Mind Matters: Experts

Millions of parents round the world have been trying to help teach their children at home due to quarantines. The parents have found the work hard, and they are starting to appreciate teachers more.

That appreciation is especially important in the US, where teachers' pay is so low that many teachers have to work a second or third job to pay their bills.

Early childhood educators tend to get little respect and little pay. Part of their problem is that almost all of them are women.

Careers dominated by women usually get low pay. Yet those early educators do important work, helping children get ready for school and more.

We tend to underestimate the work skills needed by people in work other than what we do.

I have known a few young women who started training to become an early childhood educator. All of them were essentially failed out of the program.

I often think of the skills of others when I see someone operating a crane or some other construction equipment.

These are mostly men, making good money, who operate the equipment as if it were an extension of their body.

I first became a believer in worker skill when I helped a client, "Tony," who had suffered a damaging brain inflammation. He had trouble speaking - he had trouble doing anything.

Tony had worked as a sorter at a post office. His job was to look at a postal code on a letter and to toss the item into one of about 50 bags in front of him, each for a different code. Letter carriers then used the bags for delivery.

I took Tony back to his work place and asked for permission to see whether he could still do the work. A worker there said sure.

Tony then started rapidly flipping letter after letter into mail bags, throwing each letter over a metre. I quietly asked the other worker whether Tony was sorting into the right bags. He said yes.

I was amazed. I wondered whether Tony had the needed skills stored in every neuron in his brain.

You also have learned a great deal about the work you do - farming, retail, child-rearing, whatever. Maybe you had training. Maybe you learned on the job.

Do not assume that others can do what you have learned to do.

Yes, others can learn. But they may never be better than you.

  • John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.
This story We all have skills, don't underestimate them first appeared on The Canberra Times.