teachers

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Israel murders 7 in Jenin, West Bank – including 3 children, teacher, senior doctor

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 2:36am in

Occupiers slaughter 7, wound at least nine and bulldoze homes and buildings as regime responds to news of war crimes warrants – with more war crimes

An Israeli sniper during an earlier brutal Israeli raid in Jenin (image: Creative Commons 3.0)

Israeli forces have brutally attacked the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, killing at least seven people and wounding at least nine, two of them critically, before bulldozing homes and buildings. Video in circulation shows Palestinian children fleeing under fire from troops, snipers and tanks, while a local hospital director reported that Israeli troops were firing at people in the hospital’s courtyard.

Among the murdered were three children, as well as senior surgeon Dr Osayd Jabarin and teacher Allam Jaradat, who was shot in his car as he tried to drive to work:

The Red Crescent reported that Israeli forces stopped emergency crews from reaching wounded people. Israel claimed it only killed armed men. Other raids took place in Tubas, Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah.

International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced on Monday that he had applied for war crimes arrest warrants for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant. The regime has been in panic mode since and has tried to enlist the US to pressure the ICC into denying the warrants – but Netanyahu and co will not stop piling up the evidence of their criminality and contempt for humanity.

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Video: thousands gather for Gaza at Columbia as professor condemns uni’s ‘day of shame’

History professor Christopher Brown describes scandal of university president setting riot police on peaceful anti-genocide demo and condemns craven congressional testimony

Thousands have again gathered on the lawns of Columbia University in New York, despite the attempted repression of the university’s management and the New York police – where they heard speeches from faculty members as well as students against Israel’s genocide in Gaza and the authorities’ attempts to silence them:

Despite the state’s aggression, which has included the use of riot police and state troops in various locations – and the shameful demonisation of peace protesters by politicians and pro-Israel lobby groups willing to collude in Israel’s war crimes, mirroring the tactics used in the UK – the protest movement is growing and the US public is increasingly aware and condemning of Israel’s mass murder of Palestinian civilians, mostly women and children.

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US unis even arresting TEACHERS as Israel lobby group demands anti-Palestine crackdown

Students and teachers targeted by police as ADL demands government breaks student anti-genocide protest movement

At least one US university has called in police to arrest faculty members as well as students, as the so-called ‘Anti-defamation League’ (ADL) demanded a crackdown on the spreading anti-genocide protest movement among US students.

NYPD officers took NYU teachers as well as students away from a demo against Israel’s genocide in Gaza, as demonstrations spread to universities around the country. Columbia University, also in New York, has seen further student arrests as a sit-in demo by students against Israel’s slaughter of innocents continues undeterred.

In a tactic reminiscent of the recent rigged stunt in the UK by the Israel-linked, so-called ‘Campaign against Antisemitism’ (CAA), the ADL has claimed Jewish students are unsafe and demanded the immediate suspension of anyone who dares protest against mass murder:

Innocent women and children in Gaza are being slaughtered by the tens of thousands by Israel – and Palestinian students have been attacked, leaving at least one paralysed, by morons whipped up by the Islamophobic speech of politicians and pro-Israel lobbyists – but it seems we are meant to treat the feelings of the friends of genocide and apartheid as more important, on both sides of the Atlantic.

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”What Do You Mean School Holidays Is Still 2 Week’s Off!” Scream Nation’s Teachers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/04/2024 - 6:27am in

Australian school teachers have let out a collective scream, upon the realisation that the World’s longest term still has a week and a half to go.

”Oh, dear God please end this term,” cried Launceston Primary school teacher Mary Chalk. ”The kids are ratty, they’re all sugared up from Easter and quite frankly I’m not paid enough for this.”

”An 11 week term! What genius thought this one up.”

It’s not just Teachers upset, parents aren’t happy with school holidays and Easter not lining up this year as well.

”Bloody bureaucrats, don’t they realise that a lot of people just go away for the whole Easter/school holidays.” said Father of two Ivar Jeep. ”I mean, this weekend we only got a couple of days down at the shack, wasn’t even worth bringing down the boat.”

”And we’ve gotta do it all again in two weeks time.”

”Should’ve just left the boat there.”

The education department could not be reached for comment, they were already on holidays.

