Teach­ers de­serve love, not de­ri­sion

Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion - KATIE BICE KATIE BICE IS A SUN­DAY HER­ALD SUN COLUM­NIST katie.bice@news.com.au @kt­bice

HERE’S the truth about teach­ers. They of­fi­cially re­turned to work last week long af­ter the rest of us. But they’d al­ready been hard at it long be­fore then.

They’ve been pre­par­ing their class­rooms, writ­ing our kids’ names on sup­plies and buy­ing things out of their own pocket to help their stu­dents have a good year. They are a bit like footy um­pires: un­der ap­pre­ci­ated, of­ten abused but the gig couldn’t go on with­out them.

Be­cause we par­ents do such a bad job, teach­ers can’t just show up these days and help chil­dren learn read­ing, writ­ing and maths.

They now have to be nu­tri­tion­ists to stop kids get­ting fat, coun­sel­lors to stop them be­ing bul­lied or de­pressed, swim teach­ers so the kids down drown, drug and al­co­hol ex­perts to stop kids tak­ing risks, and first-aiders to save them from ana­phy­laxis.

And while they’re at it, we ex­pect them to be our front­line de­fence against sex and do­mes­tic abusers and rad­i­calised youth.

They deal with kids from bro­ken fam­i­lies, stu­dents un­der the care of author­i­ties and every type of weirdo par­ent you can imag­ine.

For their ef­forts, they are called lazy, ac­cused of tak­ing too many hol­i­days, told they aren’t the smartest crop and, worst of all, blamed for our kids slip­ping be­hind other na­tions in lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy. They’re an easy tar­get and it’s less con­fronting to blame them for our kids fail­ings rather than our­selves.

I’ve never seen a teacher turn up at 9am and leave at 3.30pm. They can’t be­cause apart from les­son plan­ning there is usu­ally a line of needy par­ents at ei­ther end of the day want­ing to tell them how Billy has a sore foot be­cause he fell over on the week­end or seek­ing re­as­sur­ance that Char­lotte has some­one to play with at lunchtime.

Teach­ers stay back for in­for­ma­tion nights, par­ent teacher in­ter­views, sports nights, con­certs, grad­u­a­tions and they take our kids on camps, all with­out over­time. Af­ter they’ve left school for the day, they perch them­selves at home in front of the TV and mark home­work and as­sign­ments. They col­late re­ports, do DVD mon­tages for par­ents as end-of-year gifts and search for new ways to keep the kids en­gaged. And then they lie in bed wor­ry­ing about how to help that stu­dent catch up in lit­er­acy or how to han­dle Mother’s Day for the stu­dent who doesn’t have one. If we paid them for every job they per­form they’d be earn­ing like mer­chant bankers. In­stead we give them a start­ing salary that be­gins with a 50 and scoff when they ask for pay rises.

We want to at­tract the best to the pro­fes­sion but there’s not much in­cen­tive when you can be paid more, do less and get more praise in a less de­mand­ing ca­reer.

We want bet­ter teach­ers but roll our eyes when our kids get a grad­u­ate. We know teach­ers need ex­pe­ri­ence to im­prove — we just don’t want them “ex­per­i­ment­ing” on our kids. Yet the young ones are of­ten the most en­thu­si­as­tic and not worn down by the bur­den of all that comes with be­ing a teacher but has noth­ing to do with teach­ing.

So, a few notes for the school year.

Make your­self seen but not heard: be there for your kids but their teacher doesn’t need to know every time they sneeze. Try to fix is­sues at home be­fore get­ting the school in­volved.

Don’t as­sume your child is right: there will be dust-ups, ar­gu­ments and times your kid tells you wild tales about school. But the truth of­ten lies in a ver­sion of what they tell you.

Don’t storm into the class­room like you own it: it’s their work­place.

You wouldn’t want some­one in your face at your desk at 9am I’m sure teach­ers feel the same. Not to men­tion that it’s dis­rup­tive.

Get your kid to school on time and help if you’re asked — but oth­er­wise stay out of the way.

And when the midyear break rolls around and you start to gripe about the 12 weeks of hol­i­days they get a year, re­mem­ber that they de­serve it.

If you’re so jeal­ous, quit your job and be­come a teacher. Bet you wouldn’t have the guts.

Do­ing it by the book: Teach­ing is never less than de­mand­ing.

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