A new international report has revealed what teachers already know: pressure on them is growing all the time. More and more, they’re expected to be counsellors to their students, dealing with issues that once would have been left up to parents.
“We are picking up a lot of the slack of what I would call under-parenting,” the president of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, Chris Presland, tells the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Parents who are under pressure are turning to schools on [things like] the issue of cyber-usage by students. Obesity is another issue.”
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A teacher who recently quit the profession, after working for several years in inner-western Sydney primary schools, tells Mamamia that teachers are “definitely” being relied on to do more and more that’s outside of their job description.
“It can feel like I’m a second parent to these kids, particularly when they’re in primary school,” she adds.
The teacher says the last school she was at tried very hard to foster healthy food choices.
“Poor food habits are hard to deal with, because if you have a child who refuses to eat what their parents have packed them, they can go hungry all day, which of course isn’t healthy, but also impacts their ability to learn because they aren’t able to focus,” she explains.
“I’ve had parents drop off McDonald’s for their kids in the middle of class because they simply refuse to eat anything else.
“Monitoring what kids do and do not eat could easily be a full-time job in itself.”
The international report, released by UNESCO, has also revealed that because of standardised testing like NAPLAN and PISA, 75 per cent of Australia’s teachers are feeling pressured to “teach more to the test”.
Presland says Australia’s obsession with NAPLAN and PISA is “out of control”, and he believes the focus on such a narrow measure is doing damage.
The former teacher speaking to Mamamia agrees, saying teaching kids how to take NAPLAN is “very time-consuming”.
She says it’s not just about making sure they’re across the syllabus, but showing them things like how to shade a bubble and how to show they’ve changed their mind on an answer.
“You can spend months ‘teaching to the test’ and sitting down and doing practice paper after practice paper with your kids,” she adds. “It’s not the best way to utilise learning time.
“I know standardised testing is important but there has to be a better way of doing it.”