There is far too much prescription and not enough listening.
I am not a fan of teacher strikes; I want kids in front of their teacher as much as possible. However, I do believe there needs to be some big changes in education to better support our kids, teachers, principals and schools.
In my opinion, some changes I believe we need:
- Too many ‘experts’ keep telling us what we need to do. I’m talking about the far removed from schools academics, bureaucrats and salesmen. We need more autonomy to do what we know is best for our kids that is evidence based and contextualized to our school. I am pretty much allowed free range when it comes to behaviour management, pastoral care, community based things etc. But when it comes to teaching and learning, the very thing we are all meant to be experts in, too many people outside of the classroom and school want to tell me what we need to do. Our education system instructs us to promote our kids to be highly critical thinkers, but I feel this is not often afforded to us, on the ground educators.
- The curriculum is far too full. We need to be able to spend more time particularly in the early years on Literacy and Numeracy. We want to be able to continue to do creative and fun activities too. The curriculum is making this so difficult for us and can knock the ‘flair’ and ‘passion’ out of good teachers.
- Teachers and I do far too many ‘compliance’ tasks that are designed as accountability activities because of lack of trust. We constantly have to prove that we are doing what they want us to do… just spending more time ticking boxes. These administration tasks do nothing for your child and their learning and take us away from planning and creating great lessons. I’m not advocating for us doing less work, but spending more time on what makes an impact and matters.
It feels like we have to record down every time a child scratches an itch. What caused the itch? How could you have intervened to stop the itch? How long was the scratch? When did they start scratching? Was the scratch effective in resolving the itch? What could have been more effective than scratch? How many observations were completed and do you have enough evidence of the scratch? Have you tracked their scratching technique over time for improvement? Did you inform their parents via Dojo? etc. etc.
Planning, tracking, assessment, data and monitoring are all essential, but at the moment it is excessive, confusing and has not improved student results and led to stress for all involved.
- Parents are the first educators and need to be comfortable with how the school is educating their children and what they are being taught. As educators we need to support parents in their role as lead educators. A very small minority of parents over my time have taken up so much of my time and the time of the teacher, in my opinion being quite selfish and achieving little. We need to be open to criticism and feedback but also to be allowed to do our role effectively. The way I have been spoken to and treated alongside some teachers is not OK.
- Universities are not setting our future teachers up for success. In my opinion, the way education is provided by universities for our future teachers is out of touch, ineffective and out of date. You don’t see university professors striking. I have completed a Bachelor of Education, A Masters of RE and a Masters of Educational Leadership over 9 years and learned more by spending one week in a Kindergarten classroom.
I know I am blessed with good pay, good conditions and good holidays. I am so happy and very privileged to be the principal of my school and a member of the community. But I must admit that sometimes I could walk away from it due to the stress, workload and politics… just ask my wife. However, the love I have for our kids, community and educators keeps me still in love with this most important vocation.