Who will teach Australia’s children?

Australia demands a qualified, dedicated and capable teaching workforce to prepare its youth for tomorrow, but will this workforce comprise of long-serving, permanent teachers, or will it rely on an increasing number of casual teachers in the near future?

Teachers are quitting the workforce. Countless reports indicate that up to 50% of teachers leave the occupation within the first five years. Exhaustion, disillusionment, low pay, long hours, poor student behaviour, parental pressure and increasing administrative demands are driving many young people away from the profession.

Some of these teachers might take time off to study, find a new occupation, travel or simply recover from the trauma of modern-day teaching. Many of them may also return to teaching on a casual basis because they still have bills to pay, and because they wish to remain in touch with education with thoughts of returning to the job full-time.

Casual teachers earn a reasonable daily rate and are not burdened with the same pressures of daily planning, preparation and marking. Nor do they have to complete reports, deal with parents, attend every staff meeting or collect data on all of their students. Essentially, casual teachers are not requited to complete the endless administrative tasks which drove many of them away from the occupation in the first place.

The result could see an increasing number of Australian school students taught by casual teachers.

Is casual teaching easier?

No. Casual teaching may require less administration outside of the classroom, but the demands in the classroom are greater. An Aussie tradition is to ‘muck up’ when the regular teacher is away, so the casual teacher deals with more challenging behaviour from students. Sometimes it’s an absolute nightmare. Casual teachers often accept this trade off in return for the chance to do their job, get paid and do something they could never do as a full-time teacher – leave the job at work.

Why is casualisation a problem?

Casualisation is akin to high rates of teacher turnover. Students see different teachers regularly, and each teacher has a different personality and teaching style. Teachers new to the class may not know exactly what was covered, or how it was taught, in the previous class, and will spend time catching up the previous lesson – or simply learning the names of the students.

In addition, each individual teacher may not be a subject expert. Schools attempt to match casual teachers to the subject in which they are trained, but this isn’t always possible, Consequently, the students are supervised but not necessarily taught.

The greatest disadvantage of the casualisation of the teaching workforce is the loss of a personal connection.

‘Teachers teach people not subjects’

This saying reminds teachers that they must see their pupils as people before they regard them as learners of a particular subject. All teachers accept this role. It is the role of mentor, older sibling, counsellor, confidante, role model and, sometimes, parent. This connection with a student can only be established over time and after regular meaningful contact, and this connection is very difficult to establish as a casual teacher.

Also, if more and more teachers are casual, who will fill the roles of home-room tutor, year co-ordinator or subject co-ordinator? The aforementioned positions all entail a degree of personal mentoring and counselling of students which is vital for their general wellbeing and academic performance. If more teachers are casual, fewer will accept the responsibility of ensuring the emotional wellbeing of the students.

Casual teachers move from class to class, subject to subject and school to school. An increase in casual teachers across Australia will leave a dearth of trusted adults in schools and increase the pressure on primary school students who are developing the foundations of their education, and on secondary school students who are negotiating adolescence.

Special needs

Students with special needs will also suffer in a casualised school system. Students with special needs require individual activities or teaching strategies, and the most effective strategies are developed over time and after consultation with support teachers, the student, parents, special needs experts and the full-time teacher. A casual teacher simply cannot cater for the individual needs of every student in a class they have never met. It’s impossible.

How can this be prevented?

The best way to prevent the casualisation of the teaching workforce is to keep teachers in the teaching profession. Fortunately, the methods required to achieve this are not at all complicated.

Pay teachers more

This demand is made and ignored year after year. Even after the enormous pressure placed on teachers during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, teachers in Australia still have not been promised a pay rise.

Teachers are lowly paid. Lowly paid in comparison to the hours worked and the pressure of their occupation. Lowly paid according to the importance of their role in society. A mid-level teacher in NSW earns around $80,000 per year; the same amount earned by some Sydney bus drivers. Poor wages drive many teachers away from the occupation.

