A lockdown lesson on the crucial work of teachers
3 min read
This year has confirmed the crucial role teachers play in the lives of young Australians. They deserve to be commended, and not only in times of crisis.
It’s too early to list all the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve adapted to COVID-19. For a start, the global crisis is far from over, even if Australia has made costly progress in controlling the spread of the pandemic. One thing the first wave taught us in Victoria is that it’s risky to claim victory when the battle has hardly started.
But we can discern some positive signs. For one, we can take heart from the emerging evidence that the pandemic has reinforced an important lesson for parents. Many have worked from home, alongside their children who’ve had to study from home after COVID restrictions closed their classrooms. As a result, parents have learned about teachers – the skills they have, the work they do, the challenges they face.
Evidence of this includes a recent report by academics at Monash University that found that ‘Australians have overwhelmingly supported teachers and their ability to inspire, encourage and provide kindness to students, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’.
Similarly, a University of Melbourne survey found teachers reported stronger relationships between themselves and parents and carers during COVID-19. Another report, based on a survey of more than 1,000 parents in New South Wales, found that virtually all were satisfied with the work of their child’s teacher during remote learning. Most had a greater level of respect for teachers following the lockdown. International reports point to similar conclusions.
“Even before COVID, surveys showed the public overwhelmingly respected and trusted teachers, yet most teachers felt they weren’t trusted by the community.”
New report confirms teaching is a valued profession
All of this should encourage teachers as they approach the end of a stressful year that’s been unlike any we’ve ever experienced. They should be recognised, their work should be acknowledged and appreciated – not only because they deserve it, but because their students benefit when teachers feel valued. This is a point made in a new report issued by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).
The report was released as part of a campaign to encourage the community to show support for teachers, ahead of this Friday 30 October, the day Australia celebrates World Teachers’ Day.
It highlights an intriguing finding – even before COVID, surveys showed the public overwhelmingly respected and trusted teachers, yet most teachers felt they weren’t trusted by the community. This paradox is partly explained by negative portrayals of teachers in the news media, which many teachers assume reflect community views.
The AITSL report says that helping change teachers’ perceptions of how they are viewed is not only good for them, it’s good for their students. If teachers feel they are valued by society, they will be more positive about their work and their ability to help students. They will see value in undertaking professional development, they’ll be more confident and more likely to remain in the profession. In short, they will become better teachers and their students will benefit.
This year has confirmed the crucial role teachers play in the lives of young Australians. For ISV, this means acknowledging the commitment and professionalism of the more than 13,000 teachers who educate close to 150,000 students at Victorian Independent schools. They deserve to be commended, and not only in times of crisis.
Michelle Green is Chief Executive of Independent Schools Victoria.