13/12/2008

(and dealing with the others)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:30 am

I actually don’t think there’s a huge problem with really bad teachers in the Queensland school system. Like any profession there’ll be a few, and education is a field where it’s possible to be badly unsuited to the profession due to personality and attitude. I think the perception that the main problem with the system is bad teachers (protected by the union, of course, is the claim) is simply wrong. There are a few fantastic teachers, many, many good teachers, quite a lot of average teachers and a few bad ones.

A couple of issues do mean that good teachers sometimes deliver bad teaching.

One is burnout: some teachers started out idealistic and positive but for whatever personal and professional reasons, and through whatever deficiencies of ‘the system’ and the school where they teach, are just fried now. They’ve had enough and are hanging on because they don’t see any good alternatives, and they’re doing the minimum required work and failing to inspire their students. There need to be paths out of the profession for these people, and into other jobs where their skills can be used.

Another is the fact that, due to already existing teacher shortages, many teachers are teaching outside the subject areas they were trained to teach. In science in particular, at all levels, teachers who are really not comfortable even with the science content knowledge, let alone with the nature of science and what it takes to teach science effectively, are teaching science because there’s no-one else to do so. Teacher education does make a difference, too – I have taught quite a lot of maths, not because I trained to but because I was needed and because the assumption was that a physics teacher understands maths. I do – but I was never trained in the methods of teaching maths, and honestly I don’t think I was ever a particularly good or inspiring maths teacher, although I’m a good teacher in ‘my’ fields.

The solution to teachers teaching out of field is complex, but the steps in the ‘Recruiting…’ post above are the same kinds of things that will address this issue.

And yes, there are some bad teachers – ones who abuse students in various ways, or just don’t care about students and teaching. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not in the union’s interest to have these people in the profession, so although the union has a legal and moral obligation to protect its members, I think everyone recognises that there are some teachers – a very small number – who simply need to be removed from the classroom as quickly as possible. Of course, it will be easier to get that done if there are good teachers to take their place…

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