Low wages also create problems for schools. Lowly-paid teachers cannot afford to live in expensive suburbs, even if renting. Thus, teachers working at schools in wealthy suburbs face a very long commute from more affordable suburbs, and schools sometimes struggle to find staff on a regular basis. Teachers could live closer to school, but their meagre wages will disappear before they can even dream of buying their own home or living without financial stress.

Increasing teacher’s salaries would also improve the standing of the occupation in Australian society. Teaching is a profession, but is paid much less than other professions, and is thus regarded as inferior. Australia is a capitalist society and the worth of a job is linked to its salary. Teachers in Australia are respectful, but not respected. In a capitalist society, teachers also have bills to pay and should be able to do so comfortably in return for educating the next generation of the country.

Fund schools adequately

Schools are not funded sufficiently in Australia. Government schools lack resources to provide a variety of meaningful activities to students, or even to teach the students basic skills and knowledge. This places more stress on teachers and forces many of them to buy essential resources out of their own pockets, dipping into their meagre wages.

Funding schools adequately would improve academic outcomes and in turn improve job satisfaction among teachers. This would keep many of them in the occupation for longer.

Stand up for teachers

Society as a whole needs to stand up for teachers. Not just through uttering vague statements reminding teachers that they are ‘valued’ and ‘important’. Teachers are too smart to be fooled by empty words. Society, education departments, individual schools and sometimes individual principals need to stand up for teachers.

Teachers need to be defended from parents. Many parents now attack teachers every time their child is reprimanded or punished, or when they receive unsatisfactory grades. These attacks are usually verbal, but often physical. While parents of the past would support the actions of teachers, now they attack teachers. Unfortunately, even the most ill-informed and unreasonable parents wield enormous power in schools and can destroy a teacher’s career, as well as their general wellbeing.

Principles, schools and education departments need to stop giving in to parents.

In addition, teachers need to be defended in their interactions with students. Every year, the daily behaviour of students seems to worsen. Every year, the power of teachers to deal with that behaviour is diminished. Defending teachers does not mean bringing back capital punishment. Never. It means allowing educated, trained and experienced teachers to take reasonable action to hold children accountable for their behaviour and to stop them acting in a way that destroys their own learning and the learning of other students in the class.

All of these measures would keep teachers in the profession for longer, and prevent the casualisation of the workforce.

Paper work

Paperwork is a frustration for every occupation, including teaching. The administrative load is increasing and falls under two categories: data collection and self-defence.

Data collection is ‘on trend’ in modern education. It is not a trend initiated by teachers. It was initiated by bureaucrats. Teachers are now forced to collect and report data on student attendance, behaviour, exam results, assessment results, homework, classwork…on top of their daily tasks of planning, preparation, marking, student feedback, playground duty…

A great surge in administrative tasks has created an enormous workload for teachers and has not helped a single child learn. The data goes to schools, educations or government departments, and appears to exist only to bolster a politician’s press release.

Data is also a necessary weapon of self-defence. Teachers are forced to justify every action they take in dealing with students and parents. Teachers are filling out endless forms and databases to justify every action they take at school in fear of criticism from students or parents. Data entry allows teachers to pre-empt complaints from students or parents which could see them reprimanded, suspended or even sacked.

If a secondary student refuses to read the set text in their English class, the teacher must make a note. The teacher must prove that they have advised the student to read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, because the class if studying ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. When the student proudly and publicly states that they are never going to read the novel, the teacher must create written evidence that they did everything possible to encourage the student to read the novel. When the student flies into a mad panic three days before the due date of the assessment task for ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ the teacher must provide yet more written evidence that they offered support to the student to help them pass an assessment for a novel they refused to read. The teacher must then use this written evidence to defend themselves when the parents complain to the school that their child is not able to complete the assessment task. The teacher must use the written evidence to defend themselves when the parents demand extra tuition for their child in the teacher’s lunch time or free period, so that the student who refused to read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ can pass the assessment task about ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. One wonders if this is what Harper Lee had in mind when she wrote the classic?

Australia faces the real possibility of a casualised teaching workforce and further erosion of overall academic standards. Teachers must be enticed to stay in the occupation, and this can be done through increasing teachers’ salaries and school funding, standing up for teachers, stripping parents of the power they wield over schools and removing the administrative load forced upon modern teachers.

