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The fundamental aspects of culture that schools must address to attract more teachers

A 40 per cent reduction in graduates going into teaching, coupled with the fact that about one-third of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, means there are far more fundamental cultural and societal issues at play, particularly in regards to teachers in Secondary schools.

Recent financial inducements as part of the Federal election campaign to attract more graduates into school teaching are no doubt welcome. Teachers have never been paid sufficiently and certainly not in relation to the importance and value they have towards a society’s future.

Quality teaching and quality schools add immeasurably not only to economic success, but so importantly to social harmony and a society’s progress.

In Australia, the value of teachers has never been properly valued and respected. Now, more than ever, that needs to be rectified. To advance teaching as a profession, the voice of educators and school leaders needs to be heard and respected loud and clear.

However, the greatest reward and energy quality teachers get from teaching lies in seeing and participating in the learning by their students: seeing them grow and develop in their learning and understanding, and rejoicing in helping guide those students towards exciting futures.

So, apart from the importance of societal recognition of the value of teaching, the culture within schools (like any organisation) is integral to a renewed sense of value and reward within the profession – particularly given the added pressures associated with the past two and a half years of the pandemic.

Here are four fundamental aspects of culture that I believe schools must address in the current candidate short environment:

  1. Wellbeing and support: Is the culture within the school one that provides strong wellbeing and support for teachers? Is it one that recognises the demands of the profession and puts in place wellbeing measures that are customised to the needs of individual teachers?
  2. Student care: Is there a culture within a school where each teacher feels able to support the wellbeing needs of their students, needs that were already considerable pre-pandemic and seem to have grown exponentially in recent times?
  3. Learning and development: Is there a learning culture within the school that listens to the voice of educators and other staff and provides relevant, personalised professional learning that empowers staff in their fundamental purpose – to enhance the learning by their students?
  4. Coaching and mentoring: Is there a culture of coaching and mentoring within a school so that all teachers, from relatively inexperienced to those more experienced, believe their growth and development as professionals is enhanced by collectively and collaborating working with others?

Peter Drucker was famously quoted as saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He didn’t mean strategy was unimportant, rather that an empowering culture was critical to organisational success. Strong culture in an educational environment needs great strategy, but the latter won’t work without reflection and action on key measures to support teacher wellbeing and growth.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Education, Slade Executive, The world @work

What’s next for the teachers who took the brunt of lockdowns?

The Covid-19 years have focussed attention in schools on the value of teaching professionals working together collaboratively towards the best possible student learning outcomes. For school leaders, the attention has been on building the social capital needed in schools, beyond mere human capital.

Teachers have been isolated so much during lockdowns, missing the professional dialogue and banter that occurs both formally and informally, despite every attempt to meet that issue through online professional learning.

As schools finalise their planning towards next year, hoping that the year offers a new normal, they will be looking to build the capacity of their staffing teams: attracting and developing the best possible professionals that will align and further the vision and values of the school.  Schools are also working through how to maximise the social capital that comes from staff working collaboratively towards agreed and co-developed goals.

Through it all, our leading schools are looking to ensure teacher wellbeing, as well as student wellbeing, is a focus of attention – one that will enable a strong learning culture, inspired by a collaborative and well-supported teaching team.

The recruitment of school leaders, non-teaching school professionals and teachers (permanent, replacement and casual) is a process where great assistance can be provided by specialist recruitment firms, especially where what’s on offer includes a wealth of specialist experience of the educational needs of schools by past school leaders themselves. The new COVID norms will also necessitate specific requirements of applicants and schools (stipulated in recent regulations) and, once again, such assistance from partner firms could be of great benefit to schools.

At this time, many teachers and leaders are also looking at options open to them, whether that be promotion possibilities or simply finding the best possible school culture that aligns to the values they hold as professionals.

School leaders, in what ways are you building the social capital within your schools for the benefit of your students, enabling a collaborative culture of learning? What assistance are you seeking in this process?

Teachers, how are you equipping yourself, with others, to ensure students’ overall needs in this new climate are being met?

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Posted in Education, The world @work

Take a break… and focus on your own learning and future career

…as the fourth revolution of work builds, teachers are well placed to lead learning.”

All employers, by virtue of offering work opportunities and the potential to build careers, deal in the futures of their employees. For teachers and others working in the education sector, it takes great skill, time and energy to help students navigate their learning and life. It is by its very nature a generous act, to continually focus on others to build their capacity, efficacy and future.

For teachers, the term breaks are ideal to recharge and relax, to practice a little self-preservation and to prioritise personal needs.

Article image: Have fun

If you are a teacher or another professional who constantly ‘gives to others’, putting a plan in place for your own future can be overlooked; a break can be more than relaxing – it can be a time to think about where your career is going, to set goals, speak to others and to think about what else you may need to learn to progress within schools or beyond.

In various articles on the Future of Work, ‘learning’ per se is at the centre of the skills and aptitude required to navigate the fourth revolution, and to enjoy a thriving career. This places teachers at the centre of the revolution. Teachers have highly transferable skills in planning, curating, managing and assessing learning. The industry of learning has always spread well beyond the school gates, but the industry globally is growing at an unprecedented rate. More than just formal institutions for learning, ‘the industry of learning’ increasingly includes significant roles such as learning designers in work settings.

Swinburne’s Centre for the New Workforce recently published a National Survey Report, Peak Human Potential: Preparing Australia’s workforce for the digital future. The report highlighted 38% of workers prefer to learn in the work setting. Heather McGowan, future of work strategist, suggests that we now work to learn.

As the fourth revolution of work builds, teachers are well placed to lead learning, from early learning centres to corporate boardrooms.

Before you lead others in their learning or work, you need to be strategic, and clear about your own learning and career plan. Our world @work represents so much of our time and energy, and yet career progression is often left to happenstance.

So, while you’re relaxing or setting off on an adventure, remember to put aside a little time to think about your own future of work.

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Posted in Education, The world @work