23 March 2020

COVID-19 isolation measures highlight the value of our teachers

| Rebecca Vassarotti MLA
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Students from Chapman

These students from Chapman were learning to code last year but will be learning online in 2020. Photo: Education ACT, Instagram.

COVID-19 has created great uncertainty and fear for all of us here in the ACT.

As noted in my recent article, there’s been a huge debate about whether or not schools should close. Despite a range of differing views regarding what do to about schools (and, of course, the students), it has been announced that ACT schools will go online from today (24 March).

As we move into this new reality, it is important for us to acknowledge the extraordinary job that teachers have been doing over the last few weeks and thank them for the essential service that they have provided, and will continue to provide, albeit in a different manner.

Since COVID-19 emerged, teachers have been coming to school each day and continuing to teach in a world that has changed dramatically.

Each day, they have gone into an environment where they have wondered about the risks to their own health and safety. Each day they have entered a workplace that is particularly difficult to implement the restrictions being placed on the rest of the community.

In addition to the risks and challenges to themselves, they have been supporting the physical and emotional wellbeing of the children and young people that are in their care. Principals and executive staff have also been managing the anxiety of their teaching staff. With a significant proportion of casualised teaching staff, many are also worried about their ongoing job security and income if schools do close.

People often dismiss the value of teaching as a profession. This crisis has made very clear the incredible value of teaching – to individual students, to families and to the whole economy. We need to acknowledge and thank teachers for their roles as educators (rather than babysitters) and their essential service of sharing knowledge with future adults (rather than providing support for people doing other work). It is important that any discussion of where-to-next in relation to schooling through the COVID-19 crisis acknowledges and appreciates the essential role teachers are playing.

It is clear the schools are trying really hard to adapt to a new reality that is constantly changing.

Last week the response included putting new equipment in schools to support better student hygiene, and the cancelling of excursions and assemblies.

This week we have moved into a new phase with online learning for ACT students.

Many teachers will welcome this move which will reduce the staff/student ratios and makes some of the social distancing advice a possibility in a way that wasn’t possible when schools were operating normally.

While this decision will create a huge new challenge, there is no doubt that teachers will once again demonstrate their professionalism and commitment to their students by moving quickly to provide online resources and work.

The decisions about how to respond to this crisis are not easy and are changing on a daily basis. However, what is very clear is that we need to do a much better job in articulating our thanks to teachers for the remarkable job they do every day, particularly at this point through this crisis.

Thank you to the wonderful teachers and educators who shared their perspectives for this article.

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The kids will be fine. They’ll all talk to each other on Discord while playing on-line computer games and probably come back to class less indoctrinated and with higher IQs.

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