I read, recently, with great interest that apparently the NSW Government is making plans to introduce a policy that will ensure that people who want to be teachers have to get band 5s in at least 3 subjects – and one of them has to be English.
So what’s my problem with that? Well, in essence, I don’t have a problem with that at all. I believe that teachers should be – for want of a better term – highly academically capable. I think they should be intelligent, reflective individuals.
But that’s not all. Teachers need to be much more than the kids who managed to study the best at school. There are a whole raft of skills that teachers require – that they use on a daily basis – that aren’t covered in academic achievement. Skills relating to things like managing conflict, motivating and engaging students, establishing, developing and repairing relationships. I guess they might all fit under the catch all umbrella of emotional intelligence.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that teachers out there are all emotional Einsteins. Far from it. I’ve seen plenty of teachers with the personality of a cucumber and the conflict resolution skills of Saddam Hussein. And there are plenty of teachers out there who struggle with basic literacy and numeracy – I’m not defending them, either.
What I am saying is that the best teachers out there are a combination of both – they are emotionally and academic intelligent – not just one or the other – or neither. It’s important to keep that in mind.
There’s one other small problem, too. If, as the NSW Government admits, they are effectively cutting out a lot of potential applicants, where are the teachers of the future coming from? Unless you’re highly idealistic, if you get an ATAR 80+, why would you go into teaching? Why would you give up more than 70 hours a week to work in a position that is ridiculed by whoever is in power, humiliated by newspapers and paid less than your average tradesperson – after 4 or even 5 years at university? It’s not a coincidence that almost a third of teachers quit after their first 5 years. And the average age of teachers is heading north of 50, too…
So, instead of getting rid of potential teachers, let’s talk about the way that we can raise the status of teachers, so that we encourage better applicants. Here’s a thought: pay teachers as if they are the builders of the future, instead of part time public servants.