I am a teacher with over two decades experience at the "chalk face", as we used to call it.
Over the past 12 years, a significant and satisfying part of my job has been mentoring pre-service and early-career teachers. Unfortunately, the ineffectiveness of teacher education is a recurring point of discussion.
It is not hyperbole to say that, after discussing this issue with hundreds of colleagues and potential colleagues, I have never heard anyone state that their theoretical university studies prepared them adequately to enter the classroom.
An almost invariable comment is that four weeks of "prac" (a block of actual teaching experience in a real life school) taught them more than four years' worth of lectures. I challenge readers to pose this question to a teacher of your acquaintance.
I bet London to a brick that their response will be along similar lines.
Jenna Price in her recent opinion piece criticises the Institute of Public Affairs' report into teacher education. Dr Price may be correct about the ideological motivation behind the IPA's report. However, Dr Price is sorely mistaken if she believes teacher education does not need reform.
A common solution to this problem is often discussed by teachers in staffrooms. Many of us, myself included, believe that teacher education would be more effective if it was conducted akin to an apprenticeship or traineeship.
Prospective high school teachers who already have a degree in their specialist area could be employed by a school as an apprentice teacher. In this capacity they could teach a reduced load on reduced pay until they reached the desired proficiency.
This would allow prospective teachers to learn the profession whilst also drawing a pay cheque. Schools would have access to a new pool of teachers. This would help to relieve the acute teacher shortage that we are currently experiencing.
This would be a win-win situation for all, except for the teacher educators themselves. It is natural that teacher educators would seek to protect the legacy of what they have dedicated their working lives to, and also to preserve their current status and livelihoods. However, this completely understandable desire must not be allowed to stand in the way of reforming a system that is not currently fit for purpose.
Ms Price cites University of Canberra's dean of education as evidence that there are eight evidence-based theoretical units compared to two "woke" units in UC's education course.
Leaving aside the necessity of having any non-practice based units at all; pre-service and early career teachers come to us rarely possessing any useful awareness of what we professionals actually do in the classroom.
A review of the UC bachelor of education course reveals that only one of 32 units is dedicated to managing the behaviour of children. Behaviour management is obviously the foundation of all successful education and an area that often overwhelms beginning teachers.
If UC was serious about preparing teachers for the classroom, this 31:1 ratio would be altered.
And there is no guarantee that a unit purporting to teach behaviour management would teach anything useful about the subject. A current beginning teacher that I am mentoring shared the following gem with me. In a unit with the sober title The Professional Practice of Teaching, students were taught that primary drivers of the "Australian schooling agenda" were "unaware anthropocentrism, rampant individualism and unfettered capitalism".
As part of their assessment in this unit, students were encouraged to "co-create a robust collaborative diologic space". This took the form of writing a poem where the students imagined that they were a precious metal, a geographic feature or a flying animal. They then drew a picture that expressed the "value" that emerged from this experience.
Only a non-teacher could imagine that this silliness has anything to do with the professional practice of teaching. It is no wonder that so many of the beginning educators I have worked with have told me that their teaching course was worse than a waste of time; it actually left them less prepared for teaching than before they took the course.
Dr Price and the IPA are free to fight out their culture wars. But I ask them to leave education out of it. The teaching profession is struggling enough at the moment to encourage colleagues to commence and to continue their teaching careers.
We need teacher education that actually prepares prospective teachers for the day-to-day realities of the job, rather than attempting to indoctrinate them in one side or the other's ideological preoccupations.
- Michael Castrission is a high school history teacher in Canberra.