school

I'm a teacher. And I’m sick of hearing people use the term "home schooling".

An announcement went over the speakers at 3.15pm. 

"All students are reminded to take home everything they may need for the next few school days. Whilst this isn’t confirmation a lockdown is happening; it is a precaution that we recommend you take." 

It almost felt like the end of term rush to get home, but with an air of uncertainty. 

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Melbourne’s lockdown 5.0 was announced roughly an hour later and teachers around Victoria battened down to prepare yet another set of resources, change their planning to digital lessons, fire up the home offices again, and wait for their schools to tell them if they had to make these changes by 8:30 the next morning.

When I finally scrolled through social media at 10pm - after I’d had dinner, a shower, and finished my work planning to go back online - I was bombarded by complaints about lockdowns. But even worse for my morale, I saw news outlets posting stories about how families are back home-schooling, how teachers have an easy ride for lockdown, and how schools aren’t doing enough for young people.

Even worse were the comments. So many people commenting on how they are picking up the slack, they’re teaching their children, teachers don’t do enough in lockdown, their children are falling behind, etc.

I cried.

Teaching is already an undervalued profession. Over half of my graduating class from university no longer teach. There is a running joke in the profession because a majority of graduates don’t make it past five years. 

A standard day for me starts when I arrive at work at 7.30am and begin the jobs I have for the day. It doesn’t end when I leave work around 5.30pm. I am in middle leadership in a wellbeing role, and I check my emails at least twice an evening after I have left the school grounds. I also plan lessons and do marking in my own time, either in evenings or over weekends. 

This is typical for most teachers, regardless of leadership roles. I was once told by a parent that my policy of not answering student emails after 8pm the day before an assessment was detracting from their child’s chance to seek feedback from me. 

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This is the world we work in. Most of us are doing it because we love learning, love the job, and most importantly, love the young people in our care.

During the first Melbourne lockdown, I cried weekly. My school runs every lesson online. We log in to the online platform, take a roll, teach content, and set work. I had classes that struggled greatly with the work, the isolation, and the technology. 

I had lessons I had to abandon and change mid-class because they weren’t working. I worked well into the night planning new lessons, responding to emails, attending virtual meetings, marking work, contacting families, and making sure that my curriculum was still hitting the Australian Curriculum standards. 

Through all of it I felt isolated, and I blamed myself every time a kid didn’t understand the content, the technology failed, or I felt a lesson wasn’t as good as I’d have liked it to have been. I’m not alone there.

Friends of mine at less-resourced schools were creating resource packs, trying to arrange check-ins with their students, phoning homes to try to access young people who weren’t making online content, and preparing curriculum to the best of their ability in a world we hadn’t encountered before.

I am not suggesting that parents, carers, and guardians are not going through tough times. I know you’re in the trenches with us. Trust me, we’ve seen your child. We know that Johnny won’t be able to understand most of the content, that Sally will be suffering away from her friends, and that Angus won’t be able to sit through a whole lesson.

We see your young people. We see their glorious strengths, and we see their challenges. We are on your side, and we are so grateful for everything you do. Whether you sit with Sam to get them through their maths lesson, or whether you’re away working so that Jackson can have food on the table. We see you.

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast. In this episode, we discuss why so many teachers are leaving the profession. Post continues after audio.

What is exhausting, though, is this rhetoric of "home-schooling," which implies that families are responsible for delivering content and planning lessons that stack up against curriculum standards. Whilst you may sit with Sam every day, it is a teacher behind that screen preparing the lesson, a teacher sending out the checklist so that Johnny can access the lesson at a level he understands, and a teacher who has set a group task so that Sally can talk to her friends online. Don’t even get me started on our tireless Education Support staff who work with some of our most vulnerable young people.

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Continuing to posture home learning as home-schooling is harmful to an already undervalued profession. It implies that teachers and schools aren’t working their hardest to deliver a curriculum to your child, to send them a check in email/message around their wellbeing and to ensure that they stay in somewhat of a routine.

It implies that the humans behind the screens don’t do all that much, that our job is easy, and that we don’t put love into everything we do. It’s harmful to our morale. It’s harmful to the status of our job. Most importantly, it’s harmful to us as humans and as professionals.

We work every day to give your young person every opportunity we can. In a lockdown, we are placed in a fishbowl where everyone who has been to school has an opinion on schooling. Please, mainstream media, stop buying into this by pushing the home-school rhetoric.

Sincerely, an exhausted teacher just trying to make her students feel seen.

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