Image: Element5digital

Don’t ban the mullet.

A private secondary school in Sydney recently banned the mullet haircut. The controversial move provoked news articles and comments throughout Australia, most of which failed to address the effect on one group in particular – teachers. Waverley College became the latest private school to ban its students from sporting the iconic hairstyle because it was deemed inappropriate, and this move will simply create more stress for teachers.

What’s a mullet?

The mullet is ‘long at the back and short at the sides’ and is also described as ‘business at the front, party out the back’. It is a distinct hairstyle that was hugely popular in the 1980s and is trending once more. Boys at the exclusive school in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, as well as other private schools throughout the country, are following the fashion of the day as well as emulating their footballing heroes who have sparked a resurgence in the hairstyle.

How will teachers suffer?

Rules have to be enforced, and teachers have to enforce them.

How are rules enforced?

Teachers usually give students a verbal warning. Many teenagers ignore these. Teachers then give a written warning. Students often ignore these. Already, a situation of conflict has been established between the student and the teacher.

Teachers then contact the parents, to ask for their assistance in enforcing the school rues. In the past, most parents supported schools and teachers in the management of a child’s behaviour and school work, but not these days. Many parents not only fail to support teachers but always side with their children, some even go as far as verbally, socially or physically attacking teachers.

Remember, parents know their sons have mullets. Parents also know the school rules, but sent their sons to school with a haircut that the school deems inappropriate. Parents also sign up to the rules of the school when they enrol their children, and are fully aware that strict adherence to grooming and uniform standards is a tradition these schools inherited from the British public school system.

Teachers are not likely to find much support from parents. If parents fail to support the school, the onus for removing the mullet thus falls entirely upon the teacher.

It’s not a mullet

When is a mullet not a mullet?

When the student tries to argue their way out of a haircut. Students are likely to argue that their hairstyle is actually called something else and on that technicality, they cannot be forced to cut their hair. They will find proof on instagram, from a barber or another source to prove their particular hairstyle is not a mullet, and thus they cannot be forced to cut it off. Private schools are breeding grounds for lawyers and politicians.

Teachers will have to listen to this argument, before preparing lessons, before marking exams and assessments, before writing exams, before attending meetings, before writing reports, before counselling students, before protecting students from cyberbullying, before teaching students road safety, before keeping students off drugs and alcohol, before doing playground duty, before coaching a sports team…

Furthermore, the school will be forced to write a definition of a mullet. Teachers will be forced to draft legal-style documents outlining precisely what constitutes a mullet and how it differs from other hairstyles. This all takes time.

All of this while solving the literacy crisis in Australia.

All of this while solving the numeracy crisis in Australia.

Come back when you’ve cut your hair

Another disciplinary technique is to suspend the student until the hair is returned to an acceptable style. Many teenagers would see this as a reward rather than a punishment. Parents won’t be happy, because they’ll have to supervise the child at home, and because they’re not getting what they paid for. Teachers also suffer. Teachers will still have to modify and send work home to that student, as well as providing feedback and ensuring the student does not suffer academically. Thus, even though the student knowingly breaks the rules, and the parents knew their child was breaking the rules, the teacher is still expected to ensure the student learns as much as they would have if they had not been suspended.

Human rights abuse

Students will argue that it is a violation of their human rights. This is not a joke. Modern-day school students invoke their human rights in response to the most minor incidents at schools, and it is not fanciful to predict that a boy at Waverley College will argue that cutting off his mullet is a violation of his human rights.

In the past, teachers could have told the boy he was being ridiculous, and to stop complaining and accept the consequences of his actions. But not anymore. Accusations of human rights violations, even regarding a haircut, must be taken seriously. This means more time, more meetings, more paperwork and more scrutiny for teachers. Meanwhile, the boy retains his mullet.

Teachers will be forced to refer to the definition of a mullett, which they drafted, in order to protect themselves from the very real consequences of being accused of violating a child’s human rights.

