“I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do
So I’ll leave it up to you…”
Ten Years After

Schools are easy targets when things go wrong. It is not just when our students seem to be getting dumber while the rest of the world is getting smarter:
“Australian students have plummeted in the latest international maths and science rankings, with countries such as Kazakhstan, Cyprus and Slovenia leapfrogging us over the past four years. The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science study, released on Tuesday, shows Australia dropping from 18th to 28th out of 49 countries in year 4 mathematics.”

It seems that every time we find something wrong in society, it becomes the school’s job to fix it.

Car crash and young people killed → Schools need to do more driver education!
“If Governments were really interested in reducing the road toll they need to introduce proper driver education, not just fine the daylights out of everyone. This education needs to start right at the beginning of a driver’s life and parents should NOT be given the responsibility of taking their kids out for driving lessons.” SMH, Nov.2014

police attending the scene of a car crashmental health first aid 3d crosswordcar production line with unfinished cars in a row

Depression increasing in young people → Schools need to do more about adolescent mental health!
“We believe that mental health education must begin at school and should be hopeful, helpful and easy to implement. Most schools are not designed to diagnose and manage mental illness. But the reality is, teen depression is pervasive in schools, accounting for attendance issues, underachievement and behavioral concerns – just to name a few.

Manufacturing jobs decreasing in Australian → Schools need to do more to prepare young people for future employment!
“Young people don’t have the skills for future jobs. Fifteen-year-olds can expect to have more than 17 jobs in five different industries over their working lives. So, why aren’t they ready?” Jan Owen, SMH, May 2016.

Somewhere in between things like this teachers try to teach ever changing syllabi (“For decades, educational reform in Australia has been a quagmire of political and educational agendas.” 1), train enthusiastic young sports people, lead choirs and bands, organise excursions etc. etc. etc.

I cannot and will not speak for the teaching profession, or other schools, but I think I need to say that I am constantly reminded of the care, concern, and professional diligence the staff at St Columba show to the students in their care. I know there are over 100 different pieces of legislation/regulation that govern and control the way schools act. I also know that of all the responsibilities placed on us by this legislative burden, the greatest is our duty of care.

A duty of care is a legal obligation, which is imposed on an individual requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.

That is why we need your permission before taking your child to an excursion, why we need up-to-date medical and domestic information, why your child cannot climb up on the roof to get their handball, why we demand permission before allowing your child to travel in someone else’s car, why we have to restrict the kind of “fun” that can result in injury or impairment etc.

Not just because the law says our teachers must care, but because they really do care.

And because they care, their reality flies in the face of “facts” about their long holidays and short working days. It is why they mark rolls and get on buses in the morning dark and return to their families just before midnight (if they are lucky and the bus doesn’t break down or the highway gets closed).

It is why they will try to learn more about teaching and learning, gain further qualifications (even when they get no increase in salary), try even harder to make their lessons more engaging, informative and imaginative and why they will spend so much time helping individual students when they are finding the going tough.

A group of HSC students outside the school Students on stage receiving awards

Check the web. It must be the teacher’s fault: Why Teachers Are What’s Wrong With Education:

  1. Teachers keep petty grudges against students.
  2. You know the type: They’re in their cars, with the engines running 5 minutes before the final bell.
  3. The same teachers who put very little effort into preparing lessons (usually recycling something or other from their files) are the ones who believe kids should be given masses of daily homework.
  4. The same teachers who do not read their curriculum document thoroughly, are the ones who bemoan how ‘stifling’ it is.
  5. Many teachers preference the syllabus over their students.
  6. There are large numbers of teachers who are reluctant to update their own skills.
  7. They refuse to build links between subjects and cannot fathom why a teacher would need to connect with other teachers.
  8. Some teachers refuse to believe that technology has any place in the classroom.

Our teachers know that they change the world by helping to create great new citizens of the world – citizens who are well-educated, caring and imaginative.

And while they cannot travel in their students’ cars to ensure they are safe, make sure that they don’t do anything stupid at parties or take stupid risks because they are feeling “invincible” (for some reason or another), the teachers at SCAS do what they can to prepare their students for these challenges, as well as the challenges of university and work.

We cannot save every child from every misfortune or accident. We cannot predict the future. What we can do is create a future through hard work, care and by being as present in our students lives as we can be. Schools like ours cannot be responsible for righting all society’s wrongs, and we cannot and should not work alone to lift up the next generation.

So, back to you all-knowing shock-jocks: “Now if the teacher doesn’t have the passion for reading or for knowledge or for learning the child is not going to either…” Allan Jones

I don’t think you, sir, know the teachers I know.

Quote from Alexander the Great about teaching

Footnotes
1. The New Australian Curriculum, Teachers and Change Fatigue, Jessica Lyle, Christine Cunningham, Jan Gray, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia