‘Why we have to stop blaming teachers for everything.’

Students overwhelmed by their workload? Blame teachers.

Child struggling with maths? Blame teachers.

A child with behavioural issues? Blame teachers.

Someone being bullied? Blame teachers.

Don’t know how to do your taxes? Blame teachers.

Should the decision whether or not to have children be taught in schools? We discuss on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below. 

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Can’t get a job? Blame teachers.

Kicked your toe on a coffee table this morning? Blame teachers.

War in Syria? Oh, yes. Definitely blame teachers.

It’s a media trope we see recycled at least half a dozen times a year. We could almost set our alarms in anticipation. All things, everywhere, are the fault of teachers.

We huff and puff that teachers are “resistant to technology,” while also complaining that every student must bring their own device.

They have too much homework, parents bark, while simultaneously jumping up and down when their results aren’t satisfactory.

Why don’t they teach more about nutrition? Or sex ed? Or mental health? Or real life skills… we demand, while writing angry columns about how in 2017, children don’t even know the basics.

Teachers are too strict, yet their students are out of control.

do kids need to do homework
Source: iStock.

Yesterday, The Australian published an article titled, "Teacher flaws stifle students, say principals."

Author Stefanie Balogh cited a recent worldwide survey that found teachers who "fail to meet the needs of their students, resist change or are unprepared for lessons," hinder student learning more than anything else.

School leaders said the biggest issues were teacher absenteeism, staff resisting change, teachers being too strict with students, and teachers not being well prepared for class.

Recent headlines echo the same sentiment; "Working together for better quality graduate teachers," "Lifting teacher quality the key to raising NAPLAN outcomes," and "Graduate teachers entering classrooms with inadequate 'digital literacy'".

If we're prepared to label incompetent teachers as the greatest problem facing our education system, then we must also acknowledge that great teachers are our biggest asset. But I seem to have missed the headlines celebrating the successes of countless teachers - the ones who stay back, who call home, who buy lunch for the students who forgot theirs, who share anecdotes and stories, who listen to their problems, who mark their work on weekends and muster the energy day in and day out to stand in front of a classroom of kids, all of whom come with their own problems, set backs and unique skills.

Those headlines certainly don't make the front page.

Image via iStock.

The thing about teachers - that we seem to routinely forget - is that they also happen to be human beings.

Unfortunately, one of the shortcomings of employing humans, is that they come with flaws and varying levels of expertise and experience.

The same must be said of doctors, vets, chefs, lawyers and even journalists. There are some who are brilliant, and some who are ordinary.

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But interestingly, sick patients are not understood to be the fault of doctors.

Vets are not blamed for badly treated pets.

Chefs are not publicly degenerated because one person failed to cook a steak medium rare.

Maurie Mulheron, the President of the NSW Teacher’s Federation, who is an actual teacher, who has taught actual students, in actual classrooms, argues that, “Many of our schools are akin to emergency wards in hospitals. No-one talks about the quality of doctors and nurses – they talk about the quality of health and the resources the hospitals need”.

In using teachers as scapegoats, we avoid a conversation about funding. About Gonski. About the distribution of resources, or the education system at large. It's a political ploy that works time and time again.

Schools don't need more funding. We just need teachers to try harder. 

Never mind that teachers are more qualified than they've ever been.

The issue is not about teacher quality, it never has been.
The issue is that despite their enormous contribution to our children's lives, teaching remains one of the most socially undervalued professions in the modern world.
You can listen to the most recent episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here. 

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