Is primary education different?
Of course it is. It is, far and away, the most important period in a person’s life. What elements make it SO different?
• Primary schools introduce a country’s population to its rituals, conventions and rules. They are certainly the foundations of the country’s future.
• Each primary teacher undertakes a parent-surrogate role with a large number of children for a full school day for at least a full school year, with few if any breaks.
• Parents trust primary teachers more than they do most other people. They start to let go of their children’s hands.
• Primary teaching, because of its great range of activity, is more intellectually demanding than other kinds of teaching and is very demanding on personal creativity.
• It calls for mega-counselling ability that is more diverse than other carers provide. Statistics from fellow carers indicate that over one-third of an average class has endured a serious trauma of some kind in their young life. For example 1 in 5 has been the victim of domestic violence, 1 in 4 of sexual violence, 1 in 10 is poor and the teacher is the only adult that one-third of the class has spoken with during the previous 24 hours.
• Such bewildering statistics indicate that each pupil itches for special consideration during the course of the school day.
• Each teacher must possess a deep curriculum knowledge that not only accounts for the seven major areas of learning and other imposed issues, but must be able to handle them for seven years.
• Each teacher must adjust teaching styles from their repertoire to cater for the intricacies of the topic in hand, the setting, the resources available and, in particular, the idiosyncratic learning style of each pupil. It is an extraordinarily complex teaching task.
• The routines of each long day in these active learning centres called classrooms are physically, emotionally and intellectually demanding. By comparison, lecturing to a group of fifty adults is a piece of cake, but through strange social circumstances, a University Professor earns more than a Year 3 teacher.
• Each primary school has a closer, friendlier and more productive linkage with its clientele than most businesses and institutions, including educational institutions – and yet corporate managers and institution leaders receive much higher remuneration!
• Primary teachers serve children in the most remote places…far from homes, friends, interests, favoured recreational pursuits and geographical comfort. No other person serves the public in places so remote. The parents of the children live in such places by choice. The teacher, as a rule, does not. It is a public service that has no equal.
Australian primary teachers have a world-wide reputation. Valued for their proficiency, they are taken aboard quickly when they seek employment overseas. English, Canadian and American principals have told me that they are valued for their curriculum knowledge, diligence and preparedness to work under less than ideal conditions.