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Why good teachers leave teaching

As another school year comes to a close, there are some early career teachers quietly packing up their desks and walking out the school doors with no plan to return next year. Some estimate the attrition…

Many young teachers, even the good ones, are leaving the profession. Struggle image from www.shutterstock.com

As another school year comes to a close, there are some early career teachers quietly packing up their desks and walking out the school doors with no plan to return next year.

Some estimate the attrition rates in teaching to be as high as 30% in the first three years. The truth is, we don’t know the exact numbers. With so many teachers employed casually upon graduation, there is no data on how many of them just give up on the profession. They simply disappear - and there is no exit interview to find out what has prompted them to leave.

Good teachers leave

We might suppose that the teachers who decide to leave are the ones who just couldn’t cut it in the classroom, and that this is natural, and possibly desirable, attrition. However, research suggests that this is not necessarily the case.

Too often those who leave are those who have high expectations of themselves and of their learners. They came into teaching with a strong desire to make a difference in students’ lives. They are usually high achievers who have done well academically. They are just the kind of teacher we all want for our children.

So, why do they leave? Particularly when they have committed so much time and money to become teachers.

Don’t let me forget

In a recent study, I followed 14 teachers closely through their first 16 months of teaching.

About three months into the study, one of the teachers made a plea:

Don’t let me forget the teacher I wanted to be.

She was, and is, an amazing young teacher. Like most new graduates, she had entered her first “very own” classroom filled with enthusiasm, energy and motivation. She had terrific ideas, and strong ideals.

The first term at school knocked the wind out of her sails.

Some of it was simply the shock of the new, the overwhelming sense of responsibility and the sheer exhaustion. But so much of it was the realisation that nobody really cared about the teacher she wanted to be, her ideas, and her innovations.

She could feel her vision slipping away. She said:

I want to be the teacher that I know I can be. I don’t want to just go with the system and then…be scared I’ll never do anything else.

Her story is shared by many new graduates. Too often new teachers are treated as “empty vessels” who are simply required to slot into existing programmes and methods. This would be fine, if all we want is to keep doing what we have always done in education.

However, all the indicators tell us that what we’ve always done isn’t good enough anymore.

This is no time to be treading water. Education needs to be transformed.

Preparation and support

Teacher education programs can do better. There is no debate - the best teacher preparation makes clear connections between the theory and the practice of teaching. Almost every teacher education faculty in the country either already has, or is now in the process of implementing, innovative school university partnerships where theory can be played out, and played with, in the real world of the classroom.

But better teacher preparation won’t be the answer to high attrition rates.

Employers will have to play their part too. Their task is not simply to induct new teachers into the “system” - they must mentor these bright and enthusiastic teachers to be the teachers they have always wanted to be.

Providing this kind of support can be a challenge for school leaders who are so busy implementing the latest barrage of mandates. They often forget the educator they themselves wanted to be, let alone find the time to ask the question of their early career teachers.

Yet, schools should make the most of the passion, vision and skills of these new professionals. They have, after all, just finished a degree where they have had the time and guidance to explore the ideas of great educators, thinkers and innovators. It has been a time of intense professional engagement and learning that is very hard to recreate once full-time classroom teaching begins.

Asking the right questions

Everybody understands that quality education depends upon quality teachers. Quality teaching is, justifiably, one of the four pillars of Education Minister Chris Pyne’s vision for education.

But quality teachers are leaving, and we need to be clear about why. If we misunderstand the reasons, then we offer misguided solutions. It’s not about the money, although undoubtedly teachers deserve every penny they get, and every pay rise they can achieve in the future.

New teachers are very often disillusioned with what they find when they get into schools, and disappointed with the support they receive. Too often, good teachers leave because they care too much to stay.

So parents, don’t be nervous next year when you hear your child has a newly qualified teacher. Their enthusiasm and fresh ideas will create an exciting learning environment for your children. And at that very first parent teacher night, forget the questions about homework books and spelling lists. Ask them to tell you about the kind of teacher they want to be.

Join the conversation

102 Comments sorted by

  1. Giles Pickford
    Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired, Wollongong

    There is no profession more important than teaching. It is the teachers who create the Australian civilisation. If they fail we all fail.

    Medicine deals with the sick and dying. Law deals with crime. Yet these two professions are given the top status that teaching deserves.

    When will we ever learn?

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    1. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Dear Giles,

      Teaching is no doubt an important profession but surely the creators of "Australian civilisation" comprise far more than teachers.

      And indeed, any profession can only truly be called a profession if it polices its own professional standards.

      As a member of two school boards I respect the efforts the profession is taking to improve itself in this regard - unfortunately often in the face of determined opposition from the AEU who apparently see any measurement of an individual…

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    2. Greg Edeson

      PhD candidate at School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      I did a DipEd in Geography at UNSW but at the end of it went far away from teaching.
      I wanted to teach as it seemed much more rewarding and effective than my previous work in policy.
      The things that put me off were:
      1. The years of uncertain and casual employment, and all the stress and insecurity that goes with that. There were still claims of a teacher shortage when I started, even though there was a surplus of teachers.
      2. The lack of engagement from most of the uni teachers. If the staff…

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    3. Timothy Gleeson

      Teaching Candidate

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil, it is too easy to blame unions for the maladies that afflict education, especially as you served 31 years in of the biggest unions in the world. You know that no single element represents the entire body, and your statements about the AEU (or the IEUA etc., had you mentioned them) underpin a subtext that displays your narrow agenda's focus.

