This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
The results are out in a couple of weeks but the nerves are already jangling, just the same as they did when the exams were sat back in early November.
It's the same every year, as another cohort of students finds itself on the threshold of adult life. But I'm not talking about them. Rather the teachers who have invested so much heart and a great deal of sweat in their kids achieving great results. For them, results day is annual anguish as they wait for news of who did well and who didn't.
The nights before the results are known are sleepless. Time moves slowly the morning they're out, waiting for the texts and emails from the students.
A good result comes with great relief; a disappointing one casts a shadow over the precious holidays. But with the focus on the students, few spare a thought for the teachers.
We know teaching is in crisis. Teachers are leaving the profession or reporting stress and burnout. A new $10 million campaign called Be That Teacher aims to entice people back into the profession but unless fundamental changes are made to what's expected of teachers, it will be money poorly spent.
To "be that teacher" in 2023 requires the patience of a saint and the dexterity of a circus juggler. Teachers not only have to manage the students in their classroom but the expectations of parents as well. And in these enlightened times of gender fluidity and emotional intelligence and TikTok, they have to navigate a sea of eggshells as their charges grapple with a whole range of identity issues. Not causing offence can be more taxing than teaching.
Teachers have even had to debunk rumours that kids at other schools are identifying as furries - dogs, cats and horses - with litter trays left in bathrooms. In Florida, one school banned students from wearing furry attire as the social media mischief took hold. A Canadian school had to explain it bought cat litter to spread over iced surfaces for traction so teachers and students wouldn't slip over. It was not to fill litter trays for furries to do their business in. The far-right conspiracy theorists had a field day.
A parent told me how his 10-year-old daughter felt the need to explain that a friend coming over for a play date identified as a lesbian. His response: "Never mind that. Does she eat nuggets?" Identifying as a child at 10 years of age would be more helpful than worrying whether you may or may not be a lesbian.
Walking this minefield would tire a highly qualified psychologist, let alone a teacher.
Then there's the endless paperwork, which has teachers drowning in accountability. They struggle to find time to prepare new lessons because so many hours are soaked up reporting on old ones.
Email has stripped away the boundaries between teacher and student. Once upon a time, when little Johnny (me) faced a homework problem, he turned to his parents for help. If that wasn't forthcoming (political scientists were never that helpful when it came to chemistry), the teacher was approached the next day. In 2023, the problem turns up in the teacher's email, requiring an immediate response. All year, the work and worry is relentless. Results day is the finish line.
So in a couple of weeks, when you read about the high achievers from the class of '23, spare a thought for the teachers who helped get them there.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do we expect too much of teachers these days? Will a PR campaign like Be That Teacher solve anything? Are students too mollycoddled? Email us: email@example.com
SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- The main public service union has welcomed the sacking of Michael Pezzullo as Home Affairs secretary, saying it was a necessary step. "Far too often we have seen everyday public servants being held to a higher standard than their bosses," CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said. Mr Pezzullo was sacked following an investigation into allegations he used a Liberal Party back channel to wield political influence.
- A small coastal town is the latest to be inundated as a rat plague crawls across Queensland. Footage from Karumba in the state's north-west shows thousands of dead rats washed up at the town's boat ramps.
- The Albanese government will spend $255 million on tightening immigration controls as part of its response to the High Court's decision to overturn indefinite immigration detention. The funding, announced on Sunday evening, will be split between the Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
THEY SAID IT: "Humans are nervous, touchy creatures and can be easily offended. Many are deeply insecure. They become focused and energised by taking offence; it makes them feel meaningful and alive." - Michael Leunig
YOU SAID IT: The Reserve Bank governor's comments about haircuts and dental appointments fuelling inflation raised eyebrows.
Darryl writes: "Advisory groups and boards of big business including the RBA should have at least one representative from the unemployed and or pension (but then I suppose they wouldn't be unemployed or on the pension but you get my drift), somebody working a couple of jobs but earning $50,000 or under and somebody on the average wage."
"I think, the RBA board members aren't just out of touch with the majority of the population," writes Horst. "The RBA governor's reasoning makes me wonder if they are in touch with the current economic conditions. What a surprise that service businesses for which the biggest expenses are interest on loans and rent for their premises, followed by long delayed increases in labour cost, have to keep raising their prices. It's the interest rate-interest rate spiral, stupid."
Dixie writes: "Agree with all you say by the way and I sort of have some inside knowledge of the Reserve Bank as my daughter used to work for them."
"I understand exactly what you are saying," writes Rosemary. "My teeth are really odd colours following all the work done during my 'working years' and my hair is so much like a birch broom!"
Mike writes: "Oh, spot on, I would say. Definitely out of touch with the real world. We whenever possible have to buy food, have to buy fuel.; Not our fault the prices are so high."
"Couldn't agree more, John," writes David. "With Ms Bullock's extraordinary assertions, I suggest her words may well come to be known as Michele's bollocks."
Joe asks: "Why does the RBA not point out how much the increase in the cost of living is due to businesses charging high prices in order to make ever-increasing profits?"
"I would never have realised that by going bald I was helping to fight inflation," writes Arthur. "Thank you, Echidna, for pointing that out."
Phil from Dunbogan sees it differently: "I saw the media reaction to Michele Bullock's comments and I was amazed at how media (including you now) have turned those comments into a blame game. Michele was providing detailed comments on where inflation was occurring (local versus global), how it was occurring and what we need to do to defeat it. If the RBA didn't make comments and inflation kept on rising we would accuse them of being silent and asleep at the wheel. Economists spend their entire life looking at numbers and trying to work out what they mean. I'm quite sure if you looked at the public comments of any economist in Australia they would be saying the same thing. Stop shooting the messenger!"
Unwe writes: "Contrary to the RBA line, raising interest rates is raising inflation, not reducing it. Hairdressers and dentists have to raise their prices to pay higher interest on renting their premises, and their home mortgages. Meanwhile those who have money in the bank and no mortgage have more to spend on haircuts and tooth whitening. Interest rates are not a sledgehammer, they are a vice squeezing middle income families and small businesses."
"What should we expect when the 'new' chief was previously a loyal deputy for many years and whose working life has been spent within the cocooned cosy confines of the bank?" writes Bruce. "Old economic theory has had its day. Time to seriously consider modern monetary theory, where inflation is controlled by taxation eg varying the GST and an emphasis on full employment, or do an Argentina and abolish the Reserve Bank."
Julie writes: "I'm not anti-elite, however I am very pro people who make such significant decisions that impact people's lives actually meeting with and speaking to those people. Absolutely get out of the ballroom and get to the overrun support centres."