Australian Teachers Are Sharing Their Frustrations And Boy, It Sounds Like Things Need To Change
Reading these makes me want to give every single teacher in Australia a great big hug.
As someone with a teacher in the family, I've always been privy to the frustrations that come with the job.
1. "I’m a primary teacher on my first year out. I’m constantly being reassured I’m doing well and that everyone on the team likes me. But there’s this constant air of 'I might not have a job next year', which really scares me. I want permanency at the school I’m at, but it’s competitive and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it. It’s scary."
2. "My partner and I had to move six and a half hours away into a regional area to secure a permanent role. Trying to get anything other than contract work in a city is impossible, they know that even if you walk away they can have the role filled by that afternoon, because there's a never ending line of increasingly desperate teachers looking for a job."
"One of the schools she was even tagged as being next in line for a permanent position, but admin decided at the last second to gloss over her and permanently employ a male teacher instead because they were worried the 'boys weren't seeing enough positive male role models at the school'. The system is a disaster and it needs to change, fast. I've never seen teachers as demoralised and burnt out as I am seeing now."
3. "I was lucky in that I got offered a position as a targeted graduate. I have no idea what my career would look like without it."
4. "I couldn't deal with the uncertainty, so I ended up leaving. It's been two years, and I'm no longer a primary school teacher and I sleep a lot better at nights."
5. "I've been out for two years. I finished my first contract and they didn't have a position for me. I finished my second contact and they didn't have a position for me. I'm currently doing my third contact and at the moment and I don’t think they’ll have a position for me next year.”
"It's nerve racking every time trying to figure out if I'll be living on relief the following year, it's why I haven't moved out of my parents in case my situation changes. I hate it."
6. "I applied for a permanent job at my school last year and didn't even get an interview. My principal said there was nothing wrong with my application, just the fact I didn't have enough experience compared to others — which is fair enough and true."
"I'm 3rd year out and while permanency would be nice, I've put that dream on the shelf for now. It's not worth the stress and hassle for me. I'm 30 and will be starting a family sooner rather than later. I keep reassuring myself that there is so much casual work, which would see me through when I don't want to work full time with little kids."
7. "I finished my teaching degree in 2013 and I'm so glad that I did. With my current job, I’m getting paid a similar wage to what I would’ve made as a teacher, with better conditions. Plus after the placements I did, the pettiness and bitching of the staff really put me off teaching. Felt like some of the teachers never left school themselves..."
8. "I’m an AP in an SSP (school for kids with additional needs). Not a single one of our executive, or teaching staff is permanent. Everyone is contracted from the principal down. We’re two teachers short for next term. I’ve worked my ass off, and built my school up over the eight years I’ve been there, but they still can’t offer me permanency."
"I’m 30. My partner and I want to have a baby. I can’t get proper maternity leave, or plan for the future, because at the end of this year my contract is done. I’m at the point where I might have to choose between leaving my school and screwing them even further, just to ensure I have job security. It’s a joke. Also department bureaucracy is laughable...It’s almost impossible to get anything done."
9. "I have seen more and more meaningless government policy and intervention in my job. I have seen less and less trust that teachers are trained and know what they are doing. We are being micromanaged by useless governments and not being allowed to actually, you know, teach?"
"I've been teaching for eight years. In that time I have seen paperwork more than treble — most of which has been 'accountability' bullshit that's constantly changing, so you never actually know exactly what you have to do each year."
10. "The main issue for me is 90% of my job is dealing with hostile children, following up on their behaviour and calling parents. If I actually had the opportunity to teach every lesson rather than putting out spot fires, I might actually enjoy the job."
"I’m looking for another job, this is my fifth year of trying to make teaching work and it just isn’t worth the stress. Non-teachers talk about ‘oh but the holidays’, but I wouldn’t need a break every 10 weeks if I wasn’t under so much stress every day. We also don’t get lunch breaks, we’re supposed to spend them on clubs or helping students or catching up on all the work as I’m only given roughly 70 minutes a day to do planning and admin."
11. "Last semester broke me. It's been seven years and I've finally had enough. I want to teach, but that's now a tiny fragment of my job. Part of it is probably the effect of COVID lockdowns — developmentally, the year 9/10 students are way behind where they should be and it essentially means I have a full load of classes with students at junior-level maturity."
"But instead of dealing with these problems we're constantly hopping from one educational bandwagon to another. My favourite thing this semester was having the final year 10 English exam scheduled four days after our report writing deadline. Some real Joseph Heller bullshit."
12. "Part of the reason why I quit placement in the third year was because most of the time I was having to deal with a 13-year-old kid who refused to sit down, drank out of other people's water bottles, ran out of the classroom and would actively do stuff to provoke everyone around him. He clearly had a behavioural disorder and there was no teacher aide support because he wasn't diagnosed."
13. "The emotional labour of teaching is way higher than people think. But even then holidays aren't holidays because there's marking and planning and making all the resources that you don't have time to during term time to do."
"I'm only in my 4th year teaching, but there hasn't been a single holiday or weekend I haven't worked. If I had to reapply for my job every year as well, I'd be thinking about other professions even though I enjoy actually being in my classroom teaching."
14. "Another huge issue in teaching is the expectation and guilt to undertake unpaid work because you genuinely care for the kids and want them to do well. The whole profession hinges on exploiting that emotional connection you develop with your students to push you to do more outside of work hours. This is only sustainable for so long before wearing you down considerably."
15. "The stress of the job is more than a constant state of alertness. It is trauma. People leave because they feel it eating away at their lives and their mental health. It was not like this when I started twenty one year's ago. It has been slowly degrading to the point where it is not teaching any more. It is crowd control, and waiting for the bell to sound."
"I've been a teacher for 21 years. What can't be understood by many is that schools have become places of chaos. No matter how skilled, experienced or connected you are with students, you get spat on, physically intimidated, threatened and abused. The school yard is a place of fear where teachers dread to go."
16. And finally, "I taught in the U.K. for a bit and though it was hard work with all of the inspections, marking expectations, etc. I was in a much better place emotionally and mentally due to the behaviour management over there. They are far more disciplined. Parents generally respect what the teachers have to say — you don’t have to tip toe around."
"There are actual consequences for verbal and physical abuse, whereas here in Australia I’m just expected to calmly talk to the kid and have a counselling session after they called me a bitch and tried to stab me with some scissors. I felt far safer in schools in dodgy parts of London than I do in middle class Australia."
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.