      Just as there are good and bad union members, good or bad officers, good or bad Ministers for Education or defence, the issues surrounding education…

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    4. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      "This stance by the AEU is a major cause of middle-class flight to private schooling."

      Evidence, please?

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    5. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Timothy Gleeson

      Dear Tim,

      Hopefully your teaching studies will include how to read what someone actually said rather than what you think they said.

      First, there is a difference between a school board and a P&C Assocciation. The boards I serve on (unpaid) are concerned with strategic-level issues across a range of educational philosopies and their execution in practical terms, school operations, and school financial viability models, not the minutia you mistakenly ascribe to them. If you are going to try and debate educational issues then please do not resort to inventing straw-man points.

      Second, you have ignored that my point about the AEU was limited to its opposition to policing professional standards among teachers. A stance, incidentally, that the independent schools teacher unions do not share.

      Third, "a major cause" means just that. Look up what "sole" means.

      In terms of muddy waters it is you that are throwing in the soil and bile.

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    6. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to John Perry

      Dear John,

      Your question begs the obvious one, are you still teaching?

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    7. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      Yes, and in a state school, and I was state school educated for all my school life.

      Enough about me - are you able to answer the question that I asked?

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    8. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to John Perry

      Well John, depending on how long you have been teaching, and where (socio-economically), I remain surprised that you seem unaware of middle-class flight out of state schools and the reasons behind it.

      Some of these reasons are inter-related. The AEU's opposition to assessing individual standards as part of professional development has complex results. As does its paternalistic and condescending stance against parents being allowed to compare the success of schools in teaching overall After all…

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    9. Giles Pickford
      Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired, Wollongong

      In reply to Timothy Gleeson

      I support Tim Gleeson. One of the things I notice about Blogs in general is the combative nature of the responses. They get especially vicious around the left/right divide.

      Personally I am in favour of the left and the right. A bird needs two wings to fly. Responders should state a view, but try to subdue their fury. Sarcasm and bitterness don't add anything to the blog and they take up a lot of space saying nothing.

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    10. Jessica Smith

      Teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      Hi Neil,

      On your point about the AEU

      "who apparently see any measurement of an individual teacher's professional competence as somehow unreasonable and unwarranted".

      Can you clarify that you are referring to their opposition to the use of national testing/league tables to determine teacher salaries as the basis for this claim?

      If so, then it should be noted that the IEU has a similar view:

      "The IEUA rejects the notion of ‘rewarding’ teachers on the basis of student outcomes. The IEUA notes that such an approach has been tried and has failed in other countries. Further, such an approach undermines the collegial and supportive team environment critical for quality teaching and learning.
      The IEUA also rejects the quite naïve notion of ‘rewarding’ teachers based on popularity or ranking measures as divisive, lacking in any objectivity and subject to patronage" (http://www.ieu.org.au/index.php/education/accomplished-teaching).

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    11. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil, Firstly, the history of why the AEU is a union and not a professional asscociation is about State Government control of state education. Even now, the supposed professional standards bodies are government controlled. When your employer controls everything about your profession, you might as well be in the military and maybe that is where you are coming from: but teachers are civilians. Secondly, unless a teacher takes the same class year on year assessing teachers individually is fraught. In state systems, children come into classes from other schools, from other states and from other countries. Adopting a more collegiate, developmental approach to teaching quality has been shown to be the most effective way to increase performance across a school, there have even been television documentaries on it. The individual performance management approach is questionable in any team environment and, increasingly, any corporate environment.

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    12. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      Who on earth is Neil JAMES to be pontificating here? In all my years of teaching this is a name I never came across in my professional reading or as a significant name speaking at a professional development day. I am from a family backgrounded in teaching - in England and in Scotland and in 20th century Australia. I began my teaching at the start of the 1970s in NSW - rural and urban parts - and spread my wings to share my developing professional skills in Germany and Spain - and for a lengthy period…

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    13. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Jessica Smith

      Dear Jessica,

      My observation concerned in-classroom assessment by an independent professional competence assessor from outside that school. In years gone by they were called school inspectors until the teaching unions campaigned for their abolition. The unions do not provide this either as a truly profession-based institution would.

      I was not talking about mentoring by colleagues or other forms of assessment within a particular school.

      Nor was I talking about school-on-school comparisons. Although the AEU's opposition to this on the grounds parents are somehow unable to factor in external-to-the-school inputs is invalid as well as condescending.

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    14. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      You haven't provided evidence. Do I need to ask a third time or should I assume that you don't have any?

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    15. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      Well Dennis, we will just have to disagree on some aspects.

      First, it is surely not so much "state government control of education" as control of state governments by the AEU and its predecessors. It is the progressive staff-capture of the fedral and particularly state education bureaucracies that surely lies at the root of the problem.

      Second, as respected party elders across all factions of the ALP will admit privately, the proportion of secondary school teachers in Labor parliamentary caucuses…

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    16. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      Well Jim, perhaps your opening line exemplifies part of the problem.

      Are you saying that as a parent of three and a member of several school boards over the years I am not entitled to offer a view on the decline in professional standards among many teachers and the consequent problems in our schools?

      Are you saying that my experience at teaching at tertiary level is somehow irrelevant?

      Are you ignoring that an ADF career necessarily involves considerable instructional experience from small-group…

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    17. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to John Perry

      Dear John, please do not undermine your credibility by syllogistic argument.

      Read my comments again.

