My name is Matt Esterman and I’ve just joined the Professional Officer team at the IEU. I’m excited about this new opportunity and to see how I can help support the great work that teachers do. I have been saying it long before the prime minister said it about our country but I believe that there has never been a more exciting time to be a teacher. The opportunities to engage and inspire our students with a plethora of new and evidence-informed strategies have never been greater. The challenges include the fact that we are no longer expected to be only experts in our subject area but also experts in the process and amplification of learning itself.
Being a History teacher, I can’t help describing a bit about my own past. I grew up on the northern beaches, have teachers throughout my family, and I attended St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Narrabeen, then St Augustine’s College in Brookvale. After studying at Macquarie University towards my teaching degree, where I met my wife, I dabbled in travel and temporary work before settling back in Sydney. My love of learning has spurred me to complete Masters degrees in Learning Science and Technology at the University of Sydney and also History at Macquarie University. Over the past five years I have helped establish the TeachMeet community in Sydney and around Australia, as well as taking part in numerous conferences, workshops and Twitter chats such as #histedchat. I am deeply interested in the impact of technology and physical spaces on learning.
I have been extremely lucky in my career so far. Having worked at wonderful schools over the past 10 years (and an IEU member for the same), I have experienced amazing places of work that are also incubators of creativity, rigour and support. I know that this is not the case for all my colleagues here in NSW and around Australia, where the experience of an Australian teacher is varied and is increasingly the cause of more and more early career teachers leaving the profession (50% of teachers in their first five years according to recent reports). Pair this with the impending retirement of our baby boomer generation of teachers and we have a future that requires teachers to rely on each other, to support each other, and to grow together more than ever.
The workshops, PIPs, conferences and other events we have planned for 2016 address several issues and opportunities that teachers face today. From harnessing social media through to understanding of accreditation processes, the professional team will work hard to ensure that every member has access to the best, most accurate and relevant information possible. In particular, I’m looking forward to working with teachers to find out the best ways to help them through processes that should be both fair and transparent. Teachers are smart, creative, hard working professionals who should primarily be working on addressing the needs of their students, not completing onerous and irrelevant admin that doesn’t help professional growth. We’re here to help on that front.
The IEU is a perfect example of an Australian union that works for the best outcomes of its members on all fronts. Historically, Australia works at its best when there is a clear and productive dialogue between employers and employees and when fair agreements are made. This is hardly more true than in a profession such as teaching, where our work can vary so much and yet share essential qualities regardless of age, place or time. It surprises me how so few people outside of education truly understand the commitment and connection that teachers have to their work. I look forward to celebrating the fantastic work happening in all our places of education.
The future is bright for Australian education but only if we make sure to treat all members of a school community with respect and dignity, in particular those who choose to be that rare kind of human: a teacher.
I look forward to meeting you at some of our events this year!
Also, I am a keen user of social media for professional and personal use and I encourage you to connect with the IEU on Twitter at @IEUNSWACT or at www.facebook.com/ieunswact as we communicate updates, events and other important information through those channels.
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