Flipping the system for Australian teachers:

IEU's first Book Club

One does not need to look far to find hotly contested debates about education, schools and teachers. These debates are both global and local in context; there is no doubt that education will continue to be a popular football for politicians, bureaucrats, policy makers and organisations.

These arguments will extend far beyond discussions of demountables and air conditioning; topics such as teacher registration, accountability, standards for entry into the profession, the role of initial teacher education providers and the need for ongoing, registered professional development, especially in rural and remote areas, are all central to discussions about education in Australia today.

However, a common and for the most part, valid criticism about these discussions is that they ignore the voices of those education workers who have the most to contribute: teachers themselves.

For whatever reason, and whether it’s a deliberate or accidental omission, teachers are often marginalised or ignored entirely in these debates.

Even the elected representatives of the teaching profession, like the Australian Education Union and the Independent Education Union, are often overlooked.

For example, the current Board of Directors from AITSL has no requirement to appoint representatives from the teaching unions that collectively advocate for more than 200,000 teachers across Australia.

Perhaps not surprisingly, teachers are seeking new ways of promoting their voices to fill these gaps. The ‘Flip the System’ movement is one such example, and it is one that is quickly gaining interest in Australia. In 2018, ‘Flip the System Australia: What Matters in Education’ was published, building on a growing international series. Edited by Deborah Netolicky, Jon Andrews and Cameron Paterson, this volume draws together a range of Australian and international voices to critically examine narratives of ‘failing’ schools and teachers, as well as the increased privatisation and de-professionalisation of teachers within the education system.

Well known Australian education academics, like Anna Hogan and Bob Lingard are joined by internationally respected academics such as Pasi Sahlberg. In addition, there are the voices of practicing teachers, like Yasodai Salvakumaran and Kelly Cheung.

On Wednesday, 10 April, more than 40 teachers got together via Adobe Connect to discuss the book, and what it meant for them in their practice.

The conversation was led by Cameron Paterson, one of the instigators and editors of Flip the System Australia. Cameron spoke eloquently about his determination to rebuild the professional standing of teachers, and how teachers and teacher unions have a significant role to play in this.

Cameron was joined by Steven Kolber, a teacher from Melbourne and the host of the #edureading Twitter group, who discussed how he had tried to implement some of the ideas from Flip the System in his school already.

This is the first of a series of planned book clubs. Next term, the club will be reading Teacher by Gabbie Stroud. There will be two events: an interview with Gabbie herself, and then a discussion later in the term between teachers about the themes raised in the book.

All members are welcome to join the club. Register via the PD page, or follow the conversation on Twitter: #ieureading or on our Facebook community group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ieucommunity/

Keith Heggart