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 news.com.au 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.