What would do most to improve the status of the teaching profession?

This post is written as part of the May 2013 #blogsync click here 
to read more of the blogs in this series

Teaching is New Zealand’s 11th most trusted profession. This shows that we have a long way to go in the eyes of the public. This is quite critical as in our decentralised power system where Boards of Trustees are the governors of the school, it is the public that we are actually responsible to.

The Government are currently attempting to raise the status of teachers by reviewing the role and purpose of the NZ Teacher’s Council. This review is very important as the proposals are far-reaching and will be a large shift rather than a minor evolution. There is promising language about strengthening the education profession, developing leadership, ownership by the teachers and establishing a research focus. BUT there are also some details that I found disturbing when reading the more detailed cabinet paper. These include all appointments to the Council being made by the Minister (yes, we will lose our right to vote for representatives) and all PLD funding being given to these appointed persons.

These (proposed) changes come on the back of charter school legislation which allows unqualified teachers to take to the classroom. The message here is quite clear: teaching as a profession can be done by anybody. Hardly an uplifting tale of rising status.

So, I propose that we have 2 actions that must be undertaken to raise the status of teachers.

1) Undertake rigorous inquiry into our work &

2) Make more links with our communities.

Many teachers are undertaking inquiry into their practice and making constant improvements. But is the data being kept to prove the effectiveness of these changes? Is everybody doing this? I feel that we need to use data that we are collecting on student progress and share it. With each other and with the public. Show people what changes we are making to our practice and how it is improving the educational outcomes for our students. There are some fantastic blogs that share these outcomes but perhaps it is time to start publishing our findings in a more publically acceptable way. Mark Osborne and I have been talking for about 8 months of a creative commons journal to share teaching inquiries for the benefit of all. If you want to join in making this a possibility please check out Ako.

We also need to create stronger links with our communities. This works 2 ways. Get the students out working and learning in the community and invite the community into your school. Both of these methods allow the public to see the efforts that we go to for our students as well as providing relevant, real world learning for our students; a win-win. Rather than creating quasi-problems, base the challenge/problem-based learning/inquiries on issues or places in the local community. Get students working on issues that will have a mutual benefit for their learning as well as for the community. Watch the respect grow between the school and the surrounding community. Once the respect and trust has grown they may start to believe what we are currently just seen as whinging about every 2-3 years during industrial disputes.

These 2 aspects would, I believe, go a long way to raising the status of teachers.

p.s. you have until July 14th to make a submission on the Teachers Council proposals


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