In my previous post, I noted that a panel event in Sydney was addressing the question of whether schools kill creativity and that there were no teachers on the panel. Instead, the panel consisted of two journalists, a musician and an education academic.
I made it clear that I had no objections to any one of these panelists airing their views. The topic is a bit of a cliche, in my view, but that’s beside the point. I welcome a diverse range of views on education and I welcome the engagement of people from across the community.
What I cannot accept is teachers being absent from such a discussion. I labelled it ‘latent contempt’ and I think this is a fitting description. Nobody is actively seeking to be contemptuous of teachers and nobody realises they are doing it, but we do seem to be a junior partner in the discussion. A few of us are wheeled out from time to time to be given awards and told we’re inspirational, but nobody’s really interested in our views.
David Roy, an education academic and author, took issue with my post about the Sydney panel event, both in the comments and on Twitter. His view is that Robyn Ewing, the academic invited onto the panel, used to be a teacher and is still involved in teaching education students at university. Moreover, as an academic, she is capable of providing a ‘wider knowledge and awareness of the issues as they come from both a practitioners perspective as well as a research/academic perspective.’
I suspect that many teachers wouldn’t consider an education academic as representing their voices. Teaching undergraduates is different to teaching Prep to Year 12 classes, not least in that there is little behaviour management required in the former. Anecdotally, many teachers complain about their teacher education courses, usually along the lines that they don’t practically prepare them for the classroom. There are clearly some excellent and enlightened education academics out there, but there remains the dark suspicion that some of them couldn’t quite cut it in the classroom and that’s why they are where they are. As one of my own lecturers self-deprecatingly put it, ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; and those who can’t teach, teach teachers.’
But I thought it was worth checking-out my anecdotal hunch with an unscientific survey of my Twitter followers. The results are pretty conclusive:
Interestingly, I added the ‘Unions’ option as a bit of an afterthought. I have always belonged to a union and I believe in the value of unions. Nevertheless, education unions are often quite disappointing. As teachers, we want unions that will focus on pay and conditions, yet they seem to get themselves involved in educational policy, and not in a way that is particularly helpful. In areas where teachers would like them to act, such as on challenging and unsafe student behaviour, they are often conspicuous by their absence.
In my view, this confirms the need for teachers to start taking back the profession and talking on our own behalf. The process has started, so now is the time to push it to the next level. We should no longer tolerate the status quo that the Sydney panel exemplifies.