“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai
In praise of teachers…
We all remember the teachers in our lives who made a difference. For me, it was Miss Barbara Ford, my Year 7 and 8 Geography teacher. Miss Ford was a powerhouse of ideas and made our learning of the world come alive. I was inspired to become a teacher because of her.
At Melbourne Girls Grammar, we pride ourselves on having the very best teachers. Indeed, I often say our teachers are some of the best in Australia, if not the world. After a whole career dedicated to schools and education, I know this is true! As I walk our School daily, I observe our ELC, Morris and Merton Hall teachers delivering outstanding education with careful and purposeful intent. Teachers’ work is complex and multi-faceted; it does not begin at 8 am and finish and 5 pm. Rather, regardless of if the teacher is in the Early Learning, Junior, Middle, or Senior years, they are always thinking, planning, and collecting for their students. My experience is that good teachers don’t stop thinking about how to personalise the learning and treat each learner as unique. At MGGS, we are also serious when we state, “we know each Grammarian well”. Exceptional teachers know the students, and how they learn, they know the content and how to teach it, and they plan for and implement effective teaching and learning. Additionally, they create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments, assess, provide feedback and report on student learning. All teachers engage in professional learning and connect professionally with colleagues, parents/carers, and the community. We have a dilemma in Australia right now, in both attracting graduates to a teaching career and teachers leaving the profession due to workload and feeling undervalued. The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the concerns and workload of an already stressed profession.
How educators are respected in relation to other professions can be a key marker in determining their overall status in an individual country. For example, in Singapore and Malaysia, teachers are often placed on par with doctors and the medical profession. This is not the case in Australia, with teachers ranked lower on a societal level; it creates barriers to attracting high-achieving students to the profession. According to the 2018/2021 Global Teacher Status Index (GTSI), how teachers were viewed relative to other occupations is one of four indicators the Index uses to measure overall respect for the profession. As an experienced Principal and Chair of the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership, I want to understand how we can elevate the education profession in Australia. In your conversations with family, friends and colleagues, I encourage you to raise your acknowledgement of teachers. I want to thank you, our community, for recognising our MGGS teachers. I have seen the letters and cards of appreciation and the warm respect and gratitude shown, especially at this time of year. It is important that we all spread this high regard in our wider conversations.
As is always the case at this time of year, a quiet calm descends upon the School. Grammarians are finishing off their curriculum and immersing themselves deep in their learning before the academic year closes. Our youngest ELC Grammarians are preparing for their end-of-year concerts; Year 6 are in Canberra; Year 7 are preparing for their Year 7 Melbourne Experience with MGS, and our Senior Years students are either already in, or moving towards, exam time. Teachers are busy assessing and polishing the curriculum for 2023 and enjoying the ‘lasts’ with their classes. The timetable for 2023 has been built, all staff appointments have been made, and the end-of-year celebrations, such as Speech Night and Carol Service, are about to commence.
In closing, the ‘dye is cast’, the VCE examinations are over and ‘what will be, will be’. We will know the outcomes of our VCE students on 12 December, and I look forward to sharing these results. I am very proud of how our Grammarians have approached their study and the execution of their exams. Whatever may come, I will be proud of each Grammarian who has tried their personal best and worked hard to complete thirteen years of formal schooling. And in the words of our Old Grammarian Society President at the Valedictory Dinner on 17 November, “You are done, done, done with school as a student. However, you are not done with school as an Old Grammarian [which is for the rest of your life]”. Affiliation is a wonderful gift!
Yours in learning
Dr Toni E. Meath