Yesterday I was invited to the Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland monthly gathering to receive the award as the winner of their Soapbox Article Writing Competition for 2012. Apparently there was a wide range of entries coming from as far away as Western Australia. I feel for the judging panel for it is always a difficult choice in picking a winner when there are so many voices that are worthy of being heard.
My piece was called Teacher! and was focused on the need for our society to value good teachers, to pay them well and recognize their contribution is fostering learning. Here are two extracts from the essay:
Good teachers are the nutritionists of the mind. They direct and control the ingredients of learning. They nourish the intellect. They fire up creativity. They are product focussed. They do not seek glory. Indeed they feel vindicated when the child’s results show even a modicum of meaningful progress.
Now I hear members of my audience plead, ‘But what about us – the mothers, the scout leaders, the priests – aren’t we the moral guardians, the character builders?’ And I agree you do have a major role to play. The teacher is but part of the community of influence in what it is that turns a boy into an honest man, a girl into a vibrant woman. Still, I would argue the teacher’s influence is more subtle than that of parents or priests. Palpable, that’s the in-word, though in most instances I prefer subtle. Something less obvious, like an undercurrent in a stream, a bee visiting a flower.
I often think that the trained geographer makes the best style of teacher. The geographer is trained to see the interrelationship of the individual, the society and the environment. He or she draws in information from a wide range of other disciplines and makes judgments based on systems thinking. Like the geographer’s landscape, the child in not a plot of land in isolation, a package to be stuffed with knowledge, not a house to build, not a robot to program. The child is a complex package with a host of needs, desires, appetites and hopefully a host of aspirations. It is this view of the ecological functioning of the human spirit that teachers need to acknowledge to make them good at their job.
We need to find these people, encourage them with substantial salary packages and performance incentives, provide them with regular in-service training programs, and retain them by the way we acknowledge their dedication.
Friends, I appeal to you once more. Pat our good teachers on the back. Thump the best of them well and hard! Say to them, ‘Well done! well done!’ Give them the rewards and recognition they deserve! It’s time for the year of the teacher! …. Every year!
The full text will be published in Scope, the magazine of FAWQ. The society’s web site is http://www.fawq.net and they are on Facebook and Twitter.