Many would argue that fashion is the biggest loser every time someone sports a mullett, but when that mullett is worn by a school student, teachers are the biggest losers.

If you’ve read this far, you might hink this is ridiculous, that this is exaggerated, that this would never happen. It does. This is what teachers are forced to tolerate on a daily basis in Australian schools. Creating another rule in response to a fashion trend is simply dumping more work on overworked and underpaid teachers.

Throughout this entire process, the private school is protecting its image, the parents are protecting their children, and the students are protecting their hairstyle. Who is protecting the teachers?

Image:www.nypost.com

Thousands of NSW teachers issued with fines.

Thousands of NSW school teachers have been issued with fines on the eve of the summer holidays after being caught committing heinous acts of treason.

Every registered primary and secondary school teacher has received a fine of at least $100 from the NSW government, which must be paid in order for teachers to keep their jobs in 2021. It is believed similar fines have been issued to teachers throughout the country.

The penalty must be paid to a branch of the NSW government calling itself the New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA), which then issues teachers with something called Accreditation. Without Accreditation, teachers cannot work in any recognised educational institution in the state.

NESA stated the fines were issued in retaliation for teachers committing crimes against the nation.

“Teachers are being punished for educating the next generation of Australians,” announced a spokesperson.

“They have done so willingly and ceaselessly, and against the wishes of the current state and federal governments. An educated population is harder to control. An educated population would never have elected a failed marketing man as prime minister. An educated population would never fall for Scott Morrison’s marketing spin. An educated population would not swallow Murdoch propaganda, and an educated population would never excuse the corruption of ‘poor Gladys’. For their continued insistence on educating the populace, teachers have been issued with fines.”

The punishment does not end with fines, however.

Once the fines are paid, teachers must then participate in mandated professional development sessions throughout the year. Most of these sessions will take place during teachers’ free time, and while some of the sessions are free, many also incur a charge. Thus, on top of their annual fine, lowly paid teachers are also forced to spend their hard earned money on work-related training with little or no tangible benefit to them or the children they teach.

NESA rejected claims that Accreditation simply adds another layer of paperwork to an already over beauracratised occupation.

“Without the processing of mandated fees and professional development sessions, our staff would not have any boxes to tick, and without boxes to tick, they would be at a loss.”

NESA also argues that Accreditation brings the teaching profession in line with other occupations such as law, medicine, and finance, which all have membership organisations upholding professional standards. Excited teachers then asked if teaching salaries would now be commensurate with those professions, but the government replied,

“No, that would be UnAustralian.”

Image: Element5Digital

Australian teachers are respectable, but not respected.

The occupation of teaching is respectable but not respected in Australia. The nation’s teachers are considered to be law abiding, trustworthy, patient, kind, reliable, dedicated and altruistic, but their profession is not afforded the same status as other professions.

Australians collectively adhere to the adage,

If you can, do, if you can’t, teach.

There is an underlying assumption that English teachers are all failed writers, Maths teachers are failed engineers and Art teachers are failed artists. PE Teachers are failed athletes, and none of the teachers could ‘hack it in the real world’. Teaching as a profession, especially at primary or high school level, is perceived to be well below other professions such as medicine, law, finance and IT.

Academia and intellect have never been highly valued in Australia. The country’s national heroes are athletes, farmers, soldiers and lifeguards, despite the fact that Australians have been behind inventions such as WiFi technology, the cochlear implant, the black box fight recorder, spray-on skin, the electronic pacemaker and permaculture…

Better you than me…

Australians constantly remind teachers of the challenges of their profession with remarks such as these. Aussies tell teachers, ‘I don’t know how you do it’, or ‘what you do is so wonderful’ – but underneath all of these statements is the message,

I’m glad you work as a teacher, so that I don’t have to.

Parents themselves will tell teachers,

you must have the patience of a saint‘ to put up with teenagers, even when it is their own teenager who most tests the teacher’s patience. These are all nice things to say, but none of them convey any sense of respect.