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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The Over-50s Turning to Teaching

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/02/2024 - 7:00pm in

At the age of 55, Deepak Swaroop left his global role as a senior partner at an accounting firm to embark on a new path as a startup founder. Lacking the change and fulfillment he was hoping to find in this world, he then dabbled in retirement, only to feel unsatisfied by his new activities of golf, walks and trips to the library.

He’d read about Lucy Kellaway, the Financial Times editor who left journalism to become a trainee teacher and went on to found Now Teach, an organization that helps people change careers and become teachers, in 2017. After sitting in on lessons at five different schools, his mind was made up: He would retrain as a high school math teacher.

Deepak Swaroop poses in front of a classroom.Deepak Swaroop now teaches high school math. Courtesy of Now Teach

Three years on, Swaroop feels energized and inspired — even if he is now earning a fraction of what he used to. 

“Money wasn’t really the make or break for this option,” says London-based Swaroop. “I was keen to do something which had a purpose, so I could contribute back to society in a way. My view was that I don’t think I can contribute a lot of money to charity, but I can definitely contribute my time.” 

Finding a new purpose in the classroom

Swaroop is one of the 850 people who have left careers like finance, IT, medicine, science, engineering and more to retrain as teachers through Now Teach, which relies on both government funding and corporate donors. Now Teach helps them gain a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, which typically takes one to two years depending on whether it’s done in a full- or part-time capacity. Now Teachers are also encouraged to apply for the many scholarships and bursaries on offer. 

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Teacher vacancies in England have doubled since before Covid, and the government is well short of its target to recruit new trainees, as the Guardian reports, fueled by a lack of pay increases and failure to improve the heavy workload and long hours, plus more attractive opportunities abroad. 

But Now Teach, and second-career teachers like Swaroop, are playing a pivotal role in helping fill the country’s teacher shortage. The organization has hit on a winning formula by focusing on an otherwise overlooked segment of the employment market: the over 50s. The average age of Now Teach teachers, the organization confirmed, is 49, with the oldest being 70. Countries like Australia are also looking to midlife career changers to meet shortages of math, science and technology teachers. 

As Now Teach CEO Graihagh Crawshaw-Sadler acknowledges, many will have taken a pay cut to pursue this new path, but they’ve reached a point in their life where their priority is satisfaction over salary.

Now Teach CEO Graihagh Crawshaw-Sadler.Now Teach CEO Graihagh Crawshaw-Sadler. Courtesy of Now Teach

“It’s not about the money, it’s about what this opportunity is affording them in terms of motivation, and knowing that they’re having an impact on young people,” says Crawshaw-Sadler. “We’ve got an awful lot of people who perhaps would have been looking to take early retirement, who are doing this instead. And then a large number who actually realized they’ve got a significant number of years left working. They’ve done what they want to in their current career, and it’s time to do something different. People are living and working longer, and they reach a point where they’ve given a lot to a particular profession, and they want to kind of make the next five to 15 years really count.”

This later life ambition is something Swaroop certainly relates to. “I just want to get into the classroom and teach,” he says. “I don’t have an objective of becoming a head of school. Previously, I would actively try to move up the ladder. That is being replaced by my desire to be more committed to my teaching.” 

“I have had students write to me that I have helped them realize their potential and what path to take in the future. That is more valuable to me than money.”

Making schools more diverse

Originally from New Delhi, India, Swaroop is also proud to enrich the cultural diversity of his school, which, up until a few years ago, had a predominantly white teaching staff despite its highly multicultural student body. This reflects Now Teach’s success in attracting ethnic minority recruits at a higher rate than the national average and helping to close the representation gap between pupils and teachers. Thirty-two percent of its new trainees come from an ethnic minority, versus 19 percent of this year’s overall national cohort of trainee teachers and the overall national teacher rate of 21 percent, with 36 percent of pupils across the country being from an ethnic minority, according to figures shared by Now Teach. This equalizing effect also extends to gender: 44 percent of Now Teach’s intake this year were men, versus 30 percent nationally. 

Indeed, Swaroop has often felt like the odd one out on the teaching staff. “My head of department is a 31-year-old man. He treats me with respect and shares things with me, but ultimately, I’m a junior teacher,” he says. “Initially, I would admit I found it challenging to be around such a young group of fellow teachers, who would think differently and would have different aspirations from me.”

