Who are the Better Teachers?


I stumbled across an interesting post a little while ago which encourages high school teachers to spend some time working in the primary school. What a great idea! All of us, no matter where we teach in the education spectrum, will have opinions (some of them quite strong) about who are the better teachers… Primary or Secondary.  The reality, of course, is that we are not necessarily talking about better, but what skills they bring to the classroom.

You will have heard the well-worn comment that high school teachers teach subjects and primary teachers teach students. I don’t intend to buy into that argument here, but I do love Alice Leung’s encouragement and I wish more high school teachers did take the chance to at least visit a primary classroom to observe, if not even spend time teaching there.  Why?  Because I do believe that the skills Primary teachers use can and should be transferred into the Secondary classroom.

I trained as a primary school teacher and taught in Years 5 to 7 for about 14 years. I’ve now taught in the Middle Years for the same amount of time, teaching mainly Year 8 but some classes have been with 7’s, 9’s and 10’s.

Here’s what I know about primary teachers and primary level education…

Primary teachers do know their students well. They spend the majority of their day with the same kids and al relationship happens. I know this can happen in high school but often not to the same depth.

Primary teachers tend to develop strong skills at breaking down a task or skill into sequential, manageable parts. The behaviour management on a primary class tends to be quite broad and diverse.

Primary teachers create the best cross-curricular links. The do it naturally and tend to have a strong integration focus.

Primary teachers do have subject knowledge depth. They also have the additional skill of scaffolding that knowledge for their students.

Now, none of this is to say that secondary teachers aren’t great!  I know they are. And there are definitely things primary teachers can learn from them. But in saying all of that, I know that what happens in a primary classroom is something special. There is a lot that High school teachers can learn from working in this area.

Perhaps my final comment needs to be this however: greater than any debate about Primary or Secondary education or teachers, I KNOW that the best teachers are those who work in the Middle Years. They tend to be a wonderful blend of the best of both worlds.


What do you reckon are the best qualities of Primary and Secondary teachers?

Leave some comments.



2 thoughts on “Who are the Better Teachers?

  1. Obviously the Early Years educators are the best, but all that aside… 🙂
    Primary teachers seem to hold a versatility that secondary educators sometimes lack, due to the need for Primary teachers to teach such a wide range of subject areas, content information and life skills.
    That secondary educators can hone their skills and knowledge of one area is a great thing for them personally, and for their students. The independence students gain as they grow also allows secondary educators to use more social and peer based learning, which is trickier in primary, but can be more effective.
    I think early years teachers get the best of both – you learn how to play, thus increasing the social learning, and you get to play with lots of things, a broader scope of content and knowledge. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the comments Rachael.
    Obviously all teachers are skilled at what they do bit, I agree, there is a versaltility inherent in Primary teachers. And the ability of the Early Years teacher to incorporate skills in significant play activities is a particularly important skill.
    What is most important, I think, is that all teachers take every opportunity to learn from their peers in other parts of the education spectrum.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *