A teacher is so much more than just someone who teaches a curriculum

This week it was announced that Australian teachers were undergoing an overhaul to improve the quality of teaching right across the board. The first measure introduced by Christopher Pyne earlier in the week is that teachers will now have to pass numeracy and literacy tests before they can finish their degree and enter the classroom.

Australia has reportedly had declining success in terms of international rankings when it comes to maths and reading skills and this is something that we once were internationally renowned for. There’s no reason why Australian’s shouldn’t be some of the best in the world when it comes to education as we have all of the resources.

But right now I want to put the quality of curriculum teaching aside and instead look at the quality of our teachers. Being a teacher is a complex task. Not all of us may consider it so but for so many children, their teachers are the role models and adults they learn most from. With more and more parents working full time now than ever, the role of the teacher is becoming more important – not just because they teach the curriculum but also because they play such a critical in shaping who their students are.

The most remarkable teacher I ever had was in grade nine. He was a gentle man and he was great at teaching us maths but the thing that made him so special, so unique was that he made us realise our potential – whatever that was. If we were good at sport, he would talk to us about it and help us to work on ways to improve. If we were good at English, he would ask us what our assessment for that subject was and would talk to us about it and give thought provoking discussion that helped us to expand our thinking.

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He gave every student his time and genuine thought. He wanted us to succeed, he wanted us to be able to realise our potential and achieve it. It wasn’t about the curriculum or teaching us algebra, it was about making us better people.

Another teacher I had earlier in my schooling didn’t care how we completed our work in class as long as it was always collaborative. We always had to work in teams and no one could be left out. If there was someone without a group he would change every single group around until everyone was included and we were always with new people. He taught us to work with all kinds of people, to cooperate and collaborate. Our work was important but the skill of always including others and working together was by far the most important thing he gave to his students.

My senior teacher was completely different to any others. She openly told us that our marks wouldn’t define our future. They might for a year or two but they wouldn’t determine our life path. She made sure that we all knew that while academics were important, the person we become is the only thing that will matter and so she helped us to become the best person possible. Although she held a senior role in the leadership team of the school she had an “open door” policy for all seniors and we could go to her with any problem big or small and she’d give us guidance.

You see, the teachers I am most thankful and appreciative for weren’t the ones who taught me the most or gave me the most knowledge. They were the people that helped me to become the best person I could become. The ones that I remember now are the ones who contributed to making me the person I am today and it is my hope that although we focus on the curriculum our grandchildren are taught and although we rank teachers on the marks their students achieve, we don’t forget the other things that truly make a teacher great.

Tell us, what memories do you have of your teachers? What were the most special ones like? What did they teach you? What should our grandkids be taught?