Accepting that your age doesn’t match your seniority when you become a second career teacher doesn’t come easily, acknowledges Now Teach’s Crawshaw-Sadler. 

“That’s the balance our Now Teach-ers have to find — being a novice, at the same time as being incredibly experienced. That’s one of the things we often focus on in the coaching support our trainees have with us, on how to tread that line and have the greatest impact, whilst also learning a brand new craft,” she says.

Beverly Melbourne portraitBeverly Melbourne retrained as a teacher in 2022. Courtesy of Now Teach

A healthy dose of humility, and adopting the view that people can lead multiple lives in one lifetime, has kept 56-year-old Beverly Melbourne grounded in her transition from government education policy advisor to high school English teacher.

Like Swaroop, Melbourne read about Now Teach in the Financial Times, and was ready to do a job where she could see and experience the impact of her actions. She retrained in 2022, and now, aged 56, is in her first year on the job. 

She believes her colleagues and students appreciate the different perspective she brings based on her life experience.

“I’ve written policy, I’ve contributed to government speeches, I’ve done research. I can tell students how important it is to treat your colleagues well. I can tell them that soft skills are just as important as academic skills, because I’ve worked in meetings, created networks,” says Melbourne, who is based in the West Midlands region of the UK. 


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“Those other skills are just as important to produce people that will be successful, not just for themselves, but for others as well.”

She too has left behind her ambitions to climb the corporate ladder, instead valuing the emotional reward of having a direct hand in a young person’s future.

“When you make a difference in education, the ripple effects are everywhere,” says Melbourne. “When we’re dead and gone, nobody’s going to remember what we got paid. They’re going to remember how we contributed to our family and to other individuals.”

The post The Over-50s Turning to Teaching appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Exclusive: Streeting uses NHS privatisation announcement to tout IDF-linked health firm

Health privatisation enthusiast ‘Labour’ health spokesman namechecks Israeli military-linked firm as glowing example of private involvement in NHS – and visited firm in Israel on LFI-paid junket

Image by ‘The Agitator

As the death toll of Israel’s genocide in Gaza climbed above 30,000 this week according to observers EuroMed Monitor, Wes Streeting used an Israeli private health data company as his shining example of successful ‘entrepreneurialism’ – ie privatisation – in the NHS as ‘a source close to Mr Streeting’ briefed the media about his plans to ‘throw open the doors’ of the NHS to more private corporate provision if Labour gets into government.

The ‘source’ told the i:

Labour will encourage the spread of new technologies so private sector “innovators” have a clearer route to get their product into the NHS…

The best example on the tech side of ‘opening the door to entrepreneurs’ is where you’ve got a company or innovator of a product which works really well on the NHS. There’s an example of some at home kidney tests made by Healthy.io which were first sold into the NHS in 2021

But the link – and the Labour trolling of those outraged by the Gaza slaughter – goes much further. Healthy.io is owned and run by Yonatan Adiri, former Chief Technology Officer for the whole of Israel and an adviser to then-Israeli PM Shimon Peres. Adiri’s interests are not limited to private healthcare tech. His published works include Terror in the Court: Counter-Terrorism and Judicial Power in the Israeli Case Study and Counter Terror Warfare: The Judicial Front (2008), written for the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (2005).

Adiri’s interest in ‘counter-terror’ did not end in 2008. Just two months ago, shortly after the Hamas kibbutz raid, Adiri spoke to Bloomberg Technology ‘The importance of Intelligence in Israel-Hamas war’, comparing Hamas to ISIS and talking of the use of technology by intelligence services to defeat the Palestinian resistance organisation:

Skwawkbox did not find details of any involvement with Israeli spytech unit ‘Unite 8200’ – the cyberspy unit whose members reportedly paint an ‘X’ on their headsets for each Palestinian they help kill – in Adiri’s IDF service, but according to his bio page as a speaker for hire on allamericanspeakers.com, he remains a reserve captain in the ‘international operational negotiations unit’ and has acted as moderator at discussions held by the Israeli-government-sponsored Institute for National Security Studies on the use of drones and other technology for ‘national security’:

According to one article, Adiri acted for the IDF in negotiating a prisoner swap with Lebanese militia group Hezbollah.

