News Class warfare: Teachers at centre of remote learning battle
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Class warfare: Teachers at centre of remote learning battle

The subject of remote learning has been a hot-button issue in Australia.
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Everyone has an opinion on remote learning.

The federal government went toe to toe with Victoria over the weekend about schools opening up, resulting in an embarrassing backdown by federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.

There have been shots fired by parents too.

They are worried teachers are messaging students too late in the evenings, and some are asking whether they’re getting bang for their buck with expensive private school fees.

Teachers for their part, say they’ve never worked harder.

The New Daily spoke to six educators to get an insight into the highs and lows of online learning.

Here’s what they had to say.

Naomi O’Connor, legal studies teacher, year 11 and 12 students

Mrs O’Connor said the biggest challenge was exhaustion.

“The current statistics are, that by five years 50 per cent of graduates have left teaching. It’s a tough gig. Now they’re doing it in this remote setting, which makes it tougher,” she said.

“We’re halfway through week four, so teacher burnout is going to be an issue.”

 

There has been concern around the country about the effect this will have on VCE students, but Mrs O’Connor said it wasn’t a worry.

“To be honest I think the VCE kids will be the most cared for because VTAC will make adjustments with this cohort and they’ll probably make adjustments next year as well.”

Angela Masterson, head of humanities, McKinnon Secondary College

Mrs Masterson has trained in harnessing technology for education and said her school was ready, but upskilling some teachers was not easy. 

“At the start, I was overwhelmed by the idea there would have to be a lot of change and a lot of upskilling, for staff and kids. Kids have had to adapt to a new normal,” she said.

 

“I think one of the key challenges is making sure kids are OK and making sure they’re on track.

“When they’re in the classroom you can engage with them differently. You know by their body language if they’re enjoying it, but when you’re in an online chat it’s difficult to know if they’re OK. I think that’s something a lot of teachers are grappling with.”

Tom Rice, year 6 teacher, Coburn Primary School

Mr Rice said the positive was seeing students become more independent, and the challenge had been finding downtime.

“Teaching in this time has been a fascinating experience. Some (teachers) you can see the struggle in their eyes. It’s messy for some,” he said.

But I think it’s good for people to adapt to change, even if it for an unfortunate situation. Part of our craft is being able to adapt.

 

“I just think at the moment teachers are finding it hard to find that work-life balance. It’s not a job you can just shut off from.”

Anna Sever, deputy principal of teaching and learning, Haileybury

Haileybury has been working on blended learning for two years, so its students and teaches are comfortable with technology.

“We had developed ‘how-to’ videos and ‘how-to’ handouts. We also run Techy Breaky, Lunch and Learn and High Tech Tea as optional professional development every day,” Mrs Sever said.

Haileybury has had some parents ask if, like other private schools, there will be a reduction in fees.

 

Principal and CEO Derek Scott, together with the school council, wrote a letter to parents, informing them the school put ‘considerable expense in the best possible learning programs’ and any savings made during this period may be passed back to parents in the coming terms.

Attending the school starts at $19,425 for prep students, while tuition for years 9, 10, 11 and 12 students tops out at $33,560.

Adam Bremner, teaches grade 5 and 6 in the Macedon Ranges

“The positives have been the support. The community of teachers sharing tips and tricks to get their lessons to their students,” he said.

There has been a lot of chatter about disadvantaged kids falling behind, but Mr Bremner said it was almost an insult.

This might highlight it more, but it doesn’t change their disadvantage,’’ he said.

“Those same kids that are struggling now have always been struggling.

“If we’re going to say they need support now, we should have said it last month. The struggle had always been there. Now people are beginning to realise it more.”

Damien Woods, director of music, Ballarat High School

Mr Woods made sure every student had the right instruments at home and has been tailoring lessons to suit different group sizes.

Sometimes, whole families have joined in.

“It’s hard to do ensembles of course, but there have been wonderful things, with our juniors giving them creative tasks to video themselves,” Mr Woods said.

“I had one where there were four family members running around in the kitchen, doing the rhythmic challenge.”

The challenge has been great, but he can’t wait to get back into the classroom.

“It’s tiring and enjoyable. But I’m looking forward to getting back to face to face.”