Editorial: The positive voice for our profession
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 2, 12 March 2021, page no. 5
What’s happening to our profession? It’s an interesting question, and not a simple one to answer.
Status of our profession
In 2019, teaching was the third most trusted profession in Australia, just behind healthcare professionals and scientists. But you would be forgiven if you didn’t believe this. After all, when was the last positive thing that you heard about a teacher from a politician or in the media? Or even from each other?
Last week at a meeting, I mentioned that one of my children wants to be a teacher. The response from some was to ask if I’d tried to convince her not to. Not because they don’t value their profession, far from it. It because they thought I was setting her up to be part of a profession that, in their experience, is questioned at every turn, overworked, and abused. A profession whose expertise is undervalued by the people who run education and send their children to schools.
Under this federal government, the profession’s voice has been removed from organisations such as the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). In Queensland, the state government has sought to address this by ensuring that the profession is represented on the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) and the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) boards and in many other forums. But we are still disenfranchised.
According to researchers, the ideal praise to criticism ratio requires that for every negative statement we need to hear five positives. But despite the recognition of the work teachers and school leaders did last year, it feels that far more negative things are said about teachers than positive. With phrases like “quality teachers”, or “teachers are failing our kids”, and the creation of league tables from NAPLAN and other student results, the positives can feel like they are being drowned out. We need to change that.
The QTU priorities that were shared with all members earlier this year address some of the issues, such as workload, occupational violence and respect for the profession, that need to be addressed to improve the status of the profession. But we need to do more. Everything we do needs to be “for the profession”.
We take on campaigns – for the profession. We provide professional development opportunities – for the profession. We provide Union training and education – for the profession. We promote our members wins – for the profession. We negotiate workload reduction, joint statements, certified agreements etc – for the profession.
Our Union needs to be that positive voice – for the profession. In the coming months we will be asking you to contribute to this by sharing your stories.
By promoting the profession and the great things that we do, we can reset the criticism ratio so that when someone decides they are entitled to blame us for the next thing that doesn’t go the way they want, we hear them in an environment that doesn’t make us feel that no one values our profession.
Will you join me?
There is much discussion at the moment about ethics and integrity, and that the programs and training associated with them are taking people further away from why they first chose to teach – to provide the best learning opportunities for our students.
There is, of course, a place for good governance and financial management and for making sure that money and resources serve the purpose they are allocated for.The reality is that, while we may think that we are in the people business and small gestures like birthday cards and flowers are part of being human and showing our colleagues we care and support them, we now have to consider “does it pass the pub test”? Regardless of what we believe, would spending public money on these things be considered acceptable by someone else looking in?
It’s a different way of framing ethics and integrity. I firmly believe that ethics and integrity underpin what we do in our schools every day.
Every day we act within a framework of principles, every day we reinforce what is good and what is not, every day we turn up and reinforce the rules that we establish for and with the students in our schools.
And we do this honestly and truthfully. We do this with integrity.