Adiri also acted as senior national security ‘policy consultant’ for the Reut Institute, a right-wing Israeli think tank that now plays a key role in Israel’s attempts to counter the peaceful pro-Palestinian ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ movement.

And while Adiri may not have been a member of Unit 8200, he is – since at least March 2023 – an ‘industry mentor’ for the ‘LEAP’ initiative:

The LEAP website says that:

Leap was created in partnership with 8200bio, an organization of 8200 alumni working to promote the Israeli healthtech ecosystem. The program does strive to bring exceptional 8200 alumni into the healthtech domain, but the program is open to entrepreneurs of any background, according to the criteria described above.

Like its partner 8200 Impact, 8200bio is run by former members of what 8200 Impact calls the ‘elite IDF Signal Intelligence and Cybersecurity unit’. Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted in 2020 that:

Nor did Wes Streeting simply pull the name Healthy.io out of a hat without knowing the company’s links. In May 2022, according to right-wing pressure group Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), Streeting visited Israel on LFI’s dime – and LFI said ahead of the trip that:

Streeting will also visit Healthy.io, a tech provider for the NHS and Boots.

Right-wing libel-merchant and ‘dauphin of phone hacking‘ Lee Harpin, writing for Jewish News rather than the Jewish Chronicle that he cost so much money in damages for smearing left-wingers, confirmed that the visit went ahead. Streeting told the NHS Confederation last spring that he had been ‘blown away’ by his trip.

Keir Starmer employs a Unit 8200 alumnus, Assaf Kaplan, to monitor members’ social media.

Wes Streeting has come out as an avid NHS privatiser – which will surprise no one who has been watching. That he chose to garnish his promise to ‘throw open the doors’ of the NHS to more private profit-taking by touting an Israeli – and Israeli military-linked – firm during Israel’s war crimes, mass slaughter of women, children, medics and teachers and the bombing of hospitals and schools, in Gaza makes the betrayal even worse.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Teachers, and Sociologists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/09/2021 - 1:47pm in

 The Journal of Professional Learning, sponsored by
the NSW Teachers' Federation, has just published a condensed version of my
paper on the nature of teachers' work in schools.  It's available (open access) here: https://cpl.asn.au/journal/semester-2-2021/vital-elusive-and-fantastically-complex-teacher-s-worth
. Please be my guest!

 

Re the future of sociology: Alain Caillé (Nanterre University)
and Frédéric Vandenberghe (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) have just
published For a New Classic Sociology: A Proposition, followed by a Debate,
Routledge, 2021.  It has their
"position paper" outlining an intriguing agenda for re-shaping
sociology, plus responses by eleven colleagues. I'm a participant in the Debate
section, arguing for shaking free of global-North hegemony and building world
perspectives: "For sociology: more ambitious, more practical, and
definitely polyphonic" (pp. 77-83).

 

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Teachers' Worth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 12:34pm in

In this essay I discuss
the nature of teaching and the circumstances of teachers' work and lives. It
was written as a submission to the 2020 Inquiry Valuing the Teaching
Profession, sponsored by the NSW Teachers' Federation. The essay builds on
recent debates and writing about teachers, on my experience as a researcher
concerned with school education, and on what I have learned as a teacher in the
tertiary sector.

 

Teachers'
Worth

Teachers'
cultural position

In graduation
ceremonies for Education degrees, the invited speaker often includes a fanfare
for the teaching profession, telling the graduands they are bearers of cultural
traditions, mentors of the rising generation and gatekeepers to the future.
These ideas sound like clichés, but they are not just boilerplate. Teachers do
have a central role in the culture.

Ever since mass
school systems became a reality, teachers have been the main agents for the
growth of literacy, the formation of skilled and professional workforces, the
broad dissemination of sciences and humanities, and a large part of young
people's social learning. Teachers' work underpins our society's achievements
in public health, economic and technological development, literature, music and
art. In a society with many regional, ethnic and religious differences,
teachers' work in schools is essential for social connection and cohesion. The
role is so broad and so important that when social troubles emerge, politicians
and journalists often blame teachers for causing the problems, or require teachers
to fix them.

