Wednesday, 29 April 2020
As a child, my dad often told me (half-jokingly) not to marry a teacher, such was the time and energy my mum devoted to her students. So of course I ignored his advice and did exactly that. I consider myself fortunate to be surrounded by teachers – my brother, sister-in-law and brother-in-law also chose the profession. So when lockdowns got serious and home-schooling kicked in, I wasn’t a bit surprised to see appreciation for teachers spread faster than the Coronavirus itself.
Health workers and essential retail staff aside, it’s hard to think of a group more deserving of our admiration during this pandemic than teachers. And as alumni of ECU, we can be enormously proud of the contribution the University makes to this vital frontline service. Many of you will know the story of ECU’s origins in teacher training and the standards it continues to set in preparing the next generation of educators.
Many of those ECU graduates are now frantically paving the road ahead for term 2 and beyond and are facing the same chaos and confusion they carried into the Easter break. For some schools, it’s going to be business as usual (in theory), as well as offering online options. Others are encouraging students to remain home for at least another few weeks. For parents, it’s an agonising dilemma - continue with the isolation and home-schooling experiment or take a giant leap back to the pre-covid routines we left behind.
The advice from medical experts and politicians doesn’t offer much clarity for stakeholders on either side. Some maintain a full classroom poses minimal risk but not everyone agrees. The example of Japan has planted seeds of doubt in people’s minds. Once leading the way in flattening the curve, it re-opened its schools and is now unfortunately grappling with the dreaded “second wave”. Could this be attributed to schools re-opening? There’s no easy answer of course, and every parent in WA will let their own circumstances guide them, especially given the low rates of local infection. Remember though, teachers don’t get to make that call and many will be putting their own reservations to one side to follow protocol. Conversations I’ve had with them in recent days suggest opinions vary considerably. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories of kids on the fringes, whose domestic environments aren’t conducive to home education. Teachers have also shared their concerns about constantly shifting pedagogical practices. The binding sentiment though is a desire to do what’s best for students. And for that alone, we should all be grateful for our teachers.
Tim McMillan is a WAAPA Broadcast graduate with a long history in television, radio and digital platforms. He is currently working in radio and on Channel 7’s Flashpoint program
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