The land Down Under also has a famous disrespect for authority, including teachers. Secondary school teachers understand this and know that earning the respect of their pupils in the early stages of the school year is imperative. This is forgivable – students are children. A lack of respect from adults indicates underlying cultural issues in Australia, in which a profession so vital to the prosperity of the nation is severely undervalued. It is, however, possible to transform the respectable profession into a respected profession, in order to benefit teachers and the nation as a whole.

Pay the teachers or pay the price

Australian teachers need to be altruistic, because they earn so little. In NSW, the average, experienced teacher earns about $80,000 per year. This is a decent wage when compared to other occupations, but not when compared to other professions such as law, medicine and IT, and not when considering that a public bus driver in Sydney can earn the same amount.

Salaries must increase in order to attract the best and brightest graduates to the profession. Society complains that many young teachers lack basic numeracy and literacy skills, and that criticism is often justified. The best way to attract more capable graduates to the profession is to raise salaries. Don’t forget, Australia is an expensive country, and a capitalist country in which income determines the worth of an occupation, and in which income determines a person’s ability to enjoy a decent standard of living.

The country is already paying the price for a lack of respect for teachers. Literacy and numeracy rates among children continue to fall, and the country trails other comparable nations on standardised education outcomes. University undergraduates display poor command of literacy and numeracy, and Australia’s youth will be competing with young people from all over the world for employment in a globalised world.

What’s wrong with a country in which those educating the next generation will struggle to buy their own house?

If Australia is to compete as a nation at international level, it must give more money and more respect to teachers.

Parents

Parents used to support teachers, now they attack them. This paradigm shift has been great, but recent. Modern parents will almost always side with their children and will blame teachers for their child’s poor behaviour, poor work ethic and poor grades. Some of the treatment of teachers is shocking, and it points to a diminishing respect for the teaching profession.

Data collection

Data collection is the new fad in education. Politicians and bureaucrats demand more and more data collection from teachers. It is mostly unnecessary and adds more paperwork to overworked teachers, who then can’t concentrate on teaching their students.

Data collection implies a lack of respect for teachers. It implies that teachers don’t know the individual and collective strengths and weaknesses of their students. NAPLAN is a classic example. It is a very time consuming task designed to show teachers and schools where their students are succeeding and failing. The bureaucrats ignored the fact that teachers already know this. Furthermore, excessive data collection provides no educational benefits, and exists primarily to provide politicians with statistics for their press releases. Most other professions would have an administrative assistant to carry out the same administrative tasks.

Ironically, Australian society shows little respect for teachers, but charges them with enormous responsibility. The curriculum encompasses everything from English and Maths to driver education, drug and alcohol education, cyber safety, anti-bullying, and so much more. On the one hand, it is natural to deliver these lessons in a place where young people are assembled en-masse, but how much of this can, and should, be taught by parents? To understand the enormous scope of the modern curriculum, look at the topics covered in the PD/H/PE subject.

Politicians and bureaucrats must take blame for this also. When a teenager dies of ecstasy, a new drug education program is demanded. If a child drowns in a backyard pool, a new water safety program is demanded. When a new educational program is demanded, it is implied that existing education programs are insufficient, and that teachers are not doing their job.

Bleeding heart lefties

Another criticism of teachers is that they are now all bleeding heart lefties, and that a left wing ideology has taken over Australian schools. Conservative voices love to make this claim.

If you want less left wing influence in schools, pay teachers more. People enter teaching mainly through a sense of altruism – to serve children, to serve society and to make the world a better place. Altruistic people are not motivated by money or wealth and their world view is thus likely to favour the common good and the health of the society, and not the individual. If conservatives want less left wing influence in schools, they could pay teachers what they are worth, and perhaps attract graduates who are currently chasing money in other professions and have a different world view.

That said, most secondary teachers would be very surprised if any of their students listened to them long enough to become ‘bleeding heart lefties’.

Australia now belongs to a global community. It must compete with other nations like it never has before and it’s prosperity depends greatly on the health of its education system. A strong education system is comprised of teachers who are not only respectable, but respected.

Image: Element5Digital

Teachers face this every day.