In social-science discussions,
teaching is sometimes defined as the archetypal 'new profession'. School teachers
are trained knowledge workers, now usually with university degrees. They are unionized,
wage-earning rather than fee-earning, employees rather than self-employed, mainly
working in the public sector, with high proportions of women and entrants from
working-class backgrounds. All these points have to be qualified in detail, but
they are broadly correct. Teachers as a group not only perform important tasks
for society but have themselves been significant players in economic and social
change.

Teaching is in one
sense the best-known profession of all. In a society where almost every child
goes to school, almost every adult has had a close-up view of teachers doing
their daily work - or at least, part of it. Many adults hold great affection
for particular teachers who were important in their lives. But other memories
may be negative, even angry. Many people also imagine, from a limited
knowledge, that teaching is an easy job with short hours and long holidays,
something that anyone could do, only needing quick-and-dirty training. The
public image of teachers is genuinely complicated.

 

Teaching as
work

If you enter ‘teachers’
and ‘work’ together into the widely-used bibliographical database Google
Scholar you will find over four million references in the English language
alone. There are two hundred and eighty thousand references if you use the
phrase ‘teachers' work’ as an exact search term. I would judge that at most a
thousand items, perhaps less, form the core research-based literature. The
larger figures illustrate how widely discussed teachers and their work are, and
how frequently questions about teachers connect with other educational issues,
from curriculum to public policy, assessment, and pedagogical method.

The sociology of
work speaks of the 'labour process', which means not only which tasks the
worker performs, but also, crucially, how these tasks are organized. Three
features of the teaching labour process are crucial. Teaching is interpersonal,
composite, and unbounded. Forgive the jargon, I'll explain.

            (a) Teaching always involves connections
between people: it consists of human encounters. These may be intense or
formal, short or sustained, one-to-one or one-to-many, even some-to-many (in
team-teaching). Whatever their form, the element of encounter is always there. Encounter
is interactive.  Pure top-down instruction
is part, but only a minimal part, of actual teaching.

To play an
effective role in someone else's learning, the teacher must learn what the
pupil's current capacities and motivations are, and what the pupil needs to take
the next step in learning. Then again, for the step after that; and so on. The
teacher's capacity to learn about the pupils is a crucial element in
teaching, perhaps the most important element of all in effective teaching. The
more diverse the cohort of pupils, the greater the professional demand upon the
teacher in sustaining the pupils' learning.

            (b) Teaching is a composite labour
process. Close-focus ethnographic research in schools has made this clear. Any
teacher giving a detailed account of a working day could demonstrate it too! In
day-to-day classroom time, teachers do multiple forms of work, often switching
very fast between them and sometimes doing several tasks at once.

Classroom work
includes the complex intellectual labour of understanding the pupils and
transforming the curriculum into classroom practice; this is the most easily
recognized part of the job. But the job also requires (as more recent studies
emphasise) emotional labour: creating connection with class members through
shared interest, encouragement, humour and sometimes anger; keeping focus in
the classroom by managing pupils' boredom, excitement or distraction; dealing
with conflict in the class and the effects of tension and trauma in the pupils'
lives. As well as the intellectual and emotional labour, the teacher also has
significant classroom administration: keeping records, managing equipment,
providing materials, administering tests. It seems that the administrative labour
has increased in the last few decades, with growing official requirements for
testing and other forms of documentation. On top of all this are tasks outside
the classroom. These are also varied, requiring a range of skills: preparation
of classes, supervision in break times, organizing sports, arts and hobby
groups, arranging and supervising events, speaking with parents, reading
official circulars, participating in staff meetings, attending in-service
programmes, and so on.

            (c) Partly because of the
interactive and composite nature of the labour process, teaching is difficult
to keep within bounds. Some of the job goes home in the briefcase at the end of
the day: reports to write, assignments to mark, lessons to prepare. Some of the
job goes home in one's head: the knots and tangles of classroom life, the
pupils who are slipping behind for no apparent reason, the thrills and
successes in the teaching process.

All this is hard to
limit, since teachers know that what they do affects their pupils' lives, just
as the Graduation Day speech said. The legendary ‘first year out’ (which may
take more than one year) is a baptism of fire for many young teachers because
of the workload and the emotional demands. Later on, even highly engaged and
successful teachers may find they burn out. There is a cumulative effect of the
complexity and pressure. To survive in the long run, teachers have to find a
balance between over-commitment and self-protection. Support from colleagues is
important in finding this balance.

