Yes, we do need to treat teachers better but…

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How teachers are treated is always a good topic to ignite discussion, with many different stakeholders in education weighing in with strong opinions. A few days ago I read an interesting article on Tech Crunch titled ‘Why we should treat teachers like software engineers?

Some of the salient points from the article included:

  • Teacher pay needs to be looked at in terms of making teaching a more attractive profession and with it improve the overall quality of the teacher workforce
  • More respect is required for the teaching profession. There is too much interference with budget cuts and political debates over education standards that is hurting students
  • Opportunities for career advancement and professional growth needs to be better.
  • Teacher preparation time must be increased, so that teachers can create better learning opportunities and resources for students. Teachers can also give more time to improving feedback.

I agree with a lot of this and I think the above would do a lot to improve the teaching profession in many countries. However, with each of these benefits there are drawbacks that educational leaders need to address in supporting the teaching profession improve.

I would love to see teacher preparation time increased. Creating good quality digital resources for students in today takes a considerable investment in time along with teachers taking the time to acquire the necessary skills to do so. While I am in support of increased prep time, we also have to question current teacher efficacy. How efficient and effective are teachers with their current time allowance for preparation? I am quite certain that if we reduced teaching loads tomorrow, not everyone would take full advantage of it. I believe educational leaders must confront and support teachers who operate inefficiently and those who avoid change. The hardest part of teaching is accounting for how every teacher uses their time; a massive amount of trust is given and, in some instances, this trust is abused.

Of course, the debate about teacher pay rages on yet the solution appears more complicated than, perhaps, it should be. I struggle to come to terms with the fact that so many, if not all, schools’ salary scales are based on years of experience with some other things thrown into the mix. To me experience does not mean better, there are teachers who are two or three years out of College doing a better job than some who have been teaching 10 years, yet the more experienced teacher gets greater pay. We have to fix this at the same time as making base-level entry pay far more attractive to those seeking to enter the profession.

Providing opportunities for career advancement and better professional growth is, perhaps, the one area of the teaching profession that is in reasonably good health. The key to good professional development, is making sure that it is applied when teachers go back to the classroom and the fact that teachers understand why they are there in the first place. Furthermore, we need more professional development led by our colleagues, for colleagues. In-school skills share sessions are a great way for teachers to help each other improve within the same building. Too often teachers, hear from educational leaders who are not at the coal face, so to speak, and paint too many pictures of education utopia, which can be discouraging at best.

In terms of giving more respect to the teaching profession, too often we hear that teachers are held in far higher regard in Asia. That is not true for a start. In Asia, there are similar frustrations with teacher quality as elsewhere, it is that the parents of students are often too afraid to speak out for fear of the adverse impact it will have on their son / daughter. We cannot sit back and say that more respect has to be given to teachers, we have to earn it. I am sure we can pick out many instances where isolated teacher incidents have been reported in the media bringing the profession into disrepute. We have to minimise this the best we can while promoting all the good things that we are doing, so that we deserve any respect that we may be afforded. A teacher can no longer walk into class and expect that students will be ready to learn, it is our job to make the difference and help them want to learn and be genuinely excited about being in school. No easy task but a challenge we must rise up to.

To get education to where we want it to be, it is a case of policy-makers and bean-counters having a greater understanding of how important education is to society while, at the same time, educators holding each other to account when we are not being the best we can be with the current resources at our disposal. This requires all of us acting like true professionals.

photo credit: BlueRobot via photopin cc

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