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    18. Pat Bruce

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil,
      The AEU is not even an *affiliate* Union of the ALP; get your facts straight. (One obvious reason for this being that -- as a state public service, whose employer is the govt.-- it is wise for the teaching fraternity to avoid the inevitable conflicts of interest or be awkwardly compromised when ALP state govt's rise to power). I fail to see how the AEU has this behind-the-scenes power you suggest the Union wields over the policies of the ALP state parliamentary party -- the idea is quite ludicrous…

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    19. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil, from fortunate hard experience I was privileged to experience the fine skills of the Australian Army Methods of Instruction Team (MIT) when a young developing teacher. Indeed, after a too long career in education I happily attribute my skills development to that pragmatic early experience.

      Compared to a Dip Ed completed concurrently with postgraduate research enrolment (much to the disgust of the Ed Admin professor) the MIT experience gave us all practical skills that the academics overlooked or considered irrelevant.

      To misquote Oscar Wilde, "Those who can do, those who can't need an intensive course with the Australian Army Methods of Instruction Team".

      Murphy's Addendum; "those who can do, those who can't teach ... and those who can't teach are promoted out of the classroom to train young teachers at universities" was a real experience in my generation.

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    20. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Neil James

      1. "I remain surprised that you seem unaware of middle-class flight out of state schools and the reasons behind it."

      Demurrer Neil ... in my experience the problems in education result mainly form the middle class charity and consequent vote buying by the Coalition governments, especially the Howard governments.

      2. "This AEU stance allows poor teachers to continue teaching, lowers morale among teaching staff (especially younger ones not yet resigned to it), detrimentally affects student learning…

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    21. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Pat Bruce

      Pat (and others), it would help informed debate if people posting comments actually commented on what others said rather than what they thought was being said.

      I did not say or even imply the AEU was affiliated to the ALP. So you are the one who needs to "get your facts straight". What I did note was longtime and widespread ALP concern about the disproportionate numbers of active ALP members who are teachers and the difficulties this was posing to reform of education systems.

      I have not somehow…

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    22. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to Neil James

      I wonder Neil whether you really read this article?
      This article is about why teachers leave the profession, your response appears on the surface to be an unprovoked attack on the fact the teachers have the temerity to be in an effective union.
      I am left wondering why you see a correlation between unionisation and teachers leaving the profession?

      I had a public school education. My children have attended both public schools and a private Christian college. The value of the private school experience was generally more about the snob factor for most parents, a rather unpleasant feeling that they didn't want little Johnny making friends with people below his station.

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    23. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Jack, thank you for your observations.

      I well remember giving my brother the Army methods-of-instruction (MOI) manual when he was appointed a university lecturer (without any preparation except his post-graduate qualifications in the discipline concerned).

      I have also lent copies to many teachers over the years. All have appreciated it.

      The key point here is that such military doctrine - with doctrine being a constantly reviewed corpus of professional knowledge based on experience - springs from a profession keenly concerned with maintaining and improving standards.

      I stand by my observations that teaching, as a profession, needs to separate its professional development responsibilities from (however justified or not) industrial activism.

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    24. Rebecca Graves

      Teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      I'm not sure what state you're in but here in SA our branch of the AEU hasn't opposed the policing the professional standards. Have a look at the Step 9 and AST 2, both of which our union and teachers support.

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    25. Rosemary O'Grady

      Lawyer

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      When you are well-matched to your/one's 'profession' / vocation - you really don't give a damn what place in the pecking-order (ie status) the sociologists assign to it. But it's very hard work holding the fort against 'management'. Lots of people leave for that reason.

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    26. Pat Bruce

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Neil James

      OK Neil, I'm grappling to digest most of your clarifications here.
      Am still unclear on why it is only state *ALP* govt's that are capable of the initiative to reform education systems? (You still haven't addressed the key question, of why Liberal administrations are somehow hamstrung in this regard too? And I was assuming you meant there was an affiliation between the ALP and the AEU (teacher) members, because it's the only way your assertion could be logical; I fail to see why an ALP state govt…

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    27. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Jack, the school funding issue is certainly a complex one but too many confuse cause and effect.

      The reasons governments (largely federal) now provide funding to some independent schools is the result of other education system problems, not the cause of them. The debate is also politicised or otherwise influenced by religious, or now secular, bigotry. Not to mention an over-emphasis on economic and organisational self-interest if a union-based approach dominates and staff capture of a system bureaucracy…

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    28. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Australian civilisation?

      Now there is an oxymoron if ever there was one.

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    29. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Pat Bruce

      Pat, again you choose to twist the meaning of what I actually said rather than engage in informed debate. Your claims of an "overly partisan rant" - when no partisan analysis was clearly involved - more likely indicates your own marked partisan views.

      I did not say that only ALP state governments are affected. Clearly the staff-capture effect in state education bureaucracies occurs under governments of both political persuasions. Your (il)logic jump about AEU affiliation with the ALP has already…

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    30. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Neil James

      "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a soldier".

      That is a truly repugnant statement.

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    31. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Troy Howard

      Troy, I draw your attention to my first comment - which was a reply to another comment and not the article.

      Somewhat wearily, I also draw your attention to the fact that my observations were not unprovoked, were not about unioinism per se, and concentrated on the teaching professions growing loss of its ability to police professional standards through a unionism-based approach.

      Your comments about snob values are surely irrelevant. Certainly to me because I avoid snobs of all kinds. Even teachers who wrongly and snobbishly believe that only teachers are entitled to comment on education issues.

