World Teachers’ Day – 30 October, 2020
By Katie Brody, Director of Studies K-6
Across Australia and indeed the world, teachers are being celebrated and thanked for their efforts, this year more than most. World Teachers’ Day is technically today, but at Emanuel School, we have celebrated our educators all week, affirming what they do, showing gratitude and appreciation. Though our school grounds could not welcome parents physically on site very much this year, our virtual classrooms certainly allowed the lessons to be viewed by all. It has been the events of 2020 that has reinforced for our parents and carers, and indeed all of society (and the world), the significant role that teachers play in the lives of children and young people, as well as the many benefits of dropping children at school to be educated whilst the parents maintain their work schedule and the economy can be held together. This year parents and carers gained greater insight into exactly what it is like to be a teacher, how challenging it is to foster learning and what it is like to manage all the students’ needs.
The lifestyle of a teacher is all encompassing primarily due to the relational aspects of the vocation. At the end of the day it is difficult for teachers to stop thinking about the students as they leave school, as teachers are empathic by nature and they care deeply about the happiness and mindset of children. Teachers are not just there to educate, as we all know. They assist with the impact of social difficulties, mental health issues or family breakdown. Teachers see students struggle with learning or with behavioural choices and they lie awake at night formulating ways they could be supporting the students more effectively. To ensure students feel valued and understood, teachers build rapport, taking an interest in students’ co-curricular activities, their reading preferences, their weekend adventures and their friendship groups. The emotional and cognitive demands of being a teacher are huge, as they need to remember and draw on so much information about the individual students, as well as coping with and managing their own needs and the demands of their personal lives. Dr Todd Whitaker, well known educator and researcher, said that, “The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day.” This is why we thank our teachers today, every day and on World Teachers’ Day.
With the core business of educating the children, it is inside the classroom that the magic happens. With learning transitioning to a virtual space for part of this year, we all got to see the teachers in action. It is in the classroom (or on Zoom) that a teacher becomes the consummate performer, the masterful facilitator, the one who motivates and inspires the next generation. Teachers are creative by nature and they coordinate groups with aplomb. Watching a teacher in action is a little like watching a professional conductor orchestrate the performance of an elaborate piece of music but in the classroom the musicians are all moving, they are all using a range of equipment and they are responding to the teacher and to each other verbally and non-verbally. Michael Murpurgo, author, poet and playwright said, “It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom” and wasn’t he right, particularly in 2020. It is the teacher who has planned for differing levels of ability, who has offered choice, who has managed interruptions, included humour, and monitored progress all whilst keeping to bell times. This is why we thank our teachers today, every day and on World Teachers’ Day.
In addition to the emotional aspects of the role, the intellectual rigor of being a teacher results in a level of exhaustion that builds gradually throughout each term. Teachers spend hours reading and analysing class novels, trawling through online subscriptions and professional networks for ideas and reading articles and emails. The administrative requirements extend to the upkeep of student progress data, preparing for parent / teacher meetings, collaborating with colleagues, attending conferences, remaining compliant with all NESA requirements, writing school reports and the list goes on. AITSL’s Spotlight report, Teaching: A valued profession, reveals that although the parents do show gratitude, teachers are much more circumspect about feeling valued. When feeling tired yet appreciated, teachers maintain a level of personal satisfaction that despite feeling unsure they will physically make it to the end of the term, the positive impact of their ongoing effort is acknowledged.
Showing appreciation for the efforts of our teachers is not new at Emanuel, as families certainly communicate their thanks in a myriad of ways throughout the year and especially with heartfelt cards at the end of the year. World Teachers’ Day has been a good opportunity, particularly this year, to affirm teachers by showing that we notice how agile, how efficient and how committed they are and by acknowledging the breadth of their role. Teachers really are superheroes and very few of us would be where we are today without the care and professionalism of the teachers we have encountered. Ensuring teachers feel valued in society and maintain satisfaction with their jobs is integral to teachers having positive attitudes about their work and an ability to influence the lives of students. When teachers feel valued, they are more likely to remain confident and satisfied, and most importantly, remain in the profession.