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Educators are NOT emotional punch bags

By Rebecca Thomas

Usually, I tend not to write when I am feeling disgruntled or emotionally tired, but this week I have heard and seen quite enough.

This week I have heard and seen young people talk to educators without an ounce of respect, personal space or mana.

This week I have heard the media and politicians give their ten cents worth of opinions about what is wrong with education, proceeding to mock educators for low standards and point out things they are not doing.

This week I found a principal in a flood of tears after a parent decided to use their spiteful words to find blame; I have watched this same principal give her heart, her soul, her everything to her school for the past two years, never taking a sick day.

Why doesn’t anybody take accountability for their actions? Why doesn’t anyone own their problems? Why do they all blame the teachers and principals in the classrooms on the front line? It's about time they looked in the mirror.

I have never known a profession where this emotional turmoil would be acceptable.

Leading by example

I guess when the leaders of our country, no matter which side of the fence they sit, belittle our profession and show the public that it is OK to use education like a football, it’s no wonder others think they can score points too.

I guess when the media sensationalises and dramatises a profession and professionals with an air of mistrust and failure, it's no wonder people scrutinise the smallest of mistakes and cry incompetence.

I guess when the adult population can’t role model and show awhi and respect for a workforce who give so much, it's no wonder the students behave the way they do.

Self fulfilling prophecy

Earlier this month a tragic story in the Guardian highlighted how the pressure and words of ‘inadequacy’ took its toll on a dedicated principal. This is a shocking and unacceptable orchestration of power that has cost the life of someone who gave their job 32 years of commitment. My thoughts are with her family, it is an absolute tragedy and should never have been allowed to happen.

Looking overseas to find a country whose teachers are not striking, whose teachers are not exhausted, whose teachers are not walking out, I find countries like Japan and Finland. But what are they doing that is so different?

For a start, in Finland since the 1960s Politicians have accepted that they are good at politics, but not good at education. Realising this, they have an agreement to put the strategic needs of the country before their own party interests and no longer compete for educational votes, instead they trust schools to develop the services they need.

In Japan, 34% of teachers "agree" or "strongly agree" with the statement that their profession is valued in society, which is higher than the average across OECD countries

Teachers in Japan are respected by communities and shown appreciation as a profession. As well as being valued as a workforce they are also highly paid. The teaching profession has a high status in society. There are obviously other contributing factors that make it unique mentioned in a blog here.

I guess the point I am trying to make is two fold:

1) We should be showing our teachers the consideration and status they deserve, they are not there for people to take their frustrations out on. It is not OK to belittle them in public, give them abuse and speak to them or about them with distain.

2) If we really want to seek help from other countries around the world and make improvements to our education system, instead of believing its all about content and getting back to basics let's look at the foundations we've laid out for them first; look long and hard at the context our teachers have to teach in, and examine how society behaves towards them, surely this is a shared responsibility of everyone in the country.

Enough said.

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