Recently Julia Gillard, Australia’s Prime Minister, launched a competition to find the country’s best teacher.  She asked people to share memories of their favourite teacher on her Facebook page, unfortunately preventing any student under the age 13 from sharing their favourite teacher.

As much as I love the idea of us talking about educators in a positive way, it seems to be quite contrived and once again it implies that educators in Australia need a competition to bring them to a reputable level.  In fact I can’t think of any other profession where the Prime Minister needed to step in and save their image with a competition.

An indication of this is the fact that the article discussing the launch of the competition also linked to an education survey on teacher quality.  A survey deliberately set to show how inept teachers are with questions such as; ‘Have you ever noticed incorrect spelling and grammar from your child’s teacher?’ or ‘ Have you noticed child’s teacher using apostrophes or American spelling?’

I quite often talk about my teachers in conversations.  Whether with friends in a bar, around the table at a family event or with students I teach.  I don’t have an ulterior motive.  I talk about them because they impacted on me in one way or another and I want to share those great experiences.

Over the years I’ve had many teachers who’ve influenced me but if I was asked to choose one I think I would have to go with Ms Mackay.  She was my grade 5 teacher and I always admired her for her beautiful skirts with matching shoes but there was more to Ms Mackay than that! She allowed me to learn. She set up the opportunities for me to be curious.  She cared about learning!

I still remember the afternoon when we started science.  Never before had I done science, well not that I could remember. We turned sugar into carbon.  Well Ms Mackay did.  There was a classroom of wide-eyed 10 year olds with curiosity bursting from their smiles. If this was my only memory of learning I would be happy and I hope the students I have taught over the years have memories about learning they keep with them.

That’s me next to Ms Clarke in the bottom left!

On the flip side to this I also love how teachers remember their students.  Earlier this year I received an email from my Prep (first year of school) teacher.  After 30 years Ms Clarke came across my name when she was doing some PD in her school on the Ultranet and sent me an email.  It really showed how my life had come full circle from being inspired by teachers like Ms Clarke to be a teacher and now she was congratulating me on the work I had done in education!

I agree we should appreciate the care, time and the little part of themselves that teachers give to the students they teach. But not in a competition. And not by continually trying to ‘fix’ education.



2 thoughts on “Memories”

  1. Hi Mel,

    I saw red when I read about the PM’s competition to find the best teacher in Australia!! Stop putting us up against each other!

    I loved reading about your Ms Mackay and it got me thinking about some of my favourite teachers who have made an impact on me…

    In Grade 3, Mrs Quilty took me under her wing when I arrived in the “big smoke” from a tiny country school to a school of nearly 1000 students! She nurtured my love of reading and encouraged the writer in me. Mrs Quilty (I still won’t call her by her Christian name) is in her eighties now and we are still in touch.

    In Grade 6, Mrs Griffin read us “I Am David” and each afternoon I would leave my classroom and become part of David’s journey to freedom after escaping from a prison camp. To this day I am an avid reader of books that allow me to walk around in other people’s shoes and have many on our library shelves to allow our students to do the same.

    In Year 11 and 12 the often feisty but incredibly passionate Ms Fraser brought our English Literature classes to life! I would hang on her every word and the feedback in her comments on my essays brought out the best in me. In Year 12 she would invite the Lit class to her house to study for the day in school holidays and even feed us!

    In Year 11 and 12 it was the soothing Scottish brogue of Mr Downey that drew me to Politics! It was also Mr Downey who taught me to form my own opinions and how to look at both sides of an issue. When he left the school part way through Year 12, he came back after school hours to teach us.

    Each of these teachers loved what they did and left their mark on me. I would not belittle their worth by putting them in a patronising “best teacher” competition. Instead I can only hope that I am a testament to them….and that I too as an educator will touch the lives of the students I teach in such a positive way.

    I will get down off my high horse now!


    1. Hi Kim,

      Thanks for your comment. I am glad that this also resonated with someone else. I too was very annoyed when I first read about the competition.

      I love hearing stories of wonderful teachers. Our schools are full of great quality teachers who work so hard to give students so many opportunities. We should definitely be talking about these people more.

      I love that you are still connected to your teachers. It just goes to show how much impact they have had!


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