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    32. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Greg Young

      Greg, sadly you too have missed the point of the bumper sticker quote.

      It merely pithily reminds Australians that in acknowledging our freedom now to learn in English, or indeed any other language at an Australian school, we all need to thank our soldiers as well as our teachers.

      Freedom may now be regarded as a "free gift" by some. But it was in fact dearly bought by previous generations of Australians when our national freedom of action, and even at times our sovereignty, were threatened militarily and otherwise by various fascist, militarist and communist ideologies

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    33. Pat Bruce

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil, I used the term 'partisan' because you began an attack on the apparent failings of the Union (to curb falling teacher performance? Is that it? I don't know -- see you have never elaborated or explained how exactly "the teaching professions growing loss of its ability to police professional standards through a unionism-based approach" --as you assert elsewhere in Comments-- comes about or what evidence there is for this [???]. How about replying to Rebecca above on this point?).

      For a self-described…

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    34. Pat Bruce

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Neil James

      You are yet to explain, Neil, what exactly provoked your observations? (ie, you say your comments "were not unprovoked")... I'm not the only one wondering, it seems.
      But I can only guess it was that the very first innocent interested observer gave accolades to the civil importance of the teaching profession (without mentioning 'professional standards' -- not that that relates to the article's focus upon *attrition*, directly), but failed to mention the Australian Defence Force as worthy of equal social esteem? Seems so. Rather reactionary and personal slant in engaging objectively (as an "interested observer") in a debate, I would dare suggest.

      I rest my case.

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    35. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Pat Bruce

      Pat, please try reading my comments before attempting to summarise them.

      You continue to miss the points I have actually made. Your persistence in misconstruing of them is admirable in a way for its consistency but not otherwise.

      At least we agree there is cricket to watch. Although you will probably now challenge me on this too by saying I either did not say it or somehow barracked for the Poms.

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    36. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil, I suggest that you read the DOGS case from the High Court of Australia and the endless Liberal Coalition propaganda justifying government funding as a 'cost saving'.

      Coles DOES NOT subsidise Woolies and state education SHOULD NOT subsidise private schools according the free market theory.

      Oh silly me .... confusing privatisation of corporate profits with public funding of corporate losses that characterises a free market economy.

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    37. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil I appreciate your efforts in replying to my comments.
      I think this a case where we might have to agree to disagree.

      Your comments were indeed in response to previous comments by another person. Your comments seemed to me, to be an attack on the profession of teaching laying it at your perceived notion that as the union opposes grading of an individual teacher's professional competence it is no longer a profession.
      I will not argue that maybe standards have dropped but don't personally…

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    38. Chris Curtis

      retired teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil,

      I have longed admired your work with the Australian Defence Association, an area in which you are an expert. My area of expertise is education, and I think that much of what you say on it is just wrong in so many ways that I do not have time to deal with point by point because am a very slow typist and have other duties today. I rang you some years ago on a defence matter, on which you were very helpful, so you may have my phone number. If you do, feel free to ring me and I will go through some points. Otherwise, I will return tomorrow and type.

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    39. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      A lot like 'clash of civilizations'!
      Difficult to have when the west doesn't have a 'civilisation'.

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    40. Rebecca Graves

      Teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      There are numerous international bodies that operate in Australia and assess teacher standards in both public and private schools. Any school that teaches the IB programme or is CIS accredited is assessed regularly. Both public and private schools are signed up to these.

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    41. Dan Gavel

      teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      Hmm, Mr James, I note that you have taught, but in military institutions. I would suggest that this is a rather different kettle of fish when compared to facing a mixed gender and ability secondary or primary school class. May I ask, what is your experience in teaching in public schools ?

      I ask, because, unless you have direct chalk face experiences, I cannot see how you are in a position to judge what is actually driving parents to remove their children from public schools and move to the private…

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    42. Dan Gavel

      teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil, a very large percentage of teachers in state schools are contract staff, often up to 50%, these are constantly evaluated and if found wanting, are given their marching orders. Perversely this lack of permanent work is also a major factor in young teachers giving up and moving to a sector where they are given contracts longer then 3 months. I can also assure you that there are some total idiots teaching in private schools, I could name you three straight off, all in one school . Its the perception…

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    43. Dan Gavel

      teacher

      In reply to Greg Edeson

      From experience I can attest that this is absolutely correct . I have attempted and have run innovative courses and received very little support financially or personally. The courses have only been recognised at times when the admin finds them a good PA opportunity but ask for some support and its a very different story, Staff are expected to have inexhaustible reserves of good will that will carry them through despite all the difficulties. Finally many come to the realisation that others with less ability are being rewarded for their 'networking " and 'job application skills set " .

      Many then decide to preserve their sanity and just do what is required or , sadly , jump on the promotion bandwagon where it more important to know the right buzz words and the strategies that will enable a climb up the greasy pole to a plumb job in the upper echelons where they can minimise their contact with students. A good classroom teacher is generally not rewarded .

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    44. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Greg Edeson

      ''The structure of a teacher's career - you start out with the worst and most difficult classes (where students need the most skilled teachers and teachers need the most skills) and then move up to easier classes.''

      Interesting point - Greg. This would generally be the reverse of many other professions, where the reward for experience and skill is the more difficult and skilled work, along with better remuneration as well as more recognition and respect.

      It seems sad that a profession would punish its youngest and most inexperienced with the most difficult work, with the future hope of graduating to an easier position.

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    45. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil I did not miss your trite, glib and simplistic "point". I just find it a repugnant attitude, typical of a promoter of the military such as yourself. You've insisted on your right to an opinion, and I have mine.

