PRIVATE MEMBERS MOTION - FEDERATION CHAMBER
It is an absolute pleasure to rise to speak on the motion put forward by the member for Reid, and I thank her for doing so. I acknowledge the member for Hunter's contribution today. I also acknowledge the member for Riverina, and I thank him for his words about my contribution to education in my time as a teacher and as a principal. The member for Hunter thanked the teachers who had taught him. I'd echo that and thank the teachers who taught the member for Hunter. Having been a teacher, I can imagine the member for Hunter in a classroom. He would have been, obviously, one of my favourite students sitting in the back row of year 9 at a school in Melton.
I spent my 27 years in state education in the state of Victoria, and I want to use this five minutes to nut down to what it is that teachers do. One of the issues we have with teaching, in terms of lifting people's thoughts and the way they think about teachers and elevating them in the community, is that, of course, everyone was a student and, therefore, everyone's an expert in education. Everyone knows the teacher that inspired them or the teacher that got them to nail down to task, or just the teacher that opened the world to them or challenged them. But people don't understand the complexity of this work.
As an English teacher, or a maths teacher, I would have, on average, most years, 100 students in a secondary school. That's 100 students that I am intrinsically working with across a year—five classes if I'm teaching English. If I'm teaching sociology, science or phys ed, I've only got them, potentially, for three classes a week, so I've got more students. I'm likely to have 150 to 175 students. Teaching is not about delivering a lesson plan. You can't reduce the workload by creating lesson plans and assuming that teachers can then pick up this generic lesson plan and walk in and deliver the information—because that's not what teaching is. Yes, teachers teach to a curriculum, but the lesson plan isn't the lesson. The lesson plan has to be created with the 25 students that are going to be involved in this lesson at the forefront of your mind. That is the complex nature of the work. We can know the curriculum, but you need to know the students to shape that curriculum, so that you get maximum benefit, maximum uptake, if you like, maximum engagement in the material and, therefore, maximum learning.
There are other factors that are in play. Of those 100 children that I'm working with across the week, as an English teacher in a secondary school, every single one comes through the door with their own background, their own ideas and their own experiences. If two of those children across the week are having a particularly rough time, it doesn't matter how well I've planned my curriculum for those two children if I don't get in there and make them feel connected. So there's the complexity of the work around the human-to-human element, and we've heard lots of it here about teachers spending all of this time not in face-to-face teaching. There's an assumption that it's all paperwork. It isn't! It's going and finding the students you teach during the week when you're not teaching another class and connecting to them that way. It's being the year-level coordinator who is following up on students across that week. So lots of it is face-to-face human work, but not necessarily face-to-face teaching. It takes hours and hours.
Then there's that third element, around assessment and reporting, that has become, if you talk to teachers, one of the most onerous parts. That is being driven by our governments, driving us to perform better. We've found new ways to ensure that our assessment and reporting regimes are measuring student achievement. This is twopronged. First it tells the teacher where that child is, so they can take the next steps to the next place. I repeat: 100 students across the week, 100 pieces of assessment and reporting. In a normal week, I'm trying to touch base three times in assessment with every one of those children. The assessments aren't all written, and they've got to be creative. But I'm trying to create that scenario where I know that child's learning and I know how to get them to the next step.
This is incredibly complex work, and it needs governments to stand up and take notice and make sure we're remunerating our teachers properly.
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July 31, 2023