Australians have overwhelmingly supported teachers and their ability to inspire, encourage and provide kindness to students, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report by Monash University shows.
Last year, Monash University’s Faculty of Education launched a nationwide social media campaign calling on Australians to #ThankYourTeacher on the back of a report that revealed nearly three-quarters of teachers felt underappreciated in the classroom.
An analysis of the responses found Australians were most grateful for teachers’ ability to inspire, encourage and provide kindness to students, as well as their dedication and leadership in the classroom, rather their general subject knowledge.
Many social media posts expressed gratitude for the hard work and commitment of teachers, specifically within the context of COVID-19, as learning modes changed from the classroom to online to ensure quality education was delivered to all students.
Researchers at the University’s Faculty of Education launched the World Teacher’s Day Report 2020 today (Monday 5 October) in conjunction with the annual celebration. Monash researchers are encouraging parents and students to take time out to say ‘thank you’ to their teachers using the #ThankYourTeacher hashtag.
Dr Kelly-Ann Allen, Senior Lecturer in Educational and Developmental Psychology at Monash University, said the findings demonstrated the student-teacher relationship may be more valued than teacher knowledge.
“The findings suggest people value their teachers in a number of ways with many describing the significant impacts teachers have had on their learning and wellbeing over time,” Dr Allen said.
“This is consistent with previous international research which has identified that teaching is a trusted and valued profession, with shared beliefs that teachers play a critical role in the success of society.
“Results of the current study also need to be considered within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to remote learning experienced by students across the world. Although the vast majority of posts occurred prior to COVID-19, a portion of posts occurred in March to May when many schools in Australia had moved to home-based learning.”
The University’s Faculty of Education began the #ThankYourTeacher campaign in 2019 to celebrate and acknowledge the work of teachers. This was on the back of a Monash University study that found teachers struggled with taxing workloads and felt underappreciated in the profession. More than half of teachers surveyed said they would leave the profession.
The campaign involved the collection of posts by the public in relation to their teachers using a range of social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Posts were also written on the #ThankYourTeacher information website and feedback was collected at two events held in Melbourne from those in attendance.
Of the total 328 posts analysed, nearly half expressed gratitude for the social and emotional support, compassion, encouragement and sense of connections provided by teachers.
A further 37 per cent of posts recognised teachers for their hard work, critical thinking capacity, making connections with students and parents beyond the classroom and their mentoring and leadership.
Just 31 posts, or around 10 per cent, focused on expressions of gratitude in relation to teaching content, general knowledge or subject-specific learning that participants experienced with their teachers.
Lecturer in Leadership in Monash University’s Faculty of Education, Dr Amanda Heffernan, said these findings had implications for policy and practice in schools where there has been debate over the efficacy of teachers placed in subject areas they may not have specific training and expertise.
“Findings from this study may also stress the importance of teacher training in the area of social and emotional competencies which have been well established as important for students, but often assumed to be already established in teachers, which may not always be the case,” Dr Heffernan said.
Dr Christine Grove, Senior Lecturer in Educational Psychology at Monash University, said the #ThankYourTeacher campaign was designed to drive community awareness and appreciation for teachers and the profession.
“Teaching is regarded as one of the most trusted professions in the world, alongside doctors and nurses, yet teachers continually face personal and professional challenges that prevent them from making a difference to the lives of their students,” Dr Grove said.
“Behind every health professional, police officer, human rights activist, accountant and social worker is a teacher – someone committed to the profound education of minds for Australia’s future.
“These are caring, compassionate and hardworking individuals who deserve our support. We owe it to our teachers of today and tomorrow to make them feel appreciated in the classroom and drive policy changes to reduce the burden of administrative tasks so they can focus their efforts on learning and development.”