      You would do well to credit people here with a bit more intelligence than assuming they can't understand bumper sticker philosophy.

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    46. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Greg Young

      Well, Greg, at least you now show your intolerant and uninformed colours.

      Accusing the ADA of somehow "promoting the military" merely demonstrates your narrow thinking and lack of research about the work of independent, non-partisan, national public-interest watchdogs.

      Do you accuse the ACF of "promoting" abuse of the environment?

      I suspect its the non-partisan viewpoint that so irks you.

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    47. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Neil James

      You're entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine.

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    48. Chris Curtis

      retired teacher

      In reply to Neil James

      Neil,

      I do know that it is the Australia Defence Association, not the Australian Defence Association.

      I have been a member or associate member of the AEU and before that the VSTA for close to 40 years. I have also been a member of four school councils. I have had leadership positions in schools for 28 of my 33 years as a teacher

      The AEU in my experience was not opposed to “policing” “professional standards among teachers”, though “policing” is not the word I would have chosen. The AEU…

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    49. Rebecca Graves

      Teacher

      In reply to Dan Gavel

      I have found that good teachers tend to be 'rewarded' with the toughest classes!

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    50. Peter Farrell

      teaching-principal at at a small rural school

      In reply to Dan Gavel

      Hear, hear!

      At last, a response to the article.

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  2. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    Really interesting Misty, thank you.

    In your research, did teachers mention behaviour management as a serious problem?

    New secondary teachers I've met find a number of issues, such as administration and reporting requirements, difficult. But they're bearable. Being scared of your students is not.

    Above all else, they seem to want a teacher education course that makes them able to manage behaviour, with authority and confidence, from day one.

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  3. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    It's quite simple. Young, intelligent, hardworking (read "good") teachers quickly realise the futility of their chosen profession.

    They then have two choices: submit to a life of penury and drudgery, or get out and do something else (ANYTHING else) where their efforts will actually be valued.

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  4. Christopher Roberts

    Sceptic

    I'm sorry, but how does a study of 14 teachers warrant such strong conclusions? That it gets published as well starts to get at why I left teaching. All these assertions about quality, important practices, what I should be doing that are based on scant evidence. All this 'how one feels' stuff that doesn't say anything about what actually works or matters. I just got sick of being told what to do by people that couldn't give me ay evidence other than a case study or their experience. we need good research in this area, it's too important, but given the quality of most teacher education it seems too late.

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    1. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Christopher Roberts

      I saw links to two other pieces of research, Christopher. And the longitudinal type of study that Misty has done can provide some very good insights, particularly if it is a launching pad for a more extensive study.

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  5. Rob Marshall

    Teacher

    Before I start; I am a secondary school teacher and I have been since 2002.

    Teaching is hard work. If you are a full time teacher then you can expect to be "on-stage" for maybe 5 or 6 fifty minute sessions a day (or equivalent) with an audience totalling 25 different students each time if you are lucky. That alone takes its toll on any teacher.

    Add to that the issue of often having to manage behaviour that frankly most reasonable people would never put up with in any other workplace.

    Then…

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    1. Ron Bowden

      Entropy tragic

      In reply to Rob Marshall

      What you say resonates with me, Rob. I would have been one of those who bolted early from teacher training (had I done teacher training).
      A long time ago I became a trade teacher, only to discover that I was very bad at it.
      I eventually became a developer of competency standards, curriculum, etc. Ironic, since I was competent at telling teachers how to teach while I was so bad at it myself. (He who can't teach, teaches teachers.)
      The bureaucracy I had to deal with, while different to yours, was a bureaucracy for all that and would have caused as many frustrations and foul-ups as any other.
      I sympathise with all teachers,whose job I think, gets harder by the day.

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  6. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    From what I've heard ,one big problem is the contract system under which many new teachers in the Vic state system are employed for their first few years. Uncertainty about whether the contract will be renewed, use of new teachers almost solely for "fill-in" positions to cover teachers on leave. No holiday pay.....

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  7. Mark Fabian

    Postgraduate student at Australian National University

    This is an extremely important research topic and I commend the author for their efforts. However, wouldn't a sample size of more than 14 be appropriate? Where there is so much to be gained from a few big tweaks to the system, qualitative data of the type derived from tracking such small samples provides inferior information to quantitative data one could obtain from a large survey, for example. Survey data could easily yield large samples - there must be hundreds of fresh teachers each year and…

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  8. Margaret Stewart
    Margaret Stewart is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Teacher

    I agree with Christopher Roberts who wrote “how does a study of 14 teachers warrant such strong conclusions”.

    I looked at the study online. Some comments from the 14 point to a lack of skills in working with others and dealing with different points of view. For example one of the 14 whose ideas were not supported, said that maybe older people (an older teacher/mentor) did not like new ideas so she (the new teacher) just went along with what others said. There were more instances where the new teacher responded to disagreement with their ideas passively, and seemed unable to start or manage a discussion once things did not go their way.

    It would have been interesting if the study had had a control group that examined the factors that produced new teachers who remain and rate themselves as successful.

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  9. Jeremy Culberg

    Electrical Asset Manager at Power Generation

    A number of new teachers I met discontinued their teaching simply for the permanency of a position. Initially they were employed casually. And despite glowing reviews of their performance, continued to be employed casually. So they followed the money, and got another job, typically similar paying, with permanency attached.
    The feedback I was getting from school principals was that the administrative burden of putting someone on permanently was significant - so significant that many didn't ever want to face that fight. It seems that if want to encourage new teachers, who have the latest and best methodologies and techniques for teaching our children, to be there, they need to have some financial security.

