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Teachers can do it all but they need our support: opinion

I am a school teacher and am therefore more highly attuned than others when people talk about suggestions for how education should look. I’ve noticed that when issues of social welfare are being discussed, such as Instagram use, mental health and recently the influence of porn on young peoples’ attitudes towards sex, quite often the conclusion is that “it needs to be addressed in schools”.

Now, I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. It is so important that social issues are addressed in the classroom; in fact, I am studying social and emotional learning for my PhD and have started a business that promotes such concepts to schools. However, I would caution against placing the sole responsibility for the communication of these topics on teachers’ shoulders.

All the teachers I know care so deeply for their students and their jobs that they willingly take on any task they are given. Thus, if the general perception is that they must take responsibility for these topics as well as the more traditional subjects, they will place high expectations on themselves to address them, and rightly so. However, in order to look after our teachers’ mental health, I think it is important that the conversation is extended to include the responsibility of the parents and other carers too.

I totally understand that it is sometimes easier for teachers to address social and emotional issues because there is an element of objectivity and students are less likely to feel harassed than they might by their parents. However, with education and continued discussions through media such as your podcasts, parents and carers will become more confident to take some of the burden themselves. Indeed, when I was growing up I think my mother did it all!

Believe me when I say I’m not trying to shirk responsibility – as I say, I’m keenly aware of what teachers should be doing and work with schools to make this known. I’m only suggesting that we expand the conversation to include education from all directions: school, home and community.

Rose Pennington is a classroom teacher, education consultant and PhD student at the Institute of Positive Psychology and Education at the Australian Catholic University.

Contact: [email protected]om

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