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What happens to our education system after all of this? Opinion

What happens to our education system after COVID-19? Who knows. Teachers, for one, certainly don’t. Perhaps, that’s the problem with our system. 

What we do know is that teachers won’t be left to their own devices – even though we are quite literally being left to them now – to work this remote learning thing out for those who are too afraid of change, can’t handle it, or quite frankly, can’t be bothered. 

Yes, we’re capable. Trust us. 

Changes to our education system, or to most industries for that matter, are inevitable. I’ve already heard some of my own colleagues commenting on the use of Zoom during staff meetings, saying, “Maybe we should do this more often.”

But that kind of frightens me. No, not the virtual meetings. Frightening is what will change after this all blows over. I’d prefer not to comment on what I think will change, because, to be honest, teachers rarely know, if ever. Well, not usually until the first day of the school year or semester, when we find out what new practice, or practices, we’ll be expected to be implementing – without consulting us, first-hand. 

What do I hope changes, though? For starters, our system needs more teacher voice and teacher input. I don’t know how that would work, because that’s what our pollies, ministers and policy-makers should be working on. There is a tendency for broad directives to be overly research-based, but not rigid enough for schools within their own contexts. You tackle that problem, while we stick to what we do best. Teaching. We don’t do your job, so what makes you believe that you are entitled to shape the ways in which we do ours? 

Yes, we’re capable. Trust us. 

Will our students return to a world of learning where their teachers are expected to continue churning out an industrialist, conveyor belt model of teaching, because those who have never set foot in a classroom tell us to? My heart says, ‘No!’ But my head says, ‘Yes.’ 

I needn’t go into too much depth about what I mean by ‘industrialist’ or even ‘cookie-cutter’ models of teaching and learning – there are plenty of commentaries out there about them. But yes, I am referring to where the Australian Curriculum has taken us. I am talking about NAPLAN. I’m even shedding light on something much more recently introduced, the Learning Progressions – just another thing added to the list of to-dos for teachers.

So, maybe now’s the time to start reflecting on how keeping teachers ‘accountable’ – whatever that means – is actually undermining them, hurting our students and destroying our system. Right now, we’ve got plenty of time to start thinking about how we can reset, re-think, re-adjust and re-jig this whole system, don’t we? 

Unfortunately, our vocation has moved away from teacher judgement (the heart) and more towards a profession of ticking boxes, standardised testing, you know, ‘end product’ kind of stuff. Sure, the idea of teaching with one’s heart sounds rather romanticised, I get that. Not in any way am I suggesting that this is a model to go by. But, we – and by we, I mean teachers – need a system. We need one that allows us to put our heads together, where we dictate what teaching and learning should look like, where we can stop doing all the ‘other stuff’, and just… teach. 

Yes, we’re capable. Perhaps, the first step after all of this is that we start listening to and trusting our teachers, for once.

James Prpić is a primary school teacher in Queanbeyan, NSW. An avid reader himself, he is passionate about the pure joy and power of reading. 

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One comment

  1. David Bain Dorrian

    This is EXACTLY why I tendered my resignation in January before the COVID19 as I already saw the trend to making teachers CULPABLE for any political whim of the day. The micro management of the system by so called experts has already degraded teaching and learning.
    I will miss teaching. I will NOT miss education. Those that do not see the difference have no right to comment.
    Formerly yours in Education

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