Pride in Primary


Queued in alphabetical order, I was the third to walk through the door to the Queensland Legislative Council Chambers up to the podium where I was introduced to Queen Elizabeth II by name. As she hung the Medal of the Order of Australia on my lapel, someone announced : “For services to education.” Her Majesty asked, ‘In what kind of education are you interested?”

I’d been hoping that she’d ask something like that, so I puffed out my chest and said “I’m a primary school teacher, Ma’am.” That was all.

I did not realise it at the time, but, here I was telling the most important lady in the world that I was more important than she was.

I was a teacher.

I could feel that way at the time, because primary schooling was trying to do the best that it could by its pupils. High stakes, fear based examinations had been tossed in the rubbish bins some years before and the western world was working together to learn more about the art of teaching per se. England led the way, USA tried to package the best from England; while Australia and New Zealand was copying the best of both worlds.

We had a distinct advantage and the next thing we knew, folk from up-over started coming down-under to check the various amalgams that freedom-to-teach-and-learn had produced. The interchanges between all countries were extensive and frequent as was the delivery of professional literature of the time. Teachers from down-under were being warmly welcomed in all parts of the world because their teaching abilities were valued highly. We knew what we were doing.

We were very, very proud of our efforts. It has now been shown that the school products of this era of professionalism have provided society with the comfortable life-style and communication devices that it now enjoys, undreamed of at the time. We did the job well. Classroom experience and curriculum expertise were valued. Ordinary, every-day teachers were able to climb to decision-making positions that existed for the enhancement of classroom learning behaviour. Every serious teacher and experienced administrator wanted children to love learning for its own sake. Most importantly, teachers’ professional freedoms and ethical principles were respected by all. No witless, inane Minister for Education nor any other puffed-up politician would have dared to tell us how to teach, nor subject us to the abuses that our colleagues of today have to endure. Our principals, our professional groups and our unions and all of our superiors would stick up for us.

What has happened to our principles?

Phil Cullen

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