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Jeremy Culberg

      Jeremy ... it is an open secret in the NSW Department of Education that the system runs on the broad backs of casual teachers. Removing impediments to salary justice for this category of teacher has been a major concern for successive NSW Teachers Federation campaigns over the years.

      I had the good fortune to teach with a education innovative Principal implementing the latest pedagogies in every area of his school. The Department sacked him because the teachers of that time did not want the responsibility of being creative in their teaching practices.

      The same Departmental staff (of the mid 80s) did not believe that computers had a place in education.

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  10. Sarah McDonald

    logged in via Facebook

    I have been a high school teacher for six years and I love it. I truly do. But at least once a year I think about leaving and doing something easier. My absolute favourite part of the day is the time I spend in the classroom with my students, actually teaching. But sometimes the paperwork, the politics, the newspaper articles about how terrible teachers are, the blame game, the well-meaning but cruel comments from family and friends, the parents (!!!) and even just the amount of work you end up doing at home (I chose a job with homework…great!) becomes overwhelming and I think that surely I could find another job that I would enjoy? But then I think about my students and I just love them so much that I stay for another year. And I know I'll most likely always stay.
    And the holidays are nothing to be sneezed at ;)

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Sarah McDonald

      Well Sarah, consider the fact that a government clerk working a 35 hour week on a nine (9) day fortnight actually works less than the 202 school days gazetted for teachers ... and does not have the after hours marking and preparation required of many fine teachers.

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    2. Benjamin Hirons

      Economist and aspiring teacher

      In reply to Sarah McDonald

      Thanks Sarah, I think your perspective is exactly what this discussion needs (dare I say rather than discussions about union power). I don't have any criticisms of your perceptions, but rather I just really appreciate you sharing your honest experiences.
      As an aspiring teacher I home to 'love' it one day, but I'm also acutely aware that I just might not be suited to it or capable of handling it, but there is only one way of finding out... Thanks for the inspiration.

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    3. Patrick F

      Student

      In reply to Sarah McDonald

      Hi Sarah,
      I concur with your comments except the one about holidays, which I think promotes the idea that the 14 weeks are actually holidays! I don't know about you but the 1-2 weeks before any term starts, I was working full time preparing for those 23 classes each week that just keep coming and coming and coming (for up to 4 subjects across 6 year levels).

      But that was then! Now I love saying I'm a retired school teacher (at least as far as Australia is concerned) and I can highly recommend it, well before you turn 40.

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    4. Sarah McDonald

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Patrick F

      I agree that the holiday time is well and truly needed, not just for rest but to get organised for the following term. But I do find it helpful that I do not need to worry about care for my children as our holidays always match.

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    5. Sarah McDonald

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Benjamin Hirons

      I was nervous before I started teaching that it wouldn't be for me - even had a back-up plan! - but I do truly love it and can't imagine doing anything else.

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  11. Bill Hampel

    Retired

    I agree with Neil that evaluation is important but it would pay him to read the many criticisms of the types of evaluation that are commonly endorsed. Yes, what is his evidence that the AEU is opposed to evaluation? Respondents, collectively, have listed the many factors driving good teachers from schools: lack of good mentoring, lack of enlightened leadership from Principals, short-term contracts and lack of career structure, lack of support for innovation, pay commensurate with the challenges of the job, and not mentioned but perhaps controversial, financial reward for pedagogically-based higher degrees. (Finland?)

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  12. Mark Horner

    logged in via Facebook

    As one of my students would say: "blah-de-freaking-blah" with the expletive bowdlerised. Every student, even the 'best learners' in the 'best' schools knows the relationship that they have with their teacher is a poor approximation of an ideal learning situation, an apportioned and rationed version of what they really need. 1:30 is not a ratio to be proud of. Nor 1:10. Real learning occurs in smaller groups than that, with much more self-direction than current curriculum requirements allow.

    So…

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    1. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Mark Horner

      'an apportioned and rationed version of what they really need. 1:30 is not a ratio to be proud of. Nor 1:10. Real learning occurs in smaller groups than that, with much more self-direction than current curriculum requirements allow.'
      How on earth did we learn anything? 48 to 52 kids in a class, three classes at each level, movement between top of and bottom of each at each exam time. (Depending upon marks)
      All my school life.

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      Hi Peter, a great system of teaching that worked wonderfully except when disgruntled administrators had a depression attack and declared that student movement between streams was forbidden. This killed immediately any student motivation, creating the mediocrity with which the administrator felt more comfortable.

      Have transparent movement KPIs, move students between classes with compassion and enthusiasm, be consistent and open in your decisions, and yes, academic standards improve throughout the year.

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    3. Dan Gavel

      teacher

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      well you were probably intimidated by teachers like "Ginger" E, who "taught "me maths back in 1967. He was totally unpredictable. A lazy chain smoking pratt who used to leave the classroom after scrawling a few lines of exercises on the board . He would then return after 15 minutes stinking of fags,One day he stuck a compass into the backside of a hapless indian student - for no reason at all that i could see. ' get on with your work Singh " Another time he tied the chief prefects tie in knots…

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    4. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Dan Gavel

      Dan: We were never intimidated!

