Monday, November 22, 2010

how to make schools better.

Pay teachers significantly more and expect significantly more from them (us).

Q - How much more should they (we) be paid?
A- 150% of current pay.

Q - What more should be expected?
A - Heaps more professional development - to be undertaken outside of school time.

Q - What would the PD be?
A - Hm. Example. Primary Classroom. Teachers choose a stream that interests them - Maths, English, Science, History, Literacy, Disability, Learning difficulties, Music, Art... whatever, and become experts in their field. They need to re-enrol in an arts/science degree and each year take general subjects (not education subjects) to increase their own knowledge/understanding base. Eg. A teacher might enrol in a Calculus or biology or art history subject. A music teacher might study Baroque music or learn clarinet. A teacher interested in English might study contemporary Australian poets or do a creative writing class. A learning disability person would do some cognitive development psych.  They have to do this study like any other student, with assessment etc.

They'd do one general subject per year and another education specific subject, where they are encouraged [forced] to creatively engage researching best practice for teaching that subject.

They'd need to go to conferences and present papers and listen to others.

What do you think? Would it make a difference?


  1. Quiet day today, Simone? (insert the winking emoticon here...)
    I agree with you on this. My profession (OT) has just introduced Australia-wide registration and my understanding is that part of this process will require us to provide evidence that we have attended continuing professional development activities. This is long overdue in my opinion. Until now, it's been optional for us to participate in PD events as part of an "optional accreditation scheme" which means that in an environment where practice is continually changing, there are still a few dinosaurs running around.
    That said though, there are also people who can go to every PD event on offer and still never make changes to what they do. Getting out of the comfort zone can be very difficult for some of us...and the pull of the past, together with others' expectations of what we do or don't do, can be hard to escape from.

  2. When I was first registered as a teacher in Victoria with the Registered Schools Board, I received a nice little registration card that said, "Registration is for life." A few years later there was a change of government. Now we have to pay to renew our registration annually and every five years or so submit all our hours of PD and give an account of ourselves. Pay has not significantly increased. I'm not sure teaching quality has significantly increased. Paperwork has. Be careful what you wish for.

  3. I think the significant increase in pay is a big part of it. Wouldn't work without it.

  4. I think you would lose a large chunk of the teaching workforce. A lot of Mums teach because of the hours that means they can work without having to pay for any childcare (once their kids are all school age). If all the extra study/PD was require, this would mean that it wouldn't be so manageable to work FT and look after their family (I guess you might find a lot more then looking for part time/job sharing teaching positions).

    I also agree with both Karen and Deb, that requiring teachers to do more PD and teachers actually competing the PD will translate into better quality teaching. I have met a number of teachers who would go through the motions and do the PD to fulfill the requirements, but would not bother changing their teaching practices as a result of what they learn.

  5. In other professions, the PD is generally done in work hours - unless one is a contractor. But contractors usually have a better ability to leave the rest of work at work.

    Right now Ian's already using his 'outside school' time on school work (marking and at other times in tutoring / extra-curricular activities). If you want PD outside of school time then you lose something else - volunteered time assisting struggling students. Better that than the teacher's family.

  6. YES, YES, YES.

    AND get more good quality blokes in there. Just about every public school I have encountered in the past few years has hardly a male to be seen, unless he is the groundsman. Sad. I want there to be role models for boys.

    There should also be a means by which people who choose to go back and retrain for teaching are rewarded for their years in another job, rather than having to revert back to the ridiculous first-year-out level of pay (maybe this is already happening).

    AND teachers need to dress professionally. A small thing maybe, but significant. I am sometimes amazed at what some of the teachers wear at my son's school, especially in a hugely multi-cultural area where modesty is highly valued in most families. It's just a respect and professionalism thing.

  7. I'm all for valuing teachers.

    But I think you've got too much grunt in your ideas - that much PD means it would become an end in itself, whereas you want it to lead to better teaching. I suspect the opposite: less time spent on the outside-classroom prep and follow up, because too much was being spent on mickey-mouse assignments.

