Teacher speaks out saying “Classrooms are overcrowded. The curriculum is so overcrowded.”  “I write this because I love children and I can’t bear to see what we are doing to them.”

Kathy Margolis a teacher from Brisbane has expressed her fears for today’s students on a Facebook post.

She wrote: “To all my teaching buddies and all my friends with school age kids, I’ve written a letter on your behalf to the editor of the Courier Mail:

Education in Australian schools is in crisis and someone has to listen to those who are game enough to speak up. I have been a primary school teacher in Brisbane schools for over 30 years. This year, after much thought, I have decided to look for another job, not easy for a woman in her 50s. I cannot continue to do a job that requires me to do what is fundamentally against my philosophy of how it should be done. I love my students and they love me. I know how to engage children in learning and how to make it fun. It’s what I do best.

Teachers have very little professional autonomy anymore. We are told what to do, how to do it and when it has to be done by. Never have I experienced a time in my profession where teachers are this stressed and in real fear for the mental health of not only themselves, but the children that they teach. The pressures are enormous. And before we get the people who rabbit on about our 9 to 3 day and all the holidays we get, let’s get some things straight. No teacher works from 9 until 3. We are with the students during those hours.

We go on camps, we man stalls at fetes, we conduct parents/teacher interviews, we coach sporting teams and we supervise discos. And of course there is the lesson preparation, the marking, the report cards. Full time teachers are paid 25 hours a week. Yes you read that correctly, 25 paid hours a week. In any other job that would be considered part time. So now that I have justified our holidays, many of which are spent doing the above, let’s talk about what is going on in classrooms across this great nation of ours.

Classrooms are overcrowded, filled with individuals with all sorts of needs both educational and social. Teachers are told we must differentiate and cater to each individual. Good teachers try desperately to do that but it is near impossible and we feel guilty that we are not doing enough to help the children in our care.

The curriculum is so overcrowded. Prep teachers who used to run lovely play based programs (which might I add work beautifully) are teaching children sight words and how to read and write alongside subjects like history and geography. As a teacher and a mother of 3 sons, this scares the proverbial out of me. We all know that boys this age need to be moving around doing things that interest them, not sitting at desks. And what about the notion of readiness? I fear those little ones who are not ready are going to be left behind. And here’s the problem with our crowded curriculum. There is not enough time to consolidate the basics. Every teacher on this earth will tell you that the early years should be about the 3 R’s. My own children went off to year one after having had a lovely, enriching play based year of learning back in the days of pre-school. They didn’t know any sight words; they could write maybe a few letters and guess what? They learnt to read and write without being pushed at such an early age.
In my teaching career I have never seen so many children suffering from stress and anxiety. It saddens me greatly. Teaching at the moment is data driven. We are testing them and assessing them and pushing them so hard. I get that teachers need to be accountable and of course we need assessment but teachers have an innate ability to know what kids need. A lot of it is data for data’s sake. Don’t even get me started on NAPLAN. Teachers wouldn’t have a problem with NAPLAN if it wasn’t made out to be such a big deal by the powers that be, the press and parents. It has turned into something bigger than Ben Hur.

So why am I writing this? I’m writing this because teachers need to speak up but we are often afraid of retribution. We need to claim back our profession but we are powerless. Teachers teach because we love children and are passionate about education. Our young teaching graduates enter the profession bright eyed and bushy tailed, energetic and enthusiastic, ready to make a difference. So why I ask are they only staying for an average of 5 years? Of course that question is rhetorical. I know the answer. They are burnt out and disillusioned. Older teachers like me have seen better days in the classroom so in a way it’s harder for us to see all the joy slowly being sucked out of learning. But we also have a wealth of experience to draw from and we know which hoops you don’t necessarily need to jump through. We occasionally speak out. We are not as easy to “control”. But we are tired and also burning out with disillusionment.

I write this in the hope that we can spark a public discussion. We need the support of parents, who I know agree with us. I write this because I love children and I can’t bear to see what we are doing to them. Last year, as I apologised once again to my class for pushing them so hard and for the constant barrage of assessment, one child asked me “if you don’t like the things you have to do then why are you still a teacher?” That question got me to thinking long and hard. I had no answer except that I truly loved kids and it was with a heavy heart that I realised that wasn’t enough anymore.”

Her post has been shared over 8600 times and received over 20 comments.

Can you help Kathy make a stand?

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  • I have friends who are primary school teachers in the private school system and they too complain that it’s the bureaucracy that is making their job difficult, not the children. At times they also complain about parents who send their undisciplined children to school and then get angry with the teacher when the teacher phones them to discuss their child’s unruly behaviour. If I were a teacher unhappy with the system, I would take my complaints to the Teachers Union – after all, that’s what they’re there for.


  • Unless the rules have changed teachers also do yard duty. They walk around the school yard during lunch time to ensure children behave themselves or action can be taken. Injured or sick children can go to the teacher on duty.


  • yeah i agree. school is becoming a high pressure environment for everyone


  • Dear Kathy,
    I AGREE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have recently taken early retirement for all the reasons you have mentioned. I have discussions with my principal about being data driven several years ago. On no he said. Ask him now…..he agrees! I miss the children but nothing would make me go back now! I wrote several letters to our Education Department (Victoria) and was basically told my opinion didn’t matter and please be quiet. I tried to speak to politicians during elections and of course was just given platitudes. I am with you, with great fears for our society if this system is not stemmed. Well done.


  • I am the father of a Prep. student in Brisbane, so hearing this is worrying.
    I volunteer at a local High school, so i know it is true.
    I am also a mature-age Education student at a G8 University, so I\\\’m an academic and I know the CURRENT Australian curriculum standards (which I was looking at last night – to which my wife says, \\\”Geeeeek!\\\” ).
    I think this issue DOES need to be discussed. I also think it needs some positive action.

    I propose a few ideas, so correct me if they are misguided, but:

    1. Give the school leaders autonomy for curriculum and assessment.
    2. Remove the pressure of unrealistic expectation and inadequate assessment for assessments\\\’ sake, and let (very) young people learn social skills, then learn academically. In other words, make learning fun!
    3. Establish and maintain communication with community. Good teachers know what the students in their care are capable of, and where they are at, without the rigour of assessment.

    It\\\’s well known that other countries do some of these things better (e.g. Finland) so why not take some of what they do and adapt that to suit our needs?

    The main thing is to identify what we want to achieve and work together toward that. It is a huge challenge, but not one that should stop us from trying, striving for improvement.

    So come on, people, support parents, and teachers, they have been prevented from speaking for too long by bureaucracy. Teachers need your voice.


  • Lke hs


  • This is very sad and scarey. My daughter is a few years off school. I hope a change is made


  • We are a few years off school. I do hope the system improves soon.


  • I suppose what is going on now is an effort to ensure everyone has the same quality of education – perhaps smaller classes and more teachers would help alleviate teacher stress.


  • Brilliant letter, very well said and true. My son who is in Grade 5 this year doesn’t like school. His favourite part of school is home time. I remember not loving school but having fun and enjoying plenty of parts of it! It’s really gone down hill and the stress they go through. My son is often stressed and it’s killing me seeing him like this. I hope this letter reaches the hearts of people who can change it back to what it used to be.


  • It is a sad state that our system is in! We are soon going to be so short of teacher as those that leave after as little as five years in but also those that are leaving well before retirement age because they have just had enough of the ludicrous system.


  • I hope they do something about it soon


  • So sad!! This a true insider, a teacher who experiences all of this and we all have to stand up and take notice and action so we can make a change.


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