      From Standard one, 8/9 year olds, we could and did question what was being taught. This began with a challenge in History, two days given to bring the supporting evidence, followed by a discussion, and the teacher, a Mr Peterson, (sen?) Telling us that history was only approximate, and there were a lot discrepancies to be found. (Probably not in those words!)

      The next year, A Mr Tarfree (no idea how his name was spelt) who continued on with the practice, and moved up with us each year until intermediate — form one and two. I had no idea that schooling was done in any other way.

      I do know that when I went to another high school outside the province, that they were doing subjects that we had done in standard 4 as twelve year olds.

      The school was Gisborne Central. NZ.

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  13. Robert Porter

    post job observer

    Why Good Teachers Leave Teaching.

    1. The realization that society doesn’t value them.
    2. Pay scales and lack of professional pathways.
    3. Non support by parents as politicians call for ‘better teaching standards’ imputing a systemic blame, which is deviously not about management of the system by government.
    4 Lack of professional autonomy
    5. Increasing breadth and depth of ‘tails’ as private schools skim off upper middle class students. Tails being don’t or can’t care students with…

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Robert Porter

      The Accord cost teachers greatly, not only in financial terms of deserved salary increases but in the reduced social status that accompanies the feminisation of a profession that necessarily accompanies the reduced pay scales in a materialistic society.

      Pay peanuts, get monkeys.

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  14. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    I would agree with other posters that a study with such minimal numbers is not worth the money spent on it.

    Such a study may be acceptable within social science, but it is statistically flawed because of its sampling.

    Other studies have had much larger sample numbers, such as this one that tracked 1650 teachers.

    http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/more-teachers-but-fewer-staying-the-course-20110304-1bhuv.html

    The drop out rate of teachers is a matter of national importance.

    Education is becoming one of the most expensive items in a government’s budget, but the performance of students is declining, while the education system is becoming more feminist, while the money being spent educating teachers is so often wasted.

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      It is not acceptable with social science. Very few of the Education studies referred to on this site reach the standards of 'social science research'.

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  15. Joy RIngrose

    Retired Maths/Science teacher

    Teaching has changed enormously. I started teaching in the '70s, having been paid a liveable wage to go to Uni on a teaching studentship. Economic rationalism had not hit teaching, nor had political interference in the curriculum. Contract teaching was unheard of, so teaching staffs were a stable, cohesive team, who knew each others strengths, were able to offer their talents to extra-curricular activities and had the time to mentor first year out teachers. We were given good professional development…

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  16. Sarah Brown

    Student

    Having recently completed a Grad. Dip. Ed. following 18 years in the Agricultural Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industries, your article resonated with me.

    I was regularly encouraged by friends and family (a number of whom are teachers) that as a female Science and Maths teacher I would have no trouble getting a job - well...vacancies for 6 month contract here, 1 term there - but it seemed schools wanted experienced teachers for these positions, because it is too hard for a graduate to 'hit the…

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    1. Dan Gavel

      teacher

      In reply to Sarah Brown

      I sympathise Sarah. This one of the biggest problems for new teachers, isolation. Most of the time its just you and the kids, its rare that anyone pops in to watch or to share ideas, because we are all so busy.

      Nowadays the increase in paperwork takes up masses of time, so its even less likely that people have to time to spend sharing ideas with newbies. I am surprised that you found that people didn't want to share resources or accept new ideas , thats not been my experience with the vast majority…

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  17. marioPS

    logged in via Twitter

    While I am inclined to believe your implied premise: that good teachers are not being retained because we currently do not have an environment that supports them, I feel you have not provided evidence, or even evidence of research, to support this.

    From my brief reading of your links, it seems you are looking predominately at 'new' teachers (16 to 26 months on the job).

    While I have no doubt - with their youth & fresh enthusiasm - they have the potential to be 'good' and 'quality' teachers, I don't see how you can automatically attribute them that status with so little time in the profession.

    All I see here is research on a claim that new teachers are leaving the profession because they feel they are not being supported (while some may say this is valid, other may also propose that they must 'earn their dues').

    While this is important - it's not representative of the title of the article.

    And I hate 'clickbait'.

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to marioPS

      Clickbait. Yep you got it.

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  18. Rosemary O'Grady

    Lawyer

    ...and not only teaching.
    In varying degrees this syndrome afflicts most professions where management demands and love of money have superseded the vocational aspects of the occupation. The professions have, in the past 30 years, become branches of the financial services 'industry'. More fool us. Er, we.

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  19. Tom Fisher

    Editor and Proofreader

    Before we start getting too precious about teachers, and I agree entirely with education reform as very very long overdue, let's just sit back and consider the fate of scholars and intellectuals in general in this country, and other disciplines in particular.

    First, I've been saying it myself for over 50 years now, since as a child like any child still today able to see that the way we are taught and what we are taught is terrible - boring and frustrating, humiliating, destructive of the higher…

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    1. Neil James

      Executive Director, Australia Defence Association

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Tom, sadly you have missed the point of the bumper sticker quote.

      It merely pithily reminds Australians that in acknowledging our freedom now to learn in English, or indeed any other language at an Australian school, we all need to thank our soldiers as well as our teachers.

      Freedom may now be regarded as a "free gift" by some. But it was in fact dearly bought by previous generations of Australians when our national freedom of action, and even at times our sovereignty, were threatened militarily and otherwise by various fascist, militarist and communist ideologies.

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Neil James

      Uhm Neil .... I think you omitted the United States of Apartheid system of corporate imperialism from your list of national threats.

