Tuesday, 6 January 2009

On my soapbox!

Gosh, I wish that the Federal Minister of Education here in Australia read my blog.

I am a teacher but I don't work full time. Forget all those supposed holidays you hear that teachers get. The 10 weeks vacation that the Australian kids have don't exist for the majority of Australian teachers. We're too busy planning for the next term or marking from the last.

I don't work full time because I don't want to spend my life (not just the official working week) just doing the planning and marking (or worrying about the planning and marking that I could be doing) when I am supposedly doing ordinary activities of daily living which other workers do when they have time off. I want to have time to sleep without feeling guilty about doing so, particularly on weekends. I want to be able to eat my lunch in peace a couple of times a week rather than do what teachers do during lunch hours. I want to go for a drive in my car on weekends without taking with me the 240 or so students' worth of essays begging for attention on the back seat of the vehicle at various times of the school term.

I don't teach full time because I've had one too many knives pointed too close to my throat and have been spat upon at least once too often by 15 year old boys who should know better.

Teaching is a stressful gig for even the most dedicated educators!

Why am I saying all this today? This afternoon, I rang one of my teaching mates, who worked, until mid-December, at a school where I no longer work full time. I rang to wish her Happy New Year but instead of ringing a woman who should have been relaxing because she has just retired, I found my friend still on edge three weeks after school broke up for the summer vacation. Why can't she relax, you ask? Two of our former teaching colleagues have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Sad, huh?

I'm even more gobsmacked to discover that rather than being totally devastated about their diagnosis and the possible implications, both teachers are relieved to have breast cancer (and other colleagues from the same school are wishing that it was contageous) because it means that they don't have to go back to school when it resumes at the end of January.

No job is worth that thought process.


The Minister has supposedly been quoted as saying:

"We believe that there is nothing more valuable you can do for your nation than go into teaching and we want to reinforce that."

She has declined to commit to improving teacher salaries which would improve the profession's status, which, in turn, would improve people's perception of teachers' place in society and possibly kids' treatment of their teachers.

In this day and age, money talks. People who are valued are paid more.

The Minister, however, has indicated that she favours a system of performance pay for quality teachers that is linked to a broad range of measures. This would be negotiated with the states and territories as part of a new national education partnership.

"We want to make sure that excellent teachers are valued," she supposedly said.

I consider that statement to be an effort of splitting hairs.

The Minister is talking through her bum! She is hedging around the issue of paying all teachers more money. She needs to put dollars where her mouth is and cough up funds for drastically increased teacher salaries. She needs to put dollars where her mouth is and cough up for similar working conditions that she enjoys in her office in Parliament House (personal safety, air-conditioning, adequate space for a desk, computers which function, office supplies, resources to do her job, etc); She needs to cough up a teaching wage adequate enough to attract more men to the profession - men who can feed and educate families and pay for houses in the same time that it takes other Australians to do so.

She also needs to acknowledge that teaching is not an easy profession and that the people who do the job need more support, not a pay-by-student-results salary.

I'm going to get off my soap box, now.


Little Cat said...

I agree. They should be paid top dollar for the job they do and the risks and stress they are put under on a daily basis. Teaching is the job from hell these days. There's no way on earth I'd do it and I know lots of people with the same view.

teachingmum1970 said...

Thank-you from a full time teacher who must work full time to make ends meet. If it were a higher wage I may have the option of balancing work and family more equitably.
But to hear that teachers prefer to live with breast cancer than have to go back to school is just heart breaking! What is the system doing to these people?
I've been abused, slandered and physically threatened in the course of my work and yet I still love what I do and those are fortunately isolated incidents.
It would be nice, for once, to have the heaps of work we are already doing properly recognized instead of always discussing what more we could be doing.
There are only 24 hours in a day and we deserve, just like any other human being, to have a reasonable amount of time out.
I for one have spent my holidays cleaning my house like crazy so that the burden is lifted during the school term. By next week I'll be working at school again in my holiday.
People just don't get it.

Alberta said...

Kudos Felicity! You are so right about Teachers not getting the recognition they rightfully deserve. Teachers are guiding our young people to be tomorrow's leaders.

Seems we also have that problem here, too many administrative issues are taking away from the actual time spent with the students.

To welcome a life threatening illness as a reprieve from work is a sad reflection of today's reality. I do hope that both colleagues win their battle with breast cancer.

Governments all seem to have the money for jetting around the country to meet with officials...couldn't they do the same for a lot less via a tele-conference? Keep the money to keep the right professionals...teachers, doctors at home, doing what they do best!

Heather said...

Your post just makes me so sad for the teachers who would think that having cancer would be better than having to return to work. I have two small children, and the thought of them treating anybody so rudely just makes me crazy. What is it with parents letting their kids get away with acting like that? How are the parents treating those kids? Do those kids who act so bad get treated with no respect at home? It is just as bad here, I’ve seen it. I am a big fan of the teachers my kids have, they are great people who care for them, and in turn they deserve respect for their position.

Too much money gets spent on administrators, or “special programs” and it really needs to go toward those teachers who are working so hard for our kids. I am on a soapbox about this too! :) You are not the only one.

Aussie Stitcher said...

It is sad to think that the teachers would prefer a life threatening disease to working, but you realise the conditions then you can understand. The minister needs to spend some time in the class rooms in some of the more troubled areas to experience first hand the problems faced by our educators. But I doubt that she would have the nerve or the constitution to do so, let alone make a career out of it.

omashee aka Barb said...

Amen Felicity! You're preaching to the choir! We all support you and the other teachers. What a shame about the two women that would choose cancer over returning to the class room. I do pray that they have an adequate support system.

~Tammy said...

Wow! That is craziness.

I'm speechless.

Sending you big hugs.

Lili said...

I am very sad and angry to see that things in Australia are quite the same as what they are in France. This is a complete disaster and we have increasing figures of major depressions among teachers. They are badly paid, badly considered, many people don't have a single idea how much they have to work out of the hours dedicated to teaching. They are bullied too. Many of the teachers I know have lost their marriage in the process because this life just sucks them up. This is a vampire job. And you should see how parents talk about their children's ill teachers...

Your soap box would be very much needed to wash the presidents and ministers ' brains who have stopped putting money in education, the very future of our societies, and use it for major purposes like weapons. Haven't they ever heard that the major weapon, the best tool to defend ourselves is brains? Knowledge? Where is the human race going, then?
Oh! I know! That's because brains don't make as much money as weapons. Silly me...

Apart from this rant that I wanted to join, I wish you the happiest possible 2009. I hope you'll find comfort in your beloved ones and in your beautiful stitching.
Many hugs,

Margaret said...

I for one could never be a teacher. Now I always knew this but your rant has certainly affirmed how right I always was.

Wishing you all the best as you start on a new teaching period. Take care and best wishes for 2009.

Daughter of the Midwest said...

Three of my good friends are teachers and it is a never ending uphill battle for them. They are shortchanged in the pay line, overcharged in the education line and plain disrespected and insulted in the parents line. Many parents in So. Oh. turn their children over to the schools to be raised, not educated. I credit a couple of my teachers for encouraging and cultivating my wacky intelligence. My friend Li talks about when the lightbulb goes off in a particularly hard struggling student, it's like the sun rising after a war. She said she can survive on that breakthrough for weeks. Too many children, however, are taught to ridicule and abuse the people who have unselfishly decided to give their knowledge and time to the next generation. The young teachers with the ideas and drive to get the lightbulbs to go off frequently are not given