On my last day as a public school teacher, my Year 12 Media class held me a baby shower.
They decorated the classroom with pink balloons; they all pitched in money themselves to buy baby clothes and toys; they brought in party snacks to share together and for recess after our last class, the group of twenty students and I sat inside the classroom and celebrated.
When the bell rang to signify that the next period was about to commence, as they exited the room many of them said thank you to me for all I had done.
This moment was bittersweet for me, because it was by far one of the highlights of my four-year teaching career. But it was one of its last moments too.
While I could see that I had made a difference to each student, within their education and for many, to them personally, I also knew that it was also not enough for me to every change my mind about not returning to teaching after my maternity leave.
Simply put, I deserved much more than a thank you. Every teacher deserves much more than that.
While hearing words of sincere and genuine gratitude is lovely and appreciated, there comes a point in time where those acknowledgements just aren’t enough to keep you there delivering at such high thresholds, year on year.
This is why the NSW Teachers Federation has launched the campaign, More Than Thanks, to gather support in pushing for public school teachers to receive a well-earned pay rise, and to change to their workload so they have more time for students.
The campaign was developed based on the findings of the former WA Premier Geoff Gallop's independent review of teachers’ work. This study, commissioned by NSW Teachers Federation, found that there is a significant teacher shortage. It has since been revealed that there are more than 1,000 full-time teacher vacancies in NSW but no one to fill them.
Amongst the main reasons for this – the same reasons that drove me to become part of the 1 in 8 teachers who leave the profession within the first 6 years – are the workload expectations, the demands and pressures needed of the role, and the unchanging salary.
Here's the breakdown.
1. The workload.
While there may be a perception that teachers start work and end work with the ring of the school bell, never work weekends and enjoy months of school holidays relaxing each year, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I can still remember countless early starts to set up classrooms and activities for my students; that if I didn’t go into the school before my official hours had even begun so I could organise, would never have been able to occur. I recall the late nights and weekends reading sometimes over one hundred essays or exams at a time, as well as writing detailed feedback in order to help individual students improve.