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"It's my head on the chopping block." A Year 12 teacher's open letter to parents.

As a Year 12 English teacher for the past seven years, I have always struggled with the constant scrutiny from parents, principals, the government and the media.

But never have I felt so exposed than by the spotlight that is currently being placed on teachers during this period of remote learning.

I have been inundated with countless resources from my school and the department of education, with little to no guidance of how to use them.

Watch: How the horoscopes homeschool their kids. Post continues below.

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I have been desperately trying to navigate my way through the daunting task of teaching remotely.

I have had parents on the phone highly stressed because their child cannot access the task I have set or join the online meetings I am running.

I have been accused of setting work that is far too hard for their child and I’ve also been labelled as negligent for not challenging another student –both of whom are normally in the same class.

Clearly these parents are unaware of just how much effort and split-second decision making goes into supporting their child in a face-to-face environment – because in the classroom I am able to look after both of their needs.

Whilst I have been secretly delighted that some parents are learning of my frustrations (like how it feels to explain a task three times, in three different ways, so that their child can grasp the concept or understand what is required of them) I am also very sympathetic of their fears; that they feel unable to help their child or that their child is being left behind.

Here’s the thing though – this is how I am made to feel constantly as a Year 12 teacher. Despite being married to the job, I am constantly battling feelings of inadequacy.

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Perhaps this has stemmed from working in a low-socioeconomic area where students don’t necessarily value education or care as deeply about their results. At my school, I would say that teachers work harder than 80 per cent of their students, and every year I feel like it’s my head on the chopping block when my students don’t meet the Victorian average for study scores in English.

The school, the government and the media are always looking for answers, and somehow the emphasis always seems to be placed back on the teachers. What can you do more to support these students? To improve results?

The usual stones of anxiety that are ever-present in my stomach are becoming rocks, weighing me down to the point that I am seriously re-evaluating my decision to ever become a teacher.

Recently, the media turned on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ declaration to keep students home, citing a number of studies conducted by the Federal Education Department, which state that “vulnerable students could fall behind due to COVID-19 measures”.

The message I am receiving from headlines like these is that teachers are failing. Despite the fact that I am averaging about five hours of sleep a night, answering emails at 10pm and spending hours upon hours in front of my computer agonising about how best to “teach” students to meet the demands of the curriculum, society is labelling me a failure.

If I’m honest, I would willingly risk my health to return to school. I would do anything to be in front of the classroom supporting my students because I care – so much that my mental health is suffering.

So I ask everybody to please back off. Of course students’ results and their education are going to suffer this year, just like the economy has suffered, just like employment rates have suffered. Why? Because it cannot be helped.

Parents, we are doing our best to support and educate your children. I know my results are going to be awful and it breaks my heart for those students that are trying.

I ask that you be kind to teachers and students this year by recognising that declining grades and a lack of student progress are no one’s fault –  except this pandemic’s.

Feature Image: Getty.

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