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Australians reacted in horror to social media footage showing citizens refusing to obey coronavirus social distancing rules. The perpetrators demonstrated rudeness, arrogance, insolence and self-entitlement, and blatantly disobeyed authorities and expert advice which placed themselves and others at risk. Australian school teachers face this kind of behaviour every day.

I don’t consent to being punished

One woman actually said this to police in one of the viral videos. Australians mocked the woman for holding such a ridiculous view of law and order and the new health measures. This attitude is not entirely new however. Australian students, and many of their parents, have created an atmosphere in schools in which students feel they have the right to ignore teachers or punishments if they do not consent, or if the punishment doesn’t suit them.

“I told my daughter not to do the detention.”

A parent said this to me. No hint of irony or sarcasm. Her year 7 daughter had been repeatedly warned about her misbehaviour and defiance which was preventing her and her classmates from learning. The student refused to do numerous detentions, and she told me she would not do any in the future. She accompanied her response with a smirk that would have made Scott Morrison proud.

How can she get away with this?

Because her mother told her not to do the detention.

Why?

Because the daughter didn’t want to do the punishment. They kind of missed the point – no one is supposed to want or like a punishment.

Teachers have been stripped of their ability to manage student behaviour in schools. Parents and students now dictate behaviours to teachers, and schools largely acquiesce, partly because this is the atmosphere that Australia as a nation has created in our school system, and partly because this was a fee-paying school in which parents believe they have unlimited power. As student behaviour worsens, teachers’ power decreases.

Another student once refused to do a lunchtime detention, but only because two other teachers had already given him detention for the same lunch break. I suggested he hire a secretary.

Casual defiance

During the early days of the pandemic in Australia, many citizens blatantly ignored or disobeyed police. When the first lockdown was implemented, police patrolled public spaces to enforce social distancing rules. News reports carried endless stories of everyday Aussies blatantly ignoring police, refusing to obey directives, answering back to police and arguing with the officers. Yes, arguing with police. The citizens were in the wrong, the police were enforcing rules designed to protect the general public, but people flat out refused to obey.

The citizens weren’t committing a crime as such. Their actions were minor compared to serious crimes, but they were disobeying police. Teachers are subjected to this behaviour every day. Students are asked or told to correct minor behaviours and so often they refuse, comply reluctantly or slowly, answer back, argue or reply with a smart, arrogant comment.

The casual defiance greets teachers every single day. It is enormously frustrating and draining for teachers to have to put up with this unnecessary behaviour every few minutes of every day.

By the way, is anyone else concerned that everyday Aussies are blatantly disobeying police and getting away with it?

Whingers

Australians love the term Whingeing Pom, which implies that English people complain about everything. Australians now whinge as much as any pasty Pom.

Australians are complaining that they are forced to wear a mask or walk the same streets in their own neighbourhood every day in order to curb the spread of the disease. Their ancestors lived through world wars and the depression, but they whinge about having to wear a mask outside. Australia’s penchant for whingeing is no more evident than in a school classroom.

Whinge your way to better grades.

Students no longer accept poor grades. If they don’t get the marks they want, many students complain. Unfortunately, even the most incoherent, meaningless, poorly written work must be re-assessed. Teachers are not allowed to tell students that their work simply isn’t good enough, even if it is clearly below the accepted minimum standard for that stage of education. Given the state of literacy in this country, some work should be sent straight to the recycling bin

Students have realised that they can whinge and complain their way to better marks. Students and/or parents complain, behind the teacher’s back, to the head of department or to the principal. The teacher is hauled before the head of department or principal, as if they are in trouble. The essay/ piece of work is given to another teacher to assess and in most cases the mark will be improved. It might only go from a C to a C plus, and no further, but the student wins. The teacher’s professional integrity is shattered, and their relationship with their colleague who re-marked the work could be damaged. Teachers will often give a higher mark to a re-assessed paper because for them it is not worth the hassle of maintaining the original mark.

