the representation of teachers in the written press does not help recruitment

Why is this a problem? It emphasizes the alleged shortcomings of individual teachers rather than the collective ability to improve teaching.

It affects the quality of the system — the systemic problems within our education system. “Teacher quality” is a way for politicians to shift the blame elsewhere when they should be committed to tackling the root cause of these problems: inadequate and inequitable funding, excessive teacher workload , unreasonable administrative burdens or teachers forced to work outside their field. of expertise.

Stories about teachers were disproportionately negative.

The second key thing I found is that media reports about teachers consistently talk about their work as simple and common sense, as if all decisions made by teachers are between two options: a good one and a bad one.

The phrase “teachers should” appears about 2300 times in my database. Examples include, “teachers should be paid based on the achievement of their students”, “teachers should not take a cookie-cutter approach to learning”, “teachers should come to class prepared” and “teachers shouldn’t spend time organizing sausage sizzles”.

Research from the 1990s, and still widely cited by academics, found that teachers make about 1,500 decisions during each school day.

Recent research, some of which I am doing with colleagues, suggests that the work of teachers has dramatically intensified and accelerated over the past 30 years. It is therefore likely that 1,500 decisions per school day is now a very conservative estimate.

These decisions include everything from “what texts are we going to focus on in English next term?” to “should I drop what I had planned for this lesson so we can continue to have this conversation because the students are engrossed in it?”

It also includes social decisions, such as “Do I step in and potentially escalate what’s going on in the back of the class or just keep an eye on it?” »

Each of these decisions is complex. But in media coverage, claims about what “all teachers” or “all teachers” can, should, or could do come and go fast.

Teaching is extremely difficult, and while not everyone needs to understand this, we must give credit to the nearly 300,000 Australians who navigate the profession every day. Just because complexity might not have been obvious to us in our 13 years as students doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.

Finally, I found the stories about teachers to be disproportionately negative in their depictions. I found “good news” stories in my research, but they outnumbered articles that focused on how teachers, collectively and individually, were falling short.

This included the link between “crises” and “poor quality” teachers. Take, for example, former Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s comment that “the No. 1 problem, in terms of student outcomes, is the quality of teachers. In reality [the OECD] said eight of the 10 reasons a student does well or poorly in Australia is the class they are assigned to. In other words, the teacher to whom they are assigned.

In other words, “teacher-bashing” is the norm when it comes to stories about teachers in the Australian media.

As we think about what needs to be done to improve the number of teachers in Australia, we need to think about how we talk about teaching and teachers in the media.

If all people hear is that teachers are “to blame” for poor standards and that they should find their demanding and complex jobs easy, this is unlikely to encourage people to enter the profession. It also doesn’t give those who are already there the support and respect they need to stay.


Nicole Mockler is Associate Professor of Education at the University of Sydney. This article first appeared on The conversation.

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