Has teachers’ reputation changed?

Has teachers’ reputation changed?

October 11, 2020

I can’t remember the number of people who tried to talk me out of teaching when I started university, but 20 years later I feel vindicated. Maybe it took a pandemic, lockdown and two lots of remote learning, but something has changed.

Few professions have changed as much and as frequently as that of a teacher in 2020. We pivoted to home learning, went back to school, then full circle again.

Let’s have a look at some of the new skills our teachers have developed this year.

A school worker disinfects desks at the end of the day.Credit:Diana Bagnoli

When you consider that teachers thrive on daily contact with students and the relationships they build, their work has been turned upside down. As a parent and principal, I fully understand the challenges of home schooling and how much we rely on our teachers to get the best out of our children. Teacher work has been more focused on supporting parents than ever this year.

In remote learning round one, I asked all my teachers to call each of their students once a week. The phone calls were to check in with each child’s wellbeing and provide feedback on submitted work. Try having this conversation with a five-year-old over the phone.

With most schools providing either live or pre-recorded lessons, teachers have never been under such scrutiny from parents.

Imagine working in sales and having each of your phone calls recorded and played back to customers on YouTube each day. I know teachers who re-recorded their lessons four or five times for fear of parent criticism.

Feedback has been a hot topic throughout the year. We all remember getting teacher comments on our work two weeks after we submitted it, but how many of us responded in the way the teacher may have hoped? Verbal feedback provided in a timely and positive manner gets the best results. Some schools are providing written feedback online and others are recording verbal messages for students to listen to the next day. I have had many messages from teachers saying they have been completing feedback after dinner each night.

Some schools have set up virtual camps and excursions to add an extra level of engagement. I take my hat off to my son’s teachers who set up a fantastic week-long virtual camp. From building an indoor tent, to cooking classes and daily challenges, they pushed the limits of their own creativity.

The naysayers will always bring up school holidays, teacher pay and the nine-to-three workdays. Has this year been the shot in the arm that the profession needed? When you look at how desperate we are to get back to school, I think it has been.

Mark McKelson is principal of Camberwell South Primary School.

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