Aussie teacher blasts 'disrespectful' five-word question she's often asked

Meg Southcombe argues that society's attitude towards teachers needs to change, and fast.

A student teacher has vehemently argued Australian educators deserve “more respect” as the country faces an “unprecedented” workforce shortage, slamming an irritating five-word remark she frequently hears as an example of society’s flippant attitude towards teachers.

Meg Southcombe, a student ambassador at the University of Newcastle, said it was easy to understand why “teachers are burning out”, leaving schools desperate for staff.

“The societal norms for teaching have changed,” she said during an interview on the ABC’s The Drum last month. “Do you know how many people tell me, ‘oh, you're just becoming a teacher?’”

Student teacher Meg Southcombe in a yellow top on The Drum
Student teacher Meg Southcombe said society doesn't treat educators with enough respect as Australia continues to face a huge shortage. Source: The Drum/ABC

The obviously offended teacher then stares deadpan into the camera before sarcastically nodding her head and muttering, “yeah, thanks”.

'Teachers deserve respect'

Ms Southcombe continued her impassioned speech by describing her experience in the classroom.

“And how much of an impact has a teacher had on your life?" she asked. "I’ve taught in low SES [socio-economic status] schools where kids go home to broken family, adopted parents, don't shower don't have clean school clothes. I am the one person in their life that’s consistently there for six hours a day on their team,” she said, arguing that society needs to “start role modelling the respect that is needed for teachers … because they’re educating the future.”

Teachers are educating those who years from now may look after you or your kids, she said.

“So I think it’s time to start. And that’s very free. That’s just called being kind and respectful. And we’re professionals at the end of the day, and that’s what we need. That’s free,” Meg added, seemingly referring to the battle between NSW teachers and the state government over wage increases.

Students shunning teaching careers

The long-running standoff with the NSW Teachers Federation came to an end last month when the government agreed — from October 9 — to bump starting salaries from $75,791 to $85,000, while salaries at the top of the scale will climb from $113,042 to $122,100.

Meanwhile, studying to become a high school teacher in Victoria will now be free as the government tries to stem the shortages.

Teachers march on Parliament House during a strike by NSW public school teachers and principals in Sydney, Tuesday, December 7, 2021. Source: AAP
Protesting NSW teachers have won a wage increase starting from next term. Source: AAP

The Australian Education Union says there are almost 1400 teaching vacancies in Victorian government schools and more than 600 vacancies for other staff including support workers, librarians and administrators.

Data from the Universities Admissions Centre published by The Guardian last month shows university students are shunning the career, with education ranking seventh out of the 11 major study fields. “Of those who do start a teaching degree, only 50 per cent finish, and of those who finish it, 20 per cent are leaving after less than three years,” Minister for Education Jason Clare told the publication.

With NCA NewsWire and AAP

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