An often-cited statistic is that almost half of teachers leave the profession in their first five years. I became this statistic last year when I resigned from the government system five years after I joined it, writes Stephanie Wescott at The Age.
Much has been written in recent years about teachers struggling to meet their workload. The Australian Education Union’s 2016 workload survey found that just over one third of teachers in all schools indicated that their workload often or nearly always adversely affected their health. When asked what would help them to manage, 80 per cent of teachers indicated that reducing bureaucratic demands would greatly assist them.
Complaints about teachers’ job satisfaction often captures the ire of the public who argue that our holidays more than make up for any overtime. Teachers constantly work against perceptions of our work as unworthy of esteem.
However, the greatest undermining of the profession comes from the bureaucratic initiatives that claim to work to improve teacher quality. These include the requirements that teachers produce and analyse data to inform decision-making, enforcing school-wide templates for lesson-planning, and stringent performance review mechanisms, as well as a host of administrative requirements. These work to remove teacher agency, demand greater reporting and accountability and suggest – of most concern – that teachers cannot be trusted to work independently.
The increasingly common requirement that teachers look to standardised models of practice, where strategies are selected from a narrow evidence-base, suggests that distrust for teachers as qualified professionals is increasing. These trends also fail to acknowledge the incredible unpredictability of working with young people; what works in one place may not replicate in another.
Many teachers are at risk of burnout.
Stephanie Wescott is a PhD student, teacher educator and research assistant. She previously taught English and Humanities in a Victorian government school.