Are you tired of constantly justifying your choice to become a teacher? Sick of the jokes about holidays? The hours? Consulting with colleagues about the best come backs? The constant media barrage questioning the professionalism of your entire trade based on the mistakes of a few? The people who think they know you because they had a teacher and you all must be alike?
Replace the word “teacher” in the above paragraph with “academic” and you get an insight into another profession.
I have been disappointed recently to discover that moving between the two professions has not changed anything. In fact, a lot of the comments have been made by people in the teaching profession. Let me clear a few things up:
Myth: Academics are too out of touch and have no idea what it’s like to be in a 21st century classroom.
Reality: Academics are often a long way from the classroom but they spend their days keeping abreast of or driving the latest research. Someone has to do the research and teachers are time-poor. Tenured academics take that research, apply it to course design, and hire TEACHERS on a casual basis to implement their course requirements on a practical level. The majority of the people that have the time and space capacity to work with pre-service teachers are either still in the classroom, on temporary leave from it, or have recently left the classroom to pursue a career in academia.
Besides, who cares if people who have never been teachers lecture and tutor in initial teacher education? If only teachers taught teachers, the profession risks suffering from a myopia and tribalism that can weaken the profession. And in this day and age, the enemy ain’t in the classroom, it’s in the policy room where a large percentage of policy makers come from privileged backgrounds making decisions about those “poor others”. The profession needs strength to respond to that rhetoric.
Furthermore, teaching degrees have two sets of accreditation processes before they are allowed to graduate teachers. They must align with the Australian Qualifications Framework and they must pass an accreditation process with the state based college of teacher registration. On the panel for the latter, the majority of representatives are from SCHOOLS. This accreditation process is currently underway with most teaching degrees around the country as they align with the expectations of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and roll out the two year postgraduate degree, Masters of Teaching.
Myth: Academics are out of touch so shouldn’t be writing curriculum.
Reality: Academics AND teachers wrote the Australian Curriculum. That document has been an almost two decade long process of consultation with the education community. Before each subject was released, there were long periods of time where anyone was allowed to provide feedback on the product. The real problem (in my humble opinion) is when politicians decide what should be in the curriculum (take the politically punched Humanities and Social Science curriculum for example or the relationship between NAPLAN, PISA and the OECD).
Furthermore, primary school teachers at my institution get a grand whole 10 weeks with which to learn the content, concepts, skills and curriculum of History, Geography, Civics and Citizenship, Economics and Business. While this is the case, I’m sorry, but there IS a place for a historian, geographer, politician, businessperson in the room to thrash out what should and should not be taught. Definitely not in the absence of a primary teacher, but should be allowed in the room.
Unfair statement: I recently saw a tweet challenging academics to stop normalising the no-weekend/holiday mentality by tweeting that they are at work. In an era where self-care is of high priority but somehow gets lost, I completely understand where this statement came from. In fact, at first I felt a bit guilty that I was working on the long weekend. But then I remembered…
The wonderful thing about being on the fringe of academia is that it allows me to do enough work to pay the bills and spend valuable time with my daughters. It’s not ideal because the time spent as a family is limited, but it is better than part-time teaching (which as a high school teacher means teaching every day just shorter days and/or longer prep and correction time).
Above I mentioned the casualisation of the university workforce. I am one of those casuals. My partner earns a reasonable living, but without my contribution we begin to look at two-minute noodles as a regular dinner option. I have even tried growing our own food to make ends meet. I also have two daughters. I went to work full-time for the Department of Education for six months. Unfortunately,the rise in child-care fees meant I was simply working to provide care for my kids. So I tutor and do research assistant work. (Before you ask, it is my choice to be the lower income earner and look after the kids…hubby would love to get his hand on that job but I made a feminist stand.)
Tutoring is good money when you can get it. I tutor and rake in the cash doing back-to-back tutes all day, but then need to do my preparation and correction at some point. And then, the pre-service teachers go on practicum and I stop getting paid. So, I do research assistant work, but if I don’t do the hours, I don’t get paid. SO I WORK ON WEEKENDS.
For the record. I aspire to be one of those tenured academics one day. I couldn’t think of anything better than finding new ways to improve the teaching experience and passing those ideas on to eight excellent tutors. Those tutors will pass that knowledge onto hundreds of pre-service teachers, who will then improve the learning experiences of countless children. And as those pre-service teachers become more experienced, take on roles of leadership, or become education academics, the inspiration with which they began their teaching career will seed their desire to continue to improve the profession.
So lets not snipe at each other. Educators need to band together from Early Childhood Nursery Room Assistant to Professor Emeritus because the world of teaching is hard enough without turning on each other.