 

Workforce and
situation

Though mass media
images of teachers emphasise colourful individuals, good or bad (the movie Dead
Poets Society has both), no teacher really works alone. As with many other
forms of labour, in teaching most effects are produced by the workforce as a
whole. Any teacher in her classroom is building on the work of all the teachers
who have worked with those pupils before. What happens in the classroom is
shaped by what happens in the next-door classroom and by the routines of the whole
school, the discussion and planning that happens in staff meetings, the
engagement of school principals and senior teachers, the daily work of office
and maintenance staff, the constant informal discussions and exchange of
information that happens in staffrooms and around the school office. Researchers
recognize this when they speak of schools as organizations and try to
characterise school culture, climate or atmosphere.

Beyond each
particular school is all the work of other schools, as well as system
administrators, curriculum developers, specialist support staff, assessment
authorities, teacher organizations, and teacher educators. The work of all
these groups frames what happens in any individual classroom. Education on a
mass scale, in a large public school system, can only happen because the work
is done by this whole workforce - the ‘collective worker’ in the jargon of
industrial sociology. Each person's labour is dependent on, and supported by,
the labour of many others.

It is not
surprising that attempts to measure teacher effectiveness on an individual
basis run into trouble. The German sociologist Claus Offe showed half a century
ago the fundamental flaw in attempts to measure individual or even occupational-group
productivity as a basis for wage determination in large-scale modern
organizations, and this applies to education systems.

Across a large
school system, teachers must deal with varied groups of pupils. One school is
located in a quiet, mostly White suburb with a high proportion of professionals
and managers, while another is in a crowded, multi-ethnic city area with a high
proportion of recent migrants. Another is in a depressed rural area with high youth
unemployment and very few resident professionals; and so on. Some of the
students will be academically engaged, others in conflict with the school. In
any age group there will be students with disabilities, behaviour problems and
complex wellbeing needs.

I won't dwell on
what everyone knows about inequality in Australia, but I do think it is
important to recognize that social inequalities are educational issues.
Poverty and wealth, remoteness, urban conditions, ethnic and religious
difference, indigenous or settler background, physical difference and
disability - all these confront teachers with different conditions and
combinations of tasks in different schools. Private schools are able to choose
how much diversity they care to accommodate. But it is the nature of a public
education system that all groups of students must be included and
supported. The demands on teachers' professionalism and learning capacities are
greater.

We have long known
that in education, formal equality of provision does not mean equality of
outcomes. In Australia we have an unfortunate history of segregated public and
private school systems.  The cynical
political strategy of diverting public funds to support private schooling for
the more privileged makes our educational problems worse. One of the damaging
things it does is to divide the teaching workforce, creating separate career
paths which limit rather than enrich professional experience.

 

New pressures

Teachers and their
work have long been subject to controls of various kinds: religious, political,
managerial and professional. Not far back in history, teachers were expected to
show rigid conservatism in dress, manners and attitudes, in private life as
well as working hours. Some of this has changed, as teachers asserted their citizen
rights. But teachers can still be targeted in moral panics, as the right-wing campaign
against the Safe Schools programme in Australia showed. Contemporary concerns
about sexual abuse of children have required teachers to observe more
restrictive rules about physical contact with pupils in everyday school life.

In the last few
decades new means of regulation of teachers' work have developed, generally
involving control at a distance. This is euphemistically called ‘accountability’.
On-line templates and information systems, heavier and more detailed reporting
requirements, standardized testing on a huge scale, quantitative targets and
incentives, are now familiar in the education sector. Individual schools and
teachers are supposed to have easily-measured goals and are made individually
responsible for achieving them, as if schools were Dickensian firms counting up
their cash. School league tables are now familiar, such as those constructed
from the appalling MySchool website (‘supports national transparency and
accountability’ according to its front page, giving the game away). This system
constantly confronts teachers with tension between government demands for competitive
standardized testing, and the need of the students for assessment tailored to
their actual learning situations and patterns of growth.

Education systems have
been subjected to requirements imported from other industries, with little
attention to their educational effects. Competition, privatisation,
accountability, managerial prerogative and market choice are now the common
sense of corporate managers and form the dominant language of public policy, in
Australia as overseas. They have been powerfully reinforced by the
globalization agenda of the World Bank and the rich countries' economic think
tank the OECD (which now administers the PISA global testing system for schools
- how did Education Ministers let that happen?).

