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Episode #002 – 27 July 2013 – Gonski, part 1

Teachers' Education Review

In this episode we discuss the history of the Gonski review and the new Better Schools funding legislation. We also  interview Melbourne University Academic Bronwyn Hinz about the details of the Better Schools legislation.

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My first podcast: Pisa and Homework

The Teachers Education Review is a new project I’m working on with Australian high school head teacher, Cameron Malcher. Each month we’ll be reviewing what’s been happening in Australian education and teasing out particular issues through a panel discussion. Our first episode examines PISA and Homework. Episode 2 will look at the Gonski education funding reforms.

Please give us your opinions, feedback and ideas for future episodes at TERpodcast.com

Teachers' Education Review

Welcome to the first episode of the Teachers’ Education Review podcast! Please leave your comments and feedback below, or you can email us at TERPodcast@gmail.com.

You can also find us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TERPodcast or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TERPodcast

Thanks for listening!

Overview: In this, the first episode of the Teacher’s Education Review, Cameron and Corinne discuss PISA Data as presented by OECD Education Advisor Dr. Andreas Schleicher, and take a look at the ever-controversial issue of homework.

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The problem with the teacher quality debate

“Good Teachers Trump Small Classes: OECD Adviser” screamed a headline in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

This is just the latest article I’ve seen in the ongoing debates around education reform, and yes we all know that teacher quality is extremely important. We know that teacher quality has one of the most significant effects on educational achievement. I’m not disputing that.

The problem I have with focusing on teacher quality is that too often, it’s talked about in isolation and discussions about it don’t take into account the fact that we are just one very important part of a system. The whole system needs to be functioning properly to allow each part to do its job properly.

You can have a great set of wheels on a car, but if the tires are bald you’re heading for trouble.

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I was fortunate to attend Andreas Schleicher‘s talk on  PISA at the University of Sydney Education yesterday. He’s the education adviser to the OECD and was the expert quoted in the Herald’s article.

While his data did not show evidence of smaller class sizes correlating to better academic outcomes it did show some interesting things about teacher quality. There was a correlation between countries investing in teacher quality and achieving higher educational outcomes measured on PISA. Investment in salaries did not make much difference, but investment in giving teachers adequate time to prepare their lessons, and ongoing professional learning throughout their careers did make a difference. Teachers in higher performing countries such as South Korea and Finland both have less face to face teaching hours than we do in Australia. Those countries are not just focused on improved recruitment and training, but on continued systemic support for their teachers.

The NSW government document Great Teaching Inspired Learning is a step in the right direction. It places greater importance on ongoing professional learning for teachers, and on mentoring especially for early career teachers. I think its great that Australian governments are recognising the need to continually build the professionalism of teachers, rather than taking the direction of some other Western Countries who are removing the need to have appropriately qualified teachers in front of students.

However, I am yet to see any talk in Australia of a reduction in face to face teaching hours, to allow us adequate time to do our jobs well. I work between 60-70 hours per week and still find myself unable to do everything required of me in my dual role as an assistant principal and a classroom teacher. More often than not, I find I’m prioritising by choosing what to neglect. A reduced face to face teaching load would be a dream. I’d have time to plan for the individual learning needs of my class, time to reflect on their work and give meaningful feedback, time to plan engaging and authentic learning experiences. I’d have time to collaborate with peers and learn from them. Time, more than anything else, is what I’d like to be given in order to do my job well.

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Why teach?

When I decided to become a teacher back in 1989 these were my reasons:

  • I wanted to spend my time making the world a better place, not making myself or others rich.
  • I loved learning. What better way to share that joy than to become a teacher
  • I loved to create, innovate and problem solve. Teaching would allow me to do this all day, every day.
  • I enjoy variety and I was pretty sure primary school teaching would allow this.

Looking back on my reasons, I have to say that every one of them is as true today as they were then. I love teaching because I know I am making a positive difference in the lives of students every day.  20 years on, I continue to find it challenging, creative and varied. I could count on one hand the times I’ve felt bored or haven’t wanted to go to work. It’s hard work. There are long hours, high expectations and a lot of stress. But there is also so much fun and laughter each day.

I love my work because I know it matters. At the end of each day I come home with the knowledge that I’ve done something good, that I’ve helped another person and set students on the path to a better future. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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Are you a teacher? I’d love to hear why you became a teacher and what keeps you in the profession.