    Plus, those degrees need to be completed fairly quickly so the unis can get their funding.

    What you want is a steady trickle - it'd need to be something new, I think, rather than making use of an existing educational structure. More like those dreadful community college courses, but with more rigour.

  8. I don't know Anthony... I think teachers will teach best when they're enthusiastic about their subject. Passionate about science etc. A teacher who is uninterested in stuff is uninteresting and ineffective. Maybe you can't legislate to achieve this, though.

  9. When I went back to school as a teacher a few years ago I was really shocked at how low the literacy and maths level were. At the school where I currently work a significant number of year six students are unable to complete reading comprehension tasks which I would have been given when I was in year four! The skills of the top students are not great either. Yet when I went to primary school ( in the 1980s), the teachers all left at 3.00 (except for the long-suffering one on bus duty who ran off as soon as the door of the bus was shut), relief teachers only arrived if the teacher was ill, they certainly were not there when a teacher was having 'release time.' PDs didn't seem to be a regular thing either. Yet, despite the fact that we were in a country school, by the end of year seven most of us could read and write to a reasonable standard and perform all of the basic maths required to enter high school.

    I'm not sure that PDs and a pay increase will fix the problems that are obviously there in the primary schools.(I'm not saying 'no' to any pay increases though!)

  10. Q - How are they going to have a life?

    A - Increase the hours in the day at the same rate as their income.

    And maybe halve their holidays too.

  11. Alistair - so, what, only give them two weeks holiday?

  12. Qld teachers (and students) already work a week longer than the rest of the country. That week could be used for pd.

    I think it would be interesting to compare a sample of current teachers with a sample of teachers from 30 years ago. Are we (the teaching staff) as intelligent as we used to be? I think this matters. In Sweeden, to qualify to study education and become a teacher you need to be in the top third of uni grads. Not so here.

    Narelle - the lit standards one is interesting. Kids today have a media literacy that we woudn't have dreamed possible 30 years ago. My kids are competent at desktop publishing, typing, blogging (!).. They can use the internet with ease, access information etc. They know so much more about the world than I did when I was their age. I don't think it's possible to do all this new stuff while still doing all of the traditional stuff just as well.

    I compare my 10yo to what I was like at 10. I could maybe read better and probably spell better, but I didn't know and understand what he knows and understands. Reading is just a tool. There are other tools too. Like tv. My kids have mastered this one.

  13. I'm not speaking against enthusiasm, Simone! Far from it...but yes, I was suggesting that the formal structures of degrees/diplomas doesn't necessarily generate such enthusiasm.

    For instance - I'm highly enthusiastic about this God character, and that Bible thing, as well as the 9-to-5 I'm in ;-) But when it comes to doing the work involved in getting credit for any MA subject I do, it's a tough grind. Yes, it gets me a little more learning, but I'm not sure it's the best way.

    How about subject-specific discussion groups? Somebody (who's paid to do it, all over town, to lots of groups) presents some kind of paper, and then the group get to bounce off it and each other. Much lower time impact, but still good for enthusiasm and PD.

  14. And as well as a time commitment thing, PD is expensive. Uni subjects are not free (unless you made this part of the deal).

    I'm all for improving standards. But I don't think complusory PD is the best way to achieve that. Perhaps an entrance test for those wanting to undertaking teaching degrees would be a good idea. But there also needs to be significate improvement in teacher training. Most of what I was taught at Uni was rubbish. I learnt far more in my 6 month teaching placement than I did in any of my Uni subjects, with the exception of our brilliant and enthusiastic Maths lecturer.

    But more money would certainly make it a more desirable career choice.

    You know, private schools do tend to achieve some of these results - parents simply demand it in return for the money they spend. And if the school doesn't produce a certain standard of teaching, they'll lose students so they HAVE to mantain their standards to survive. There are numerous other problems in that system too of course.

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