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Monday, 12 September 2016

In defence of public educators

I foolishly got caught up reading a stupid 'public or private' school debate on Facebook (never read the comments, people). I was offended on behalf of the excellent educators at my child's school when I read someone's comment that because the private schools teachers were paid more, they were more dedicated.

I went to a private school. I opted for public but had some fears, which quickly proved unfounded. Here is what I have found. Once you hit year 9 (some of you may know the homework becomes an issue in year 9 for some kids who grow too big for their teenage boots), I had a number of teachers ringing me every few days so that an issue in April was resolved by parent teacher interviews in June. The marks that had dropped to an all time low in April were back up in 80%+ in that short time and back in the 90's by the end of the year.

Last year I made a passing comment at the parent cocktail party to a teacher who my child had for Science in Year 7 and had again in Year 10, mentioning there'd been a lack of handing in homework the previous year and she should feel free to call me should it appear to happen again. An assignment was due the day my child was off competing in a Regional, and due to a technical error, the teacher hadn't received the assignment. She rang me at 9.40 to ask me about it - a brief discussion later she worked out it had gone into the junk folder, however, I was impressed that 7 months later she'd remembered our brief conversation and acted on it in such a timely fashion.

When the children perform in plays or concerts, there are many teachers there, even though they aren't required to be there as it isn't their subject. They clearly like these children, and have a genuine interest in them and their achievements.

At parent teacher last year, I was ticked off quite sternly by a Maths teacher for trying to push my child into a level of maths that would not suit them. The fact that she felt the need to put my child's best interest ahead of pleasing the parent meant a lot to me. And she was right. She knew my child's ability better than I did.

The teachers knew my child well enough to ask questions on their subject selection like "You know that class is at 7.30 am. Will you be able to make that work?" (even though my child arrives on time, mornings are not their strong suit) and "You know you'll have to give a lot of speeches. Will you be okay doing that?" At one point in the queue for an interview, a teacher came over and chatted to my child then handed them a usb. Curious, I questioned it. The teacher was the careers advisor, the usb was music that he thought my child would like to play in their garage band - it had stemmed from a conversation they had when organising the work experience. These things are all small, but reflect how engaged they are with my child.

After the Year 9 parent teacher, I wrote a letter to the school about how impressed I was at the dedication of the educators. Very few even needed to look up my child's marks to know their progress. They challenged my child to improve. They were open and frank and in the class where the homework had been lacking, the teacher focused solely on the rapidly improved mark and how there was still plenty of room for improvement now that the work was being done.

The school offers amazing sport opportunities, overseas trips and ski camps. It offers all the normal debate, photography, orchestra as extra curricular but so much more. You as a student are encouraged to decide what you want to do and get the clubs in motion. Facilities are made available and teachers, of their own good will, commit themselves to help make it happen.

As we head into the HSC, I'll get a figure that gives my child a score on their education. However, I believe a lot of schooling is up to the child and what they choose to do with the opportunities offered. Regardless of the mark we get, I have no regrets for the choice I struggled with all those years ago, I think it's been a successful education. I can't fault the teachers and for my child, it's been an excellent place for those formative years. I don't believe they would have got a better mark elsewhere and I'll never know if they would have been happier elsewhere with other teachers and students, however, I think school has been a good experience for them, they've always happily attended and they've been stretched and given responsibilities that have helped them grow.

I agree with the comment that public school teachers are underpaid and public schools are underfunded. It is a disgrace what the government has done to the educational system. However I strongly disagree that the teachers at public school aren't dedicated. From what I've seen, and my own personal experience, these teachers are dedicated despite the lack of pay, and perhaps that makes them focus on the child as an individual all the more. I'm not saying public school teachers are better than private school teachers. I'm sure private school teachers go the extra mile too. I'm merely defending the faultless dedication of the educators in the public system, based on my personal experience.

To the public educators that have to put their hand in their own pocket for chalk, that stay longer hours to help at the homework club or study help, who listen and engage with the kid going off the track, who watch the performances, who give up their free time to help with an extra curricular club, who make public school a better place for all, I salute you. You tireless effort does not go unnoticed.

Thank you.


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11 comments:

  1. I think it really just depends on the school, and the staff. I happen to really like the school that my boys go too. They do well there, and it's diverse in cultural backgrounds. A friend of mine had issues with her son there though. Her son struggles with melt downs. He is on the spectrum. Anyhow he moved schools, and his mom was an assistant teacher. He did better at the other school. Did he do better because his mom was there, or better because it was a different staff that was better trained for kids on the spectrum? I have no clue what the answer is. My point is that every schools has its perks and its downfalls.

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    1. I think a lot depends on the student. I know kids that have gone to a pretty average school and excelled and kids that have gone to one of the top schools and literally failed the HSC. A lot comes down to the child and their happiness. And I agree, a teacher/school can be excellent for your child, and terrible for another. Money that they're paid doesn't come into it.

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  2. Thanks for taking the time to write a positive piece on behalf of the teachers at your kid's school! I knew two boys (brothers) here in South Africa who went to a private school and later were moved to a public school. What I noticed was that the one brother had thrived at the private school while the other brother thrived at the public school. Each child is unique. What works for the one, might not work for the other. Take care!
    Tina - Amanda's Books and More

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    1. I really love my child's school but when it was time for number 2 to go to high school, I toured all the schools again because I was looking for something else for him. The biggest mistake parents make is assuming a 'good school' is the best place for all their children. What's good for one is terrible for another. You need to keep looking and assess to find a good fit for your child. And that makes the best school. Your story confirms exactly what I've noticed through life...but in a more succinct example.

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  3. My kids have experienced both. The Catholic system for primary school and high school, and now my daughter is at public school for years 11 and 12. I have loved every school they have attended. Each school has had extremely dedicated teachers, well thought out systems and great admin staff. But then again, I sought out those schools based on their values and their principal. I met the principal in every case and if I found that the principal was someone to "light a fire within" then I figured the teachers would also be "the light a fire within" kind of teachers I was looking for. The ability to embrace strengths rather than highlight weaknesses. All that sort of thing.

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  4. Bless you for this most supportive public education post...and I also agree that schools need to be sorted for the kids' needs to be best met!! Thanks on behalf of so many public school educators who do their best every single day!!

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  5. Public education outperforms private in all the recent studies so it was a no-brainer for me. Why work myself to the bone or go into debt for a lesser result? I have nothing but praise for pub ed in general and have come across some phenomenal educators!

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  6. I think like everything it depends on the school and therefor the staff at that school. Our children were publicly educated for primary school and now attend private high schools and we couldn't be happier with both.

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  7. I'm married to a teacher at a public high school and he does go the extra mile to help his kids. Most of his colleagues do the same. I was educated in the Catholic system and was hesitant for my kids to attend public school. But their school is caring and accepting and have created a beautiful community. I'm a definite champion now of public education.

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  8. It was interesting to read your thoughts! I have experienced 6 different public schools and 1 private school between my 5 kids! We have had mixed experiences some being great and some being mediocre. The ones that have been the best are the small schools ( my youngest two have a total of 70 kids in their suburban school) and the performing arts (public) school. The private school was not worth the money, the child who went their is exceeding at her public high school that she attends now. Thanks again for your thoughts!

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  9. With the twins just starting Kindy this year, I've just started to realise how amazingly dedicated our pubic school teachers are.
    I started the year with a few issues with one of the boys' teachers but as we almost hit the end of Term 3, I'm starting to see where her approach is actually working for my boy. Sometimes these teachers just know, don't they?

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