Education: Who are we hearing from?

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of reading, watching and listening about current educational discussions, policies and issues. I’ve read papers written by university lecturers, by economists, by journalists and by organisations responsible for large scale testing. I’ve watched lectures, both online and in the flesh, by university academics and by economists and statisticians. I’ve listened to politicians, journalists, parents and friends share their ideas about education and how it can be ‘fixed’. Here’s the thing though, rarely, if at all have I heard the voices of actual educators in all this noise. Those people blamed for the ‘problem’ and tasked with fixing it.

Here, on social media, on blogs, twitter and Facebook I hear from educators who work every day with students and who spend a great deal of their outside of work time thinking, planning, discussing and sharing about education. I hear from these educators, I hear the talk of exciting new plans and projects, of what books they are reading in order to improve their practice and outcomes for students in their care. I hear them ask questions and support each other. I hear how much they love what they do and how deeply they care about it. I hear because I am one of them. I have access to this wealth of knowledge and amazing online community.

I know I’ve got a lot to learn, this is why I engage in reading, watching and listening. What I would love is to hear more from educators out there in the mainstream media. More of these stories, of educators reflecting and sharing, with educators celebrating the amazing things they are doing, with educators participating in reasoned discussions about our education system rather than being told that they are to blame and that everyone else has the answers. Why isn’t this happening? Why isn’t this part of our culture?

I know that there are a range of education unions who take up this cause, however often these arguments are lost in the political point scoring that occurs in any discussion of education policy. This is also not presenting the full picture of the role of educators and the depth of the profession. Imagine if there were regular stories in the news, in magazines, papers and online, sharing what education looks like in our long daycare centres, our preschools, schools, universities, TAFEs and other centres of education. Imagine if people saw the range of programs taught, the experiences offered and the passion of educators. I wonder what impact this would have on people’s perception of educators? What I wonder is: how can we make this happen? How do we balance this sharing of work without being accused of being defensive or trying to sell an argument about teachers’ pay or conditions. Should that even be a concern?

There is so much more to a discussion of education than arguing about class sizes or the latest round of testing. This is not what educators spend their time doing each day, these are not the questions that occupy us. Let’s move the debate beyond these issues. Let’s talk about our reality. Let’s celebrate our passion, our learning and the learning of our students. Let’s be heard.

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Spreading the word

Seeing how quickly @EduTweetOz has grown got me thinking. Yes, building a community of educators is great but what we really need to do is let the rest of our community in on what educators are doing. I think one of the struggles educators face is respect, not from students but from the community. We posted a picture from one of the @EduTweetOz community members to our Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. It was a cute little graphic showing all the things that teachers do outside the face-to-face teaching hours. I was amazed by how many people responded negatively to it. Bringing up the time-honoured ‘but you get so many holidays’ or ‘everyone works hard’ and generally completely missing the point. We weren’t having a go, or suggesting that teachers work harder than anyone else, merely sharing the work we do that goes unseen, the depth of our profession, the extent of the job. Because everyone’s experienced education they think they know what being an educator is about, teaching is so much more than the classroom, the lecture theatre, the face-to-face contact.

When the government talks about raising teacher entry requirements or linking pay to performance in order to attract ‘high calibre’ students into teaching we need to start a conversation about how education as a profession is perceived. It’s not a job you go into (or you should go into) for the holidays or for the short hours, or a job you leave behind when you walk out the school gates. It’s a job that takes passion and commitment and drive. A job that leaves you lying awake at night worrying about the student who didn’t have enough lunch or a clean uniform, or who made a worrying comment to his friend walking to class or the university student who’s started missing classes or how you’re going to get students engaged in writing or chemistry the next day. It’s a job that is about transforming people’s lives.

Here’s my question, while this community is already amazing for educators, is our next step to share this with the non-education professionals? Maybe by raising our profile, by letting people in on the work that we do outside face-to-face teaching, the conversations we engage in to improve ourselves, the drive we have to improve our student’s chances in life, maybe this will help people recognise, value and respect this work.

What if the conversation wasn’t about how to attract the brightest and the best to education? What if the conversations we as educators already have meant people, people with a passion for education, were beating down the doors of schools and universities to get a chance to be part of this incredible profession?

What if we could harness social media, our existing networks and any other means possible to spread the word about educators? This isn’t an issue that separates us into our fields or sectors, this is one that unites us, from long day care educators through to university educators and those of us working outside traditional classroom structures. We need to let the community in on our core business. Everyone’s involved in education, let’s show them what that means.

 

What do you do to share your passion for education?