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Time for some good news for teachers

As a teacher and a parent, education news, for me, is rarely good.

We, teachers and parents, use news to shape our understanding of the education system. But recent research has found that teachers are demoralised by endless negative news coverage of teachers and teaching, with the 200 parents surveyed also noting the negative tone of education reporting. With many teachers noting news avoidance as a strategy to counter this demoralisation.

Secondary school teacher Steven Kolber argues there needs to be more focus on teaching successes.

Secondary school teacher Steven Kolber argues there needs to be more focus on teaching successes. Credit:Joe Armao

The early indicators from this year’s NAPLAN results show that Victoria has led the nation across all test areas. Despite our extended lockdowns, we must emphasise that this is a superb result for our teaching workforce in Victoria. These results are timely as the Australian Education Union and the Department of Education are negotiating the new enterprise bargaining agreement for Victorian education workers.

Yet when there is positive education news, such as this, it is often quickly overlooked or minimised. Just like Australia’s top 10 ranked performance in maths and science on the TIMSS assessment of December last year, which appeared and disappeared quickly with minimal discussion.

Whilst these early NAPLAN results offer more questions than they answer, and with academics wary to jump to conclusions, it’s timely to consider the ‘good news’ here.

As a teacher who has participated in the 139, and counting, days of remote learning, I can proffer some answers that large-scale testing cannot. Here’s what we can say: Remote teaching and learning is difficult, the pivot has been swift, and for most, the learning curve steep. We can also safely say that this method of teaching will be with us into the future as an unavoidable necessity.

Much like the recent erroneous comments of our own Prime Minister, this is actually something we must ‘learn to live with’. We know a narrative of ‘learning loss’ is not helpful for the improvement and rebuilding processes necessary to right the ship of Australian education. These two sets of results suggest that teaching excellence exists within Victoria, and Australia, even under the most trying of circumstances.

More expert teachers in schools, including the tutoring program, the ongoing work of the Middle Years Literacy and Numeracy support initiative, professional practice days, and other injections of money have not surprisingly, yielded results. As ever, funding that is used to empower teachers and trusts our professional expertise yields positive results. Schools, that is, teachers and education support workers, have bent over backwards to keep students engaged, reconnect with those who’ve gone missing and continued to provide a world-class education for all students.

Here’s what we must say: Fair pay for the best in Australia, Victorian teachers have gone above and beyond at great personal cost, to put on a brave face and keep learning occurring. We must pay this effort in kind.

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