xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: What are teachers really worth?

Thursday, 27 July 2017

What are teachers really worth?

Teachers. What are they really worth?

Gail Kelly, former CEO of Westpac Bank, featured in a very interesting interview with Leigh Sales on the ABC’s  7-30 Report on Wednesday, July 26.

Ms Kelly explained that she started her professional life as a teacher, which she loved. However, after some years, the pressures of the job got to her. When she found herself growling at the children and dreading going to school, she quit. A very wise decision and a fortuitous one, as it turned out. She started working as a bank teller. Eventually becoming the very successful and well-respected CEO of Westpac. A wonderful success story.

In essence, Gail Kelly was telling us that she found that being the CEO of a very large corporation was a lot easier than being a teacher. As a CEO, she received a multi-million-dollar salary. I guess that shows what the real worth of a teacher is.

Of course, teachers are not paid six million dollars a year and no teacher would expect such remuneration. When I started teaching in the late 1950s, a teacher at the top of the salary scale was on a par with a local member of parliament. These days the local member is about $100 000 dollars ahead. No, teachers do not expect six million dollars, though a little respect and recognition for a very hard job done well, would be nice.

On the other hand, there are many people who believe teachers are underworked and overpaid. They claim teachers work only five and half hours a day and have 12 weeks annual leave. They also say that teachers lack life skills because they have never left school and “worked in a real job”.

These critics seem to share the infantile view held by most Year One children that teachers have no life outside the classroom. Young children generally believe their teachers exist only at school, presumably eating their tea at the table and sleeping curled up in a classroom cupboard at night.

Teachers of course live in the same "real" world as everybody else. They raise their own families, buy and sell houses, suffer the loss of loved ones, invest in the stock market, travel overseas, involve themselves in community affairs and live the same sort of lives, under the same sort of pressures, as "normal" people.

The fact that teachers work in schools, which are extremely socially dynamic organisations, does not mean that they remain juvenile all their lives, any more so than working in hospitals makes doctors and nurses chronically ill or turns veterinarians and zookeepers into animals.

Do teachers, working with real people, experience less of the real world than roof tilers, butchers, bootmakers or people who spend all day staring at computer monitors moving other people’s money from one person's pocket to another?

Strangely, these critics claim that teachers know nothing of other professions, yet they somehow seem to know everything about the teaching profession.

I was involved in teaching for well over forty years, but I also worked at various times as a telegram boy, a fibrous plasterer, a ceiling fixer, a cost clerk for a British oil company, a liaison officer between the Education Department and five autonomous teachers’ colleges, an education consultant, a shed hand at a poultry auction, General Manager of a very successful country football team, Editor of a country newspaper and a bar tender in a yacht club on Toronto Island in Lake Ontario. This latter job was by far the most lucrative job I ever had.

Many of my colleagues in education could relate similar work experiences.

Before I started teaching, I did my National Service in the Royal Australian Artillery. On discharge, I was a fit as I have ever been in my life. Four days later I started teaching 54 Grade Four children at Bunbury Central School. After three days in charge of the class I was physically and mentally exhausted. My landlady had to come and wake me up to come to the dining table.

In my various non-teaching jobs, I never experienced the mentally and emotionally draining effect that teaching has on one. Research shows that decision making causes stress, especially when your decisions affect other people. Research also shows that teachers need to make decisions about once every five seconds.

After experiencing a wide variety of occupations, I can assure those outspoken critics that teaching is physically, emotionally and spiritually draining. It can also be emotionally and spiritually rewarding.

The challenge for the future is to attract good teachers into teaching.

This will not happen while teaching largely remains an undervalued and thankless task.

It will not happen while people think teachers are not part of “the real world”.

It will not happen until the people and the politicians who think teachers are underworked and overpaid get real about education.

Teacher have a most important and vital role in our society.. They are producing the next generation of Australians.

Lee Iacocco, the famed industrial engineer and management guru who revitalised the flagging US motor Industry in the 1960s, once said In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else.

Actually, now that I think about it, six million dollars does sound about right.

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