Conversations lead to thinking

For the long weekend we travelled south to Buckland and stayed at a quaint bed and breakfast. B&Bs are always interesting with regard to who you might meet and where that might lead. Due to the location of the B&B, dinner in was the most convenient option. As a result, we were able to meet with fellow travellers for that meal, as well as the following morning for breakfast. This allowed plenty of time for conversations to develop and connections to be made, beyond the superficial tourist chat regarding information about possible places to visit.


One of the guests was particularly interesting to me, from a professional and personal perspective. He had held lecturing roles in a range of universities, in Australia and overseas, in the area of education psychology and later moved into psychology relating to the area of human resources. Our conversations danced around a number of topics, but the one that I found most interesting focused on research he mentioned that identified the difference between public and private school educators. By now you are possibly starting to wonder where this may be heading, and I am sure you will be interested. He talked about public school educators being employed in a system that is large enough, that over time, they start to see themselves as just a cog in the broader workings of the system. This then has the potential to impact significantly on the way one views their ability to have opportunity to effect change at a school level. Private school educators feel more connected to their school and believe they have more purpose and value to their school. The significant difference is that although both work for a ‘system’, those working in the private system are directly employed by the school, where as, the public school educator is not employed by the school they are employed by the state or department of education. His perspective on this was to forget the system. Instead focus on doing your job well (what you are employed to do), which will provide opportunity for you to value your work and make an impact that you can be proud of, which will feed into your self worth.

I will spend some time later to search for related research, but for now this post is more about the thinking I am doing. When I start to work through this I can understand why we have teachers who may appear to some as less committed. And I have often heard younger teachers comment about older teachers not being as willing to do extra (and by extra I mean go above and beyond their work responsibilities). Maybe over time these younger teachers will also feel like the cog in the system? The concept of fault starts to whirl around in my head regarding this, is there an issue that needs to be addressed here? If so who responsible for it and how can it be fixed? I would strongly argue that it is a system issue, one that impacts on many including myself, and one that needs addressing. How does the system ensure that the individual is not lost within it, to the point where they develop a sense of pointlessness, worthlessness and helplessness in their position? I also question what other interesting issues arise if, at a school level in the public system, one has a very strong sense of connectedness to the school, like that of the private system. Is it possible that this will impact on the transfer policy? Does this make transfers highly problematic if a strong tie to the school is sought? For transfers between schools in the public education system to have minimal impact, do they rely on the teacher just being a cog in the larger system?

Is it ok to be just a cog in the larger system? It makes me feel more like a factory worker than someone who studied for 4 years to gain an education degree, then continued further study to gain a Grad Cert and an MEd. As a cog my opinion and voice are better not expressed. Is this ok?

Maybe, with 15 years to go before retirement, it is better that I resign to the cog in the larger system and focus on what I am paid to do and just do that?

Maybe this (my blog) is the only place I can put a ‘spanner ‘ (have a voice that may effect some change) in the works?

Maybe it is time to consider moving to the private system?




  1. Mrs Cresdee says:

    After teaching for nearly twenty years myself I definitely understand where you are coming from. It seems like only yesterday I was a ‘young gun’ running on coffee and enthusiasm. These days I opt for a more simple life and that inevitably means ‘doing less’ or at least ‘working smarter’ to ensure a better work/life balance.

    • dbatty1 says:

      Thanks Michelle, I think my recent Hardie Fellowship has really made me question my situation. I don’t think I can position myself to effect change in this system.

  2. I’ve often thought the other way around – why is it that younger teachers don’t seem to be as committed as some of us older educators. I have been teaching for 30+ years and within each school I have worked in (4 only!) I have worked to become part of the community. My last post was for 13 years and my current school has just celebrated its 20th Anniversary (I moved there as a foundation staff member). I believe it’s a personal trait which allows one to identify as part of the school rather than as part of the department. I forget a lot about the systemic and focus on the local – after all that’s where I spend most of my time. However, I also don’t sit on my laurels and mark time. Understanding that change is inevitable forces one to renew and reflect day in, day out on pedagogy and the choices we make to engage students. I was educated in public schools and I want to give back to students in public schools. My philosophy is “Be that one person who can help make a difference!” Knowing what many students face day in and day out forces us to see teaching as a vocation rather than a job. My vocation has dramatically changed over time – forcing me to cope in situations I could not have foreseen before I started teaching and making me reflect on just what it is we are trying to achieve as educators.

  3. Carl Stevens says:

    Hi Donelle, just stumbled across your blog and was interested in your honest and sincere reflections. I was a secondary teacher and curriculum leader in the Victorian Catholic system for 17 years, and then worked at the system level, so I tend to look at both levels. In the Catholic sector the system has much less influence on schools than the government sector.
    I think teachers mostly focus on their local school, as that is where they have direct influence, where they feel they belong, and where they experience the rewards of teaching as well as the stresses. I don’t think youth or experience per se means a teacher is more or less committed or hard-working. That varies with individuals. I believe more experienced teachers do learn efficient and effective methods of professional practice that newer teachers may have to work harder at.
    But I also believe that teachers’ voices need to be heard at system and state levels. Policymakers and governments must be informed by the realities of practice in schools.Teachers need a stronger professional profile. If enough people like you raise their voices, worthwhile change can occur, maybe slowly, but hopefully in the right direction.

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