Penny Colman, Primary School Teacher, Southern Highlands

Penny has taught in primary schools and support settings for more than 14 years. She has seen a lot change in that time and is concerned about the rising workloads and declining salaries within the teaching profession. Read why Penny believes teachers deserve More Than Thanks.


What is the best thing about being a teacher?
What I enjoy about teaching is having the opportunity to see children be proud of themselves when they succeed, especially after a lot of hard work. Also, a wave and a smile in the street or emails from old students catching you up on their lives and reminding you how much they care that you cared. I like the collaboration with such a diverse and fabulous bunch of fellow educators who really care deeply for their students.

Are there things that need to change in your view?
The workload of teachers has grown at an alarming rate in the time that I have been teaching and shows no signs of slowing. New policies, assessments and administrative paperwork seem to be introduced regularly, with nothing removed to allow teachers the time to undertake such additional work. Teaching our students should be our first priority.

The lack of support staff in schools is another area of need. Our school would greatly benefit from an increased number of School Learning Support Officers across both the support unit and mainstream. This would help with increasingly complex student needs. Further allocation of school counsellor time would be highly advantageous.

What are the benefits of giving teachers more preparation time?
Our current principal believes in quality collaboration so strongly that they provide all teachers additional release time each fortnight to ensure we can sit together in stages and work to improve our teaching for students learning. We all hope it continues for the year, though it is being affected (like our RFF and general classes) by the casual teacher shortages.

Why did you sign up for the More than thanks campaign?
I signed up for the More Than Thanks campaign because there are so many issues affecting public education at this time. Teacher shortages across the state are the result of so many years of neglect by a series of governments in the time I have been a teacher. Many colleagues have left the profession over the years, for reasons ranging from lack of permanency to horror at the change in the profession; from a respected job that allowed them autonomy to do the best by their students in their context, to a job that required them to spend hours on meaningless paperwork that had no impact on student learning. 

I fear that the lack of respect for teachers from many in positions of power in our state, combined with declining salaries relative to other professions will see more colleagues leave at a time when the uptake and completion of teaching degrees is falling and student numbers are growing. 

We need more than thanks.