Lisa Kelliher No Comments

I have very fond memories of my early days in teaching. Despite the relentlessness of the marking, the challenge of the behaviour management of teenage students, getting on top of challenging content and managing co-curricular activities, a palpable sense of camaraderie prevailed.

Tough lessons, difficult parents and challenging workloads were all made more manageable as a consequence of being able to laugh, connect and bond with teachers from other departments and parts of the school. Opportunities to connect and to share were treasured; sometimes ‘on the hop’, and other times as the result of a culture that deliberately prioritised the coming together of staff at regular events. Humour was undoubtedly the glue that stuck the teaching staff together, even through the toughest of times.

Over time, teaching colleagues have reported that this camaraderie and connectedness has dissipated to a great extent. Anecdotally, there are myriad theories as to why this may be the case. Some identify the introduction of email as being the moment in time when teachers stopped effectively communicating with one another. No longer were there opportunities to converse, share and sympathise at pigeon-holes or photocopiers; instead teachers began to spend their every spare moment heads down, responding to emails before returning to their classrooms. The immediacy of emails and the accompanying expectation of being continually connected, diminished opportunities for informal mentoring of young teachers, or for laughter and creativity between peers.

Some teachers also identify increased curriculum and compliance requirements, combined with heavy assessment loads, as cannibalising the time of teachers and preventing them from communicating face to face. I have written before about the value of compliance and the importance of it in our education landscape; however, there is little doubt as to the impact that this has also had on the ability of our teachers to find joy in creativity and in spontaneity. I have vivid memories as a young teacher of the wonderful opportunities I had to soak up the creative ideas of my colleagues, before trialling new ideas with my own classes. Sadly, opportunities for spontaneity are now few and far between, and teachers instead comment on the struggle to teach the required content from packed programs as a means of adequately preparing their students for the next assessment task.

There has been much conjecture in Australia, England and America about the reasons for the exodus of teachers and leaders from our school systems. While there is no doubt that increased expectations, lack of support for behaviour management and current salary levels play into this debate, it can also be argued that what is now missing from the experience of teaching is the camaraderie, the power of laughter in shared experience and learning that comes from the opportunity to connect. The Australian Professional Teaching Standards have undoubtedly provided a helpful platform from which to determine key tenets of effective teaching in this country; however, what seems absent from these standards is the importance of prioritising teacher well-being, and therefore the well-being which comes from the joy, laughter and shared experiences of ones peers.

At Be Challenged, we value the opportunity to work with teams of teachers and school leaders in the delivery of programs which foster cohesiveness, drive laughter and joy and generate interpersonal connections well beyond the program itself.

If you’re keen to connect with a professional who can relate to your challenges, while also providing a refreshing external perspective, I invite you to please reach out

Thanks for reading.

Lisa Kelliher
Head of People and Culture and Educational Consultant, Be Challenged

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