it must become a building block in the reconstruction of the respect that our members deserve.
Over the coming months, the QTU will be working with members to continue to restore respect in the profession. We want to feature the great things our members do and to celebrate our profession.
To do this, we need your help. Send us your stories about the great things that you and your colleagues do. Every time we share something positive, we will be reminding others that our profession matters and deserves respect.