This attitude is frighteningly obvious in the allocation of special consideration for students sitting the Higher School Certificate (HSC), the final exams in NSW. Hundreds of students, especially from private schools, are being granted extra time, breaks or other allowances to make their exams easier, and thus increase their grades. Many students should not qualify. They have exploited a loophole in the system and are benefiting.

The Boy in the Blazer

A classic example of a student who had whinged his way to special consideration in the HSC was the boy in the blazer. He attended a private school in Sydney, and his blazer was full of ‘letters’. Letters on a blazer are the private school way of honouring school achievement, and consist of an embroidered list on the student’s blazer. This boy had a long list of ‘letters’ on his blazer as a ‘prefect’ and ‘captain’ and member of various sporting teams. His demeanour suggested no learning difficulty. Yet, this ‘super’ student still needed extra time and other allowances to complete his exams.

Don’t give an E

I was told never to give a E. Using the scale of A,B,C,D,E, with E being the lowest, I was told to never give an E, because it was too much hassle for me as the teacher. If I had given E, I would spend hours of my free time justifying the grade, and the grade would probably be changed anyway.

Australians are whinging their way to better marks. They’re also whinging their way to a future of illiteracy.

Shameless and fearless

The people disobeying police also appear to have no shame or fear. They broadcast their disobedience and law breaking, and usually their un-masked face, on their own social media channels. They are either as stupid as a first-grade footballer, or absolutely convinced that they will not be punished.

They are not afraid of consequences.

In one school at which I taught, graffiti was a huge problem. You must be thinking, wouldn’t it be great if you could find out who was doing the graffiti, so you could punish the accordingly and stop it from happening. Wouldn’t it be great if you could put on your detective hat and determine through stealth who had applied the abstract tag or piece to the wall. It would be like uncovering the identity of Banksy. Except these students weren’t Banksy – they would graffiti their own initials. Everyone knew exactly who was guilty. The students had no fear or shame, however, because they were never punished.

A violation of human rights

The Bunnings video.

Another video showed a woman berating lowly-paid staff at hardware store Bunnings. Bunnings recently introduced a rule requiring every customer in Victoria to wear a face mask. No mask – no entry. The woman claimed that it was her right not to wear a mask, and that forcing her to wear a mask, or barring her entry, was a violation of her human rights.

Why is it that so many Australian coronavirus controversies have occurred at a Bunnings?

People the world over are complaining that the COVID-19 rules violate their human rights. The cult of the individual, to which these people subscribe, and for which we can thank the USA, has convinced these people that their individual rights are more important than the wellbeing of society, and that any action which prevents them from doing what they want to do is a violation of their human rights.

The dirty kitchen

I once taught at a boarding school. My role included supervising secondary boys in their dorm rooms, including the small kitchen they could use for snacks and supper. Teenage boys have a famously large appetite so bed-time snacks were common. The boys knew they had to clean up after themselves.

One night, one boy had finished his snack and was walking out of the kitchen without cleaning up his mess. I told him to clean it up. He refused. I insisted he clean it up, because that was the rule. I also insisted because the student was new, and was attempting to get away with disobeying every teacher in the school. He had so far ticked many of the teachers off his list, including the headmaster, which was rather disconcerting. I refused to give in to this deliberate act of disobedience, and a tense situation ensued. I did not raise my voice. I did not touch or approach the student. I simply used the broken record technique which has served teachers well throughout the ages. The headmaster heard what was happening and tried to help. Ironically, the boy ignored the headmaster and eventually listened to me and cleaned up his mess, before threatening all manner of harm on me.

I was later warned about my actions by the headmaster. He told me, with a straight face, that when I insisted on the student cleaning up his mess, I was violating the boy’s human rights. I’ll remember that next time someone asks me to clean the kitchen.

In that case, if you’ve ever collected garbage, worked as a cleaner or changed a baby’s nappy, are you a victim of human rights abuse?

Time wasting

Don’t forget, this behaviour is an enormous time waster.

Every COVID-19 related warning, arrest, fine or action has to be filed by police. This involves paperwork and man hours to process. Every time a person refuses to wear a mask or social distance and accept the subsequent punishment, they are wasting police time. One example circulating the media involved a lawyer for the anti-masker attending the police station in a balaclava to issue some form of legal proceedings against police on behalf of his client. His client was clearly in the wrong and clearly has no case, but the system is required to process the legal proceedings.