There is growing
evidence about the impact of new technology on teachers' work. These changes
are often hyped as modernization flowing from technological innovation. this is
of course the view of the tech companies. Computers and the internet do offer many
possibilities for enrichment of teaching and learning of new skills. Whether
these possibilities are realized is another matter. ICT in education must also
be seen in the context of changing management practices and the rise of
corporations that sell textbooks, curriculum materials, tests, journals and
management templates. There is formidable pressure here to standardize teaching
practices, discourage the messiness of experimentation and local engagement,
and re-shape teaching as a measurable technical performance rather than a
complex human encounter. A few decades ago, we laughed at the insulting idea of
a 'teacher-proof curriculum'. We should laugh no more, as current ICT and
corporate strategies make it more feasible to reduce the skills of
teachers, while still maintaining a facade of performance.

 

Careers and
lives

In education,
situations and responses change over time, sometimes quite dramatically. This
is brought out in histories of school systems, biographies of educators, and
research on teaching careers. Research about careers often suggests that
teachers move through definite stages. They are supposed to pass from initial
career choice, through initial training, to the first year out, adjusting to
the real world of teaching, developing technique and acquiring experience,
specializing, gaining advancement and promotion, and eventual retirement. These
things do happen, of course! But the closer the focus, the more complex the
changes appear, and the less fixed the stages. It would be unrealistic to tie
teacher's salaries and conditions to a rigid model of stages in career
development. We should be glad that there can be changes of direction, false
starts, experiments and unorthodox pathways in the teaching workforce.

One reason for the
complexity of careers is teachers' lives outside school. Work/life balance can
be very problematic for beginning teachers, given the pressures of the first
year out. Forming families and households may come at the same time as starting
professional life. In Australian society work/life balance is constructed
mainly as a dilemma for women, given the long-standing gender inequalities in
the load of housework and child- and elder-care (little changed even in the
COVID-19 lockdowns). We should be alert to the way apparently 'family-friendly'
policies may actually reinforce these inequalities.

Teaching as an
occupation does not escape gender divisions. Women predominate in early
childhood and primary teaching, secondary teaching is more balanced, men
predominate at the upper levels of university teaching and in senior
management. In sectors where teaching is organized by subject areas, men
predominate in physical sciences and engineering-related fields, women in
humanities, social sciences and performing arts. These gender divisions become
an equity issue within the profession if the teaching of younger children is
seen as less skilled work than the teaching of older students - for which I can
see no warrant at all - or if government concerns to boost STEM studies turn
into wage/promotion incentives.

Fifty years ago we
could have said that entry to the teaching profession in Australia was
overwhelmingly from White Anglophone backgrounds, but also that it provided
upward mobility for a significant group of working-class entrants. More
students from both Aboriginal communities and non-Anglophone migrant
communities have now come through teacher education and into the profession,
the public sector probably changing faster than the private sector. But with
the end of teaching scholarships and the rise of university fees and student
debt, the sources of recruitment may become more restricted in social-class
terms. If we value communication and sharing of experience across a diverse
population, then having a socially representative teaching workforce seems an
important goal.

 

In conclusion

Teachers as a
group, rather than individually, have a formative role in social and economic
processes. The central purpose of their labour is to help the rising generation
develop their intellectual, social, practical and creative capacities, a task
that is simultaneously vital, elusive and fantastically complex. Teachers have
to deploy a wide range of their own capacities - intellectual and emotional, manual,
creative and practical - to do the job. Though pupils encounter teachers as
individuals, the work is in fact strongly collective and powerfully shaped by
the institutional system. It is no wonder that teachers' public image is
contradictory and that governments often reach for showy short-term solutions
to tough long-term educational problems.

Teachers today have
to deal with changing technologies as well as shifting policies and management
practices. In their daily work they face the consequences of declining support
for human services, as they deal with diverse and changing school populations,
the effects of migration, economic inequality and social trauma, and the needs
in pupils' lives produced by colonization, racism, family violence,
disabilities and community conflicts. It is an impressive sign of teacher
professionalism that so much good teaching actually happens in our public schools.

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