Your Local School – Rewarding Experience or a Danger Zone?

Our Victorian Government announced extension to nominations and applications for the Victorian Education Excellence Awards.

This award is there to celebrate outstanding achievements of teaches and education support staff in Victorian government schools. What I like about it, is that parents and students are also eligible to nominate. This is a great opportunity for a wider school community to show their appreciation for teachers and other staff who are genially there for one reason, and one reason only – to give their best to our children.

Victorian Education Excellence Awards

Victorian Education Excellence Awards

This award should not limited to a school principal nominating who s/he thinks is a good teacher; or just looking for a way to give “the right person” a $50,000 bonus. It should not be limited to teachers doing favours to each other (you nominate me this year and I’ll nominate you the next).

As parents, we are the ones who ultimately responsible for bringing our kids up, for making sure they get the best education available. Who better than to assess the teaching efforts? Who will only nominate teachers that bring out the best in their children? So take this opportunity, weight all the candidates at your child’s school, think it thru and do your bit to make sure that the winner of this award is a truly Excellent educator.

While looking through internet pages, reading up on this Excellence Award, I’ve noticed quite a bit of excitement around the other bit of school-related issue – plans to install CCTV cameras in government schools. I almost skipped this news, until my eyes stumbled upon the main reason for the cameras…. apparently, it’s to reduce the number of attacks on school principals. Who would’ve thought that being surrounded by a bunch of seven-year-olds can be so dangerous? All jokes aside, being a principle of a Victorian school is a life-threatening occupation. The Australian Principals Federation even has a study from the Monash Uni to back it up. What’s in this study? Well, according to ABC, school principals were five times more likely to face threats of violence than the general population . Not to be outdone, The Age informs us that Australian principals experienced physical violence at more than six times the rate of the general population. I personally prefer the take on the matter by The Australian – they clearly are more serious about this whole issue than the rest. According to them, school principals were seven times more likely to experience physical violence than the general public. Seriously though, why would anyone attack a school principal? I remember a principal of Mordialloc Primary School back in the 90th, and a principal of Parkdale Secondary at the same time – no one would EVER even think of attacking these principals, because everyone in a wider community knew that these men live a breeze their schools.

CCTV in schools

CCTV in schools

So why the sudden fear of attacks? Is it because we are faced with a generation of violent, irresponsible parents? Or is it because the schools today quickly becoming a safe heaven for rejects, people who have this perverted idea of teaching being nothing more than a profession with a really long summer holidays?

Maybe it’s because some teachers don’t know how to spell, and feel intimidated by parents (and children) who do? Or maybe it’s because some teachers feel that they are allowed to bully their students?

Or maybe the real reason is that the principals are scared more of getting in trouble with the Australian Education Union for kicking out under-performing teachers , than they are scared of unruly parents?

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6 thoughts on “Your Local School – Rewarding Experience or a Danger Zone?

  1. Eugene, as you’re probably aware – I read most of your posts (when you post) and many of them make valid arguments on what ever topic that you choose to write about. I usually comment on them too, unless I feel that there’s nothing really to make comment about.
    In this case however, you are so far from the truth and may I hasten to add, reality, that I can’t help but wonder if you wrote the whole thing while under the influence of some mind-altering substance!

    Firstly, as someone who is qualified to teach at primary, secondary and tertiary level (my creds are on my blog site and you can check them out in the ‘About’ section, and I’ve taught at both Secondary and Tertiary level), no one – but no one – survives in teaching more than a month if they think that its ‘a profession with really long summer holidays’. In fact, most of those people are weeded out in the first months of undertaking their Grad Dip Ed (1 year), or Bachelor of Ed (3 years), at University.

    They certainly don’t survive their first placements, and if in the rare instance that they do make it through the course, there’s a probationary period to be served until they’re given full teaching credentials. This can take anything from 12 months to 5 or more years, dependent not on whether they are literate or not – that’s sorted out very early at uni – but on how much work they can get doing emergency relief teaching which is where around 98% of teaching graduates start.

    Rarely do graduates go from uni straight into a teaching job at high school and when they do, like all other graduates, they are placed on a one year (sometimes only 6 months) contract. When the contract has expired, they’re usually back to eking out a living as an emergency teacher until they can secure another contract – again, this will probably only be for 12 months – or less!

    During this period, they still may not have fulfilled all of the requirements of both the Education Department and the Institute of Teaching, and therefore still remain on probation.

    You’ve got to be both dedicated and motivated to enter teaching and you certainly don’t do it for the holidays ( most of which is spent preparing lessons and lesson plans coupled with learning strategies so that both students who are inclined to learn through listening and students who are inclined to learn through doing are catered for) and you sure as shit don’t do it for the money as most teachers work at least a twelve to fourteen hour day during school term, often more, as there as other duties included as well.

    Finally, your comment that principals are more frightened of the Teachers Union than they are of unruly parents, is simply not true – and if you think it is true- back up your argument with the relevant details. Facts and figures please, not hearsay or supposition!

