Merit systems to improve teacher quality in public schools often appear in discussions of education reform by Australia’s politicians. The carrot on offer is bonus pay either for the highest performing teachers or for the teachers at highest performing schools.
The idea is popular – except amongst teachers themselves.
There are many reasons we don’t like it. We understand that students’ educational success does not come down to individual teachers. Most teachers don’t work alone. We work with each other, developing strategies, writing programs and sharing the teaching load. We work in partnership with students’ families. It seems ridiculous to reward individual teachers for the work of many.
Oh, and can we not forget the role of the student in their own education?
But perhaps the main reason that teachers like me object to bonus pay is that it is insulting.
To suggest we need a carrot in order to become quality teachers assumes that we are not already working hard to be the best teachers we can be. It suggests that we are withholding our best work and don’t care about our students. it assumes we are unprofessional. Rather than valuing our work, the idea seems to cheapen it.
So I wonder, how do our students feel when we offer rewards in class? Does this insult them as well?
I’m reading ‘Punished by Rewards’ by Alfie Kohn at the moment. He raises this issue and more.
- The Problem with Merit Systems (aboutteaching.wordpress.com)