Why the return to school puts a magnifying glass on the importance of quality resources

Why the return to school puts a magnifying glass on the importance of quality resources

by Duncan Anderson

The start of the year is a busy period for parents and teachers alike. With students across Australia returning to school this week, teachers are navigating the terrain of a new school year - new students, new routines, perhaps subjects they’ve not taught before. Research suggests that teachers are overworked. Access to high quality resources can be the key to alleviating some of this strain.

The AITSL Teacher Workforce Data report released last year shows that the average teacher (both classroom teachers and leaders) worked almost 50% more than their contracted paid working hours. This was consistent for both full-time and part-time classroom teachers and is largely unchanged from 2018 figures. Full-time classroom teachers worked 145% of their paid hours at an average of 55 hours per week and part-time classroom teachers (working less than 0.95 FTE) worked 152% of their paid hours at an average 41 hours per week.

The Productivity Commission’s Review of the National School Reform Agreement shows that despite Aussie teachers working more hours than their international counterparts, they spend less time teaching, both in terms of absolute hours and as a proportion of their working week. Teachers spend more time on general administration, such as communication, paperwork and other clerical duties. The report suggests that reducing low-value tasks would not only improve teacher effectiveness but also help retain more teachers.

This echoes last year's Grattan Institute Report, which pinpointed the power of resources in giving teachers time back. It showed that teachers in schools with a bank of common materials for all their subjects spend three hours a week less sourcing and creating materials. And these teachers are almost four times more satisfied with curriculum planning at their school. Furthermore, nine out of ten teachers surveyed said access to shared, high-quality materials would give them more time to meet the needs of individual students.

Starting the school year right

At Edrolo, like many companies, empowering teachers and giving them time back is a core focus. We do that through high-quality and flexible resources. While our resources are designed to support students and teachers through the entire Year 7-12 school curriculum, this week we’ve released a free resource, 50 First Lesson Ideas - specifically to help teachers plan the first lessons of the school year.

The eBook equips teachers with a range of ideas from quick icebreakers and fun class games, to teamwork activities and entire lessons. The ideas are suitable for any subject across Year 7-12 and can easily be modified to suit different students, spaces and contexts. They include:

Bat, bat, moth, moth

  • Year level: Junior secondary
  • Type: Class game
  • Subject: Science             

Lesson idea: Similar to the Marco Polo game, ask students to stand and form a circle. Pick one student to be the bat, and two students to be moths. They stand inside the circle, while the other students act as ‘the cave’. The bat must close their eyes (or use a blindfold/student’s jumper) and call out, ‘bat’, while the moths reply, ‘moth’. The bat must try to catch the moths, keeping their eyes shut and only using sound to locate them within the circle. If the bat gets too close to the sides of the circle, those nearby students call out ‘cave’. This replicates (kind of!) the echolocation used by bats to hunt prey, and is a fun game, as well as introduction to an animal/mammal topic.

Stock Market

  • Year level: Senior secondary
  • Type: Ongoing activity
  • Subject: Business Management

Lesson idea: Create a stock market simulation for the students. Each student receives a particular amount of money. They’re allowed to make a certain amount of trades per week/month on a fake stock market.

These can be tracked in a Google/shared doc showing the student trades/stocks owned/funds spent/ profit/loss. Set a specific trade time so that all trades go through at the same time and it removes any chance for argument regarding change of price throughout the day. Run the competition for a term/semester and provide a small prize for the winner.

Picture This!

  • Year level: Any
  • Type: Whole lesson
  • Subject: Any

Lesson idea: Show students a photo –– it can be anything, but should have interesting details in it. For example if you’re looking at an ancient civilization in Humanities, a picture/representation from that time can work. Get students to come up with as many questions as they can about the picture, and write these on the board (e.g. What is that person doing? How does that person know the other people in the image? Why is that animal there? Who owns it?). Once you’ve exhausted all the questions, come up with answers as a class. Then to wrap up, students can individually, or in pairs, create a story or news article using the information the class has created.

Year-round success

Starting the school year right can help teachers get ahead. We’re hoping that providing a free resource, which offers some ideas for the first few weeks, with a mix of fun games, icebreakers and teamwork activities - can provide a bit of inspiration and hopefully some time back. Schools and teachers who are interested in using the eBook can download it on the Edrolo website.

Duncan Anderson is the Co-founder of Edrolo.