    All teachers, be it graduate or veteran constantly have to undergo performance reviews not only by principals but also by the Education Department and the Teachers Institute, so under performer’s usually don’t last long!

    You are right however about belligerent and aggressive parents. These are the ones who do threaten principals and teaching staff, and in most cases, are the ones who tell their kids not to take any notice of teachers because they’re all idiots and wouldn’t know their arse from their elbow when it comes to dealing with the real world.

    It’s usually the kids from this style of parenting who need the most help at school because they don’t get any support at home and in most cases, the parents have either low literacy or no literacy at all.

    Sorry Eugene, but I’d mark this post around 6/10. Eugene rests his argument on supposition and anti-education bias rather than solid research and fact finding – has done better in the past, and should try harder next time.
    As a guide to conducting research, I suggest that in future he avoids the Murdoch press, both The Australian and The Herald-Sun as support for the basis of his argument.

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  2. That’s quite a response, thanks mate 🙂
    Ok, now let’s see if I can answer some of things you bring up….
    First off, I was sober while writing it – writing a blog is a stimulant enough 🙂
    Second, I would like to stress out that I do not say, nor think that ALL teachers are bad or useless. I have been fortunate enough myself to have some really awesome teachers. I have two grown up kids who also had some amazing teachers. However, I’ve also witnessed my kids and their friends having to deal with teachers who are an embarrassment to the profession.
    Few examples:
    A child in Grade 1 is told off for spelling “doughnut”. Apparently, the right way is “donut”. (teacher with over 15 years of experience)
    A Math teacher in Grade 5 admits during Parents-Teacher interview that the math they have to teach kids is too hard, so she substitutes a lot of it with lessons in scrape-booking (teacher with about 20 years experience)
    A teacher telling a student to skip on lunch because said student is too fat…all this in front of student’s peers. School’s response? “The child misunderstood what was said” Again, a teacher in his forties….
    I can go on with examples, but I’m sure you get my point.
    Another thing I should probably mention- both my mother and my father-in-law are teachers, and also that I myself received my education overseas. So I have some appreciation of education both in Australia and overseas and I have some insight into teaching profession.
    As far as Principals being afraid of the Unions – I am not basing it on any facts, hence the question mark at the end of that sentence…. The reason I’ve asked the question? I can’t possibly understand why a Principle, if he/she truly cares about the kids and about the purity of their chosen profession tolerate teachers like the ones I’ve mentioned above in their schools and getting them kicked out?
    As for The Australian, The Herald Sun and ABC – I assure you that they are from being my only sources. Moreover, anything any of them say I tend to take with a (large) grain of salt. The reason I talked about them (and linked, to show that I’m not making things up) is that I wanted to show how liberal they are in presenting what supposed to be a scientific research. “one in 5”, “one in 6” or “one in 7” is a LOT of difference. If I were the guy from Monash who did the research, who presumably put a lot of time and effort in making sure it’s accurate, I would be pretty upset with the way media manipulated my findings…
    Again, thanks for the feedback, really appreciate it 🙂

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  3. Anytime Eugene, and I’m glad that you didn’t take offense – as I say, I usually enjoy your blogs.
    Yes, you’re right of course, there are dead-heads who are teachers and its difficult for principals to get rid of them not inasmuch as unionism is concerned but more commonly because its difficult to get a replacement in either their field (Arts or Science) or due to the location and perceived status of the school. The real truth is however, and you’ve touched on it in the first couple of paragraphs, that no matter how good the teacher is they can only contribute about 50% to the child’s education – the rest has to come from the parents. If the kid comes from a background which places a high value on education then they usually will do well no matter what their socio-economic background be it fabulously wealthy or as poor as a Church mouse. If on the other hand the parents aren’t inclined to place a high value on education, then the child will struggle no matter how bright they are.
    It all comes down to good parenting rather than if the child goes to a public or private school (and believe me there are just as many dead-heads in the private system as there are in the public system)
    Clearly your children came from a family which believes education to be of paramount importance and you should be justifiably proud. As I’m sure you know, being a parent is the world’s scariest ride but also the world’s most rewarding occupation.
    Cheers, and looking forward to your next blog 🙂 🙂

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  4. I believe that children, parents and the general community should be involved in the nominations of educators when it comes to acknowledgements such as this 🙂 Children are the primary consumers of the service being delivered – aka their education and parents (those who are involved) have a pretty good idea about the experiences their children are having in the classroom.

    I read through some of the examples you provided in your response to Edward and although it is disappointing, there are certainly teachers – that for whatever reason sometimes drop the ball.

    I have had to have conversations with only one of my children’s teachers – she spent lots of time yelling and punishing without explaining which is contrary to the examples we set here at home. Suffice to say, I was glad when that year ended.

    Glad to see you pointed out the lack of loose OQE provided in various media sources… something I find amusing and frustrating at the same time – particularly when people use it as gospel truth.

    Great post.

    ML
    x

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