Teachers

Why are we losing our teachers from our schools? Recently I became aware of two local teachers who are looking for other careers, careers that have nothing to do with teaching high school aged students. Both these teachers are under 30 years of age and have been teaching in schools for at least three years. One is looking at office work so there is no contact with children and parents. The other is looking at the mining industry, again so there is no contact with children and parents. Both teachers are female.

When asked why, both responded almost identically even though they are teaching at different schools and both were asked on different occasions. It was not the workload at school or the at-home planning of lessons and time that were taking their toll. Both stated it was the lack of respect shown to them by some students and parents. It was the swearing at them, the verbal abuse hurled at them, the complete disregard for instructions being given. It was the disruption to classes that affect other students, the lack of any form of responsibility being taken, the blame being placed on everyone and everything other than the students involved. It was the parents who had no control over their children at home and expected teachers to allow their children to do what they like at school but still teach the children, with no support given from home.

Some kids felt that their parents showed no interest in them or their schooling, so why should they care? The teachers experienced the heartbreak of seeing good kids change before their eyes because they started mixing with the wrong crowd, with the teachers unable to do anything to stop it from happening. The teachers were unable to turn around the bad kids so that they could make good and make something of their lives. Both teachers agreed there were good days when they walked out of the school feeling like they had made a difference in their students’ lives, but the good days were getting rare and the bad days were becoming more prevalent.

Teachers can make a huge difference in a young person’s life. There would be no-one here who could not think of a teacher who inspired them at some time of their schooling. Why have we allowed some of our children to uninspire our teachers—some to the point of leaving the profession never to return? For the past decade and a half we have spoken about the impending loss of teaching staff—the fact that 50 per cent of our teaching staff will retire in the next five years. Those next five years have been coming for 15 years, and they are here now. Teachers will be leaving en masse in the coming two to three years because they have reached retirement age, and we do not seem to be able to fill in behind them or retrain those who are retained to fill in behind them. The two teachers I have cited in this Chamber today are two such examples. The member standing before you is another.

Why have we allowed some parents and students to take away the inspirational occupation that teaching once was? Why do some parents selfishly place themselves before their children and let their children think they are an inconvenience? The answers to these questions are not simple or easy and not without their problems. But we need to ask ourselves these questions. We, as a bipartisan cohort, need to address our thinking about the future of education in this great State. Our public schools always have done, and will continue to do, fantastic things. They do so with the support of governments and school communities, and sometimes in spite of governments. But our public schools and our teachers need bipartisan government support more than ever.

It is for that reason I speak of the two teachers I met recently in my community: good teachers, good girls, good kids, good young people who are trained and who want to make a difference in young people’s lives but who feel that it is just all too hard and there are easier ways to make a dollar. Such teachers are leaving the system at a time when we need them probably more than we ever have. The future of our children, our State and our nation is based on education. Without that foundation and grounding in education, we will not be the great and prosperous place we could be. To that end, I bring to the attention of the House the problems confronting two local teachers in my area. I hope that we can all work together to produce a better outcome for them and for others.