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Home > News > 2020 > May > COVID-19 crisis solidifies value of teaching profession

COVID-19 crisis solidifies value of teaching profession

school_officer.jpgThroughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the teachers have shown the true value of the teaching profession through collective strength, adaptability and fortitude.

IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the work of teachers had been extraordinary in a short period of time in having to alter their teaching and learning methods so that students could continue with their education in the middle of a global health crisis.

“Then just as quickly they have re-adjusted to on-site learning,” Mr Burke said. 

“While the media, politicians and community members have all weighed in on the teaching profession over the course of the past few months, but we need to focus on what experts and teachers are saying themselves.

“This is the only way that the Australia education system will be able to improve and let teachers and students excel at what they do best – teaching and learning." 

Education experts from across Australia have commented this week on the critical need to value the teaching profession in terms of the essential work teachers do and the level of specialist skills they deploy. 

Teachers are specialists in teaching and learning 

Professor Mary Ryan, Dean of Education at Macquarie University, said the positive contributions teachers make in the lives of children and young people, their families and communities should be widely recognised, especially by politicians and the media. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential work teachers undertake every day,” said Professor Ryan. 

Professor Ryan said while some commentators suggested that anyone who has been to school can be an expert on teaching and learning, the COVID-19 crisis has seen many parents publicly acknowledge a better understanding of the expertise required to ensure children’s learning. 

“Teachers employ specialist skills and knowledge in different ways at different times for different learners,” she said.

“Teachers need suitable remuneration, access to ongoing professional learning and a reduction in their administrative burden to maintain the high standards of the profession. 

“Blaming teachers for achievement outcomes associated with structural inequities in our schooling system is misplaced and misinformed,” Professor Ryan said.

Teachers need to be trusted as decision makers in education

Associate Professor Deborah Heck from The University of the Sunshine Coast said the professionalism of teachers and their commitment to education was evidenced by the rapid transition to working and learning from home.

"Our experiences during the pandemic have highlighted the range of purposes of schooling and the complex and diverse relational work of the teaching profession," says Assoc Prof Heck. 

"Working from home has provided a firsthand view for many parents and carers about just how rapidly education has changed and the essential skills required by teachers.

"The professionalism of teachers and their commitment to education was evidenced by the rapid transition to working from home. 

“In the post-pandemic world, I hope that students, parents, families and communities continue to acknowledge teachers' professionalism and the relational way teachers work. 

“We need more people to choose teaching as a career. 

“Those who make this choice need a keen interest in building relationships that support students, families, and the wider community in the education endeavour.

“Above all, my wish in a post-pandemic world is that teachers are trusted by policymakers, employers and the community as professionals, and as the decision-makers equipped to make the best judgement about education."

Future depends on raising the status of the teaching profession

Professor John Fischetti Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Education and Arts of the University of Newcastle said our future depends on raising status of the teaching profession and warns of worsening teacher shortages.

"We are entering an era of an across-the-board teacher shortage," says Professor Fischetti. 

"In regional, rural and remote Australia, the shortage is already felt in STEM, Special Education and other areas,” he said.

When it comes to new teachers entering the profession, numbers are down. 

Professor Fischetti says the shortage is partly due to poor treatment of the teaching profession.

"In spite of, or because of, fake news about the quality of candidates entering initial teacher education, the reality is that we: 1) treat teachers poorly, 2) discourage some of our own children from entering the profession, 3) over-regulate the profession, 4) don’t support them as well as we might, 5) don’t properly incentivise teaching in remote and rural areas, 6) don’t promote training up locals to teach in their communities and 7) don’t invest in high-quality real-time personalised professional learning.

"We have a short 'post COVID-19' window to promote the incredible opportunity teaching provides and to encourage talented prospects that teaching is truly a noble profession. 

“Our future depends on it,” Professor Fischetti said.

Teaching: It’s Our Profession

Mr Burke said that a teacher's ability to create opportunity, empower students’ minds and ultimately transform their lives is what makes our profession one to be proud of.

“The teaching profession is fundamentally about making high quality, expert judgements in the interests of children and their wellbeing,” Mr Burke said.

“It is our profession and that is why our union will continue to advocate for teachers’ professional standing to be respected, and for their professional judgement to be valued,” Mr Burke said.

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.