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A day in the life of a public school teacher

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WA’s public school teachers are pretty amazing.

The career calls for more compassion, enthusiasm, generosity, and sheer tenacity than the average day-job requires. With direct access to our children during their most impressionable years, nurturing tomorrow’s leaders is all in a day’s work.

And it is without a doubt some of the most important work in our society.

In the face of shared challenges (fewer resources, lower pay and larger classes to name a few), there is truly a passion that drives WA’s public school teachers.

So what does a typical day look like for one of these unsung heroes?

Northern suburbs year two teacher Fiona Anderson told PerthNow she loves working in a public school.

“I believe schooling should be of high quality for all students – not just the ones who can afford it,” Ms Anderson said.

“Having the students’ interests and wellbeing at the centre of my teaching philosophy keeps me motivated.

“But there is so much more to teaching than what people see; I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t put in unpaid hours or buy supplies for their classroom with their own money.”

Ms Anderson usually gets to work around 7.30am. She prepares the classroom, photocopies worksheets, and replies to emails she received from parents overnight.

“Kids arrive at 8.30am and we’re straight into it! One of my favourite parts of the day is seeing the kids’ faces, excited to come into their classroom every morning. Or when they rush up to tell you something that’s happened since you last saw them,” Ms Anderson said.

On a day with recess duty (twice a week), you are working until 1pm without a toilet break, so that’s a bit hectic,” she laughed.

“After the kids leave for the day, it’s more meetings, marking and planning.”

Good teachers are hard to find

What makes a good teacher?

“Patience….lots of patience,” Ms Anderson laughed.

“A good sense of humour and being able to go with the flow is important – nothing ever goes to plan!

“I am a teacher because I believe I can change the life of my students and have a positive impact on society. Working with children each day is amazing, they really bring out the best in life and yourself.

“I love the moments where kids are just able to be kids – to play and explore. That’s where the real magic happens!

“Every one of my colleagues is driven by the best interests of their students – they are some of the most selfless and caring people I know. That’s the type of person you want teaching your child, and the people we want to attract and retain in our public schools.”

Overtime, underpaid

Go into any public school over the Christmas break and you will find teachers there, working away.

“There isn’t time for us to do everything we are expected to do in the school term,” Ms Anderson said.

Public school teachers are simply not paid enough to reflect the workload, and the sheer importance of the job.

“The workload is a lot. Teachers work before school, after school, weekends, our holidays, but because we all do it, it’s become expected,” Ms Anderson said.

While there are a number of reasons WA is facing a teacher shortage, the State Government’s public sector wages cap is making things worse.

Before the wages cap, WA’s public-school teachers were the highest paid in the country. Now they’re among the lowest.

“The impact a teacher can have is not represented in our pay, or in the lack of respect we are often shown as professionals,” Ms Anderson said.

The State School Teachers Union of WA is calling on the State Government to fix the teacher shortage and axe the wages cap. Visit the website for more information.

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