Teachers are also subject to enormous time wasting by students and parents who refuse to accept the justifiable actions of the teachers or the school. Every student or parental complaint has to be documented. Every act of student misbehaviour has to be documented. Modern day teachers spend so much of their time logging student misbehaviour in order to satisfy bureaucratic requirements and to cover their own backs that they are left with little to time to plan, prepare and teach.

Powerless

A lot of the responses to the videos on social media asked;

Why do police put up with this? 

A lot of people also don’t understand why teachers put up with bad behaviour every single day.

They have no choice.

The authority of teachers is being stripped away year by year, and the list of prohibited punishments grows longer every year. Students know this, and canny teenagers realise they are unlikely to face consequences for most forms of misbehaviour. Teachers are now paranoid that a punishment will result in an accusation of mistreatment from the student or parent. Worse still, that complaint is likely to be listened to. A complaint, no matter how unjustified, can these days cost a teacher their job or career.

Are police similarly constrained? I’ve never worked in the police or law enforcement so I can’t say, but are they under similar instructions to tread carefully with offenders? The social media videos show a lot of police copping a lot of abuse from people in the wrong. We certainly have to congratulate the police, and teachers, for keeping their cool in these situations.

Self-entitlement

Did you see the video of the young woman driving through a Melbourne border checkpoint? It made the news and did the rounds on social media – mainly because the woman in question posted it on her own facebook account.

The woman refused to cooperate with police then drove through the checkpoint, before police could decide whether she had a right to pass through the checkpoint. Her manner was rude, insolent and arrogant towards police, and she refused to do anything police asked her to do. She then drove off laughing and celebrating her ‘victory’. She revealed her identity on social media, and had to know that police would take down her number plate.

This is typical of the sense of self-entitlement that many young Australians feel, and typical of the behaviour directed at teachers on a daily basis.

Authorities claimed the woman “…deliberately attempted to cause issue for police…”. Countless school students deliberately cause issues for teachers, for the fun of it. This destroys the learning of other students, and in the case of subjects like manual arts, technology or sport, puts everyone in physical danger.

“Teenagers are disobedient, it’s your job to discipline them”

I was told this by the mother of a girl whose blatant disobedience was ruining my year 10 English class. She forgot that first and foremost its the job of parents to discipline their children, something she had failed to do for the last 16 years.

Just because teachers DO put up with this behaviour, doesn’t mean they SHOULD. In countries with high levels of academic achievement, teachers are regarded as scholars, and spend much less time dealing with behavioural issues. Meanwhile, Australia continues to fall behind.

Just like the anti-maskers or COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, the actions of disobedience ruin things for everyone else. Anti-maskers put other people at risk of contracting a deadly disease. Disobedient students prevent other students from learning.

Are you saying school is all about discipline and punishment?

No.

School is for learning. Without behaviour management, or discipline, teaching and learning cannot occur. Literacy and numeracy rates continue to fall across the nation, and poor student behaviour is one of the main reasons. Not the only reason, but a significant reason. There are many different ways to ensure students behave, and corporal punishment is not one of them, despite what some people might say.

Are you saying shop staff, police and medical staff should put up with this behaviour?

Absolutely not. Low-paid  shop workers, like those at Bunnings, as well as police, ambulance drivers and other front line workers, should never have to put up with this behaviour. It is disgraceful and it highlights many of the underlying faults in Australian society.

Why is it such a big deal?

It is harming students, teachers and the nation.

Disobedient, rude, selfish, arrogant and entitled students are on the rise, and they are ruining the education of the good students. The endless defiance of students is driving good people away from the teaching profession, and the behaviour of students on a daily basis is lowering the general standard of education in the country. An uneducated population will not withstand competition from emerging and advanced nations, and Australia is dumbing down more and more every year.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for a politician to thank Australian teachers for their dedication during COVID-19…in the form of a pay rise.

Image: Element5digital