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    3. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      A few years back, not quite sure when, a young friend of mine went to the Beijing Bio Olympics. On three occasions scheduled trip to
      Canberra to pick up their uniforms were cancelled because Howard was too busy to make the presentation. When they finally went some 'lesser' person handed the uniforms out.
      On their return, one gold, two silver and a bronze, nobody met them, no press coverage, nothing.
      Keeping in touch with the other kids that they had met over there, they learned that even the teams that won nothing were met by their president/prime ministers, were interviewed on TV --- these kids were among the brightest, not the most stupid!
      They were all offered places in overseas universities when they graduated, and my friend is currently at Cambridge University on a damned good bursary.
      Coming back to Australia? Would you?

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    4. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      But Peter, what other response would you expect from Howard, the greatest disaster of a Treasurer and PM in Australian political history before the present incumbents?

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  20. Erin Anderson

    Undecided

    I am (was) one of these exact teachers - high-performing academically, engaging with, and engaged by, my students, enthusiastic and full of ideas.. I was a great teacher and consistently received glowing feedback from students, parents and admin. But like too many others was burnt out after 3 1/2 years of such a consistently high-pressure environment and never being able to meet my own high standards when trying to succeed and make a positive difference to every single one of the near 120 teenage students I taught, mentored, counselled.. many who were resistant to our education system and who responded with verbal abuse and bullying. A very hard profession and a shame that it is so taxing on those who really do care about doing a fantastic job. My hat off to every teacher who can and does thrive with not always enough support or understanding for the rigours of the job.

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    1. Benjamin Hirons

      Economist and aspiring teacher

      In reply to Erin Anderson

      Thanks Erin, like Sarah above, I think your perspective is exactly what this discussion needs. I really appreciate you sharing your honest experiences and adding something meaningful to the discussion.
      I think it is a huge shame that someone who is successful in the classroom, which is surely the most important part of being a teacher, is forced out because of the system and the environment surrounding teachers. All the best, and hopefully your experience serves to change the system for the better eventually.

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  21. Claire Coleman

    Student

    This is a story about me. I qualified with a BMusEd in 2005 and have spent virtually no time in the classroom. I did well in my studies and I was offered a couple of great jobs when I graduated, however having gone straight from school to university I decided to take a year out of the educational institutions with the intention of returning to school after some travel and other work. That gap year was a real eye-opener and gave me valuable insight into what the big wide world is like outside of the…

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Claire Coleman

      Hi Claire, the gap year was a sensible choice but sadly such 'professional development' is not recognised by the departmental bureaucrats who indoctrinate teachers with their personal standards of mediocrity and followership.

      The "endless rounds of PD" are necessary to give the inept departmental staff something to do that is not real teaching (for which they have adequately demonstrated a complete loss of appetite and enthusiasm). Any activity that could vaguely be described as 'work' and excludes contact with kids to protect their accumulating pensions.

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  22. Tom Fisher

    Editor and Proofreader

    Education reform in Australia.

    Simple.

    1. Sack all the psychologists, social workers and political "advisers";

    2. Allow all schools to become independent, and to establish real and direct working relationships through extension and enrichment programs with universities, colleges, conservatioria, museums, theatres and studios, and with industry and commerce;

    3. Put all students up one class, effective immediately.

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    1. Mark Horner

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      And if you want learning, rather than what the dessicated pedants who seem to be attracted to this topic like wasps to a sugar-trap, are calling 'education', then get rid of classes, timetables, bells, anything like study regimes, and let people learn at their own rate, in their own time, and their own comfort level.

      And then you won't send young teachers mad (who *know* this approach is wrong, but their told by their 'betters' and superiors that you shouldn't question the cut and colour of the…

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  23. Richard Jacoby

    Researcher

    In response to the commenters who've criticised the small sample size of this study (Christopher, Mark, Margaret and Dale), I'd like to mount a defence.

    First is a practical point. It is time-consuming to conduct good-quality qualitative research. A single interview can take many hours to arrange, conduct, transcribe and interpret. There is a limit to what an individual researcher can do, and interviewing 14 people 9 times each over a year and a half sounds like a pretty fair effort. If participants…

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    1. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Richard Jacoby

      One study tracked 1650 teachers over 9 years, and another study tracked 14 teachers over 16 months.

      Both studies said pay was not the main reason why teachers left, but teachers keep asking for a pay rise.

      One study said less stress was important, and the other study said more mentoring was important.

      It all seems rather contrary, but looking at the situation objectively, it seems the education system is badly managed.

      This results in high workforce turnover rates, high levels of stress, poor working conditions, high levels of worker dissatisfaction etc.

      None of this can be blamed on the public BTW.

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  24. Peter Hindrup

    consultant

    Slightly off topic, but on teaching.

    A friends daughter, 31, 32, just completed mature aged teaching, looking for her first job next year, supposedly teaching 'English'. (At least 3rd generation, 'white' with a private school education)

    She cannot even speak properly. Australia comes out as some mangled, strangled, sound that out of context could never be recognised.

    If I had kids at a school and met her at a P&T and found that she was their teacher, they would be out of that school within the week.

    A few months back, she was carrying on about her marks for an assignment (??) and gave it to me to read. I could only think that back at a much lower level of education in in my day it would have come back with 'not good enough', write! scrawled across it.

    How is such person going to 'teach' English, when they have no idea of what they are about and no ability to write coherently?

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  25. Elisabeth Hall

    Registered Nurse

    The parallels between teaching and nursing are interesting. The attrition rates are similar, as are the expectations and the disappointments of new grads.

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