Achieving Excellence as a Teacher - Staying the Distance.
We are currently in a crisis in public education. Recent numbers from the Bureau of Statistics suggests 53% of people who hold a teaching degree do not currently work in education. It is becoming more and more obvious that all the energy and enthusiasm beginning teachers brought to each school is quickly extinguished when the reality of the Department’s obsession with teacher accountability crushes their passion. It has been estimated that 40% of graduates quit in the first five years, not to mention the growing numbers of experienced teachers walking away from their jobs.
‘In the good old days’ new teachers did get informal mentoring from more experienced colleagues. They had time to absorb the life in a school. The whole-school relationships, so crucial in connecting to students was extended across all the schools’ personnel. The school you were appointed to was already a community and you were welcomed in and supported without any ‘documented’ - forced support. Now, with the advent of Professional Teaching Standards in 2011, all teachers, including those with extensive experience are burdened with administrative tasks that achieve nothing more that satisfy some framework that is supposed to verify their professionalism. In reality, this is only busy work and the outcome does nothing more meaningful than some official recognition that the has teacher turned up.
The down-side is that these experienced teachers have no time or energy to really support their beginning colleagues. To survive those first years requires a personal investment to defeat those artificial obstacles erected by our leaders. If you can do that you can still find the absolute joy that comes with teaching.
Most teachers have chosen their careers for good reasons, they want to teach but like all skills some possess more natural talent but that does not define anyone’s career. To become a good teacher requires you to want to become a good teacher, it’s a mindset.
Carol Dweck Psychologist from Stanford University, author of ‘Every Student Has Something to Teach Me’ emphasises the importance of a teacher’s mindset.
As I stated at the beginning of this Newsletter, too many of our young teachers are leaving, driven out by the meaningless bureaucracy and tedious administration demands and I suspect the decision to leave has been made more easily because they don’t understand that teaching is not easy, sure some find it easier than others but ask any experienced teacher about their first years and they will recount the levels of exhaustion they experienced at the end of every day.
So, you have a choice, even when you are overwhelmed remind yourself, if you want to succeed you will have to make an effort. It’s hard but doable and even though you will never be perfect some days, in some lessons, with some kids you will experience a joy and satisfaction that money can’t buy. Remember, when this happens, and it will if you keep going, you have earned that moment and no bureaucrat can take that away from you! And, for a bonus that kid or those kids will share in that victory!