The New South Wales Government for years have been trying to attract more teachers. This is not something new. They have tried providing incentives for young people to enter the profession such as re-vamping of the one-year teaching course offered to those in other professions (those who already have qualifications in a recognised subject area). These are now available as online courses, or part-time, from selected Universities.
Another incentive was the creation of a Super Teacher role. To this end, one hundred positions of 'Super Teacher' were created, attracting a 20% pay increase. To earn this extra salary, they were expected to take on a leadership role for students and other teachers. For example, they might be involved in developing new curricula for senior students or mentoring junior staff, or something similar that reflects their particular skills and interests.
Public comments included a surprise teachers were not paid very well, whereas others didn't think any teacher was worth anywhere near that amount. Others thought the idea well overdue, while some gave an opposite view and suggested the selection process would inevitably be flawed.
There were some disturbing 'comments' as well. One compared the salary to that of our soldiers in war zones, and lamented how badly the returned armed forces personnel are treated when they arrive home, often with emotional issues. Others questioned the low value we place on teachers, when playing grounds resemble battle fields, and where bullying is rife and students need AVO's placed on them.
I believe rewarding quality teachers is a very well worth while exercise. Members of my own family, like many Australians, have been teachers through the years; and the strange conundrum that the (sometimes backhanded) Australian humour actually honours teachers instead of demeaning them, with the classic bumper sticker which reads: 'If you can read, thank a teacher’.
But how does one determine who is a quality teacher? My wife, Delma, suggests that all those teachers who serve the community with educating the disabled fall automatically into the 'quality' teacher arena. But everyone will have a different criterion. The process of selection and outcomes is obviously important.
The Australian newspaper ran a story 28 December where non-government schools work better. The reason Catholic and independent schools, on the whole, outperform government schools is not because of students’ socio-economic status, which has a relatively weak impact on outcomes, but because non-government schools have control over staffing, budgets, curriculum focus and classroom practice.
School children road sign
The other incentive, the renewed push to attract older professionals into the teaching profession (which was common when I was a student, and has been ‘on and off’ the agenda in various formats over the past 40 years) has apparently been working very well in the United States for some years; New South Wales is now reaping the benefits of the latest version, now several years’ down the track.
Many professional people have worked to their mid to late forties and decided, with good and admirable motives, to jettison their careers and give something back to the wider community.
These mature people have incentive, personal drive, commitment with integrity and a sense of overall balance. They bring their corporate nose with them, smelling a rat a mile off before class room disruptions take place. This a positive step. One of our young writer panellists who worked for the Government 'til early retirement has retained as a Maths teacher.
Theological colleges, too, are recognising the value of mature aged students. Numerous men and women have reached a decision for their lives to get off the greasy pole and offer their lives in Christian service.
Many have come to a stalemate or ‘career maximum’ or are just bored. They are still active and energetic, with modern ideas, yet already their are children off to university or working. They own their own homes, they have some financial security and still have twenty-five years minimum to offer the Lord in this way.
In all walks of life, our young people can benefit from such wisdom of particularly gifted teachers as well as those with maturity and life-experience. I applaud the efforts of government and private teaching institutions such as theological colleges in helping many keen people to renew their careers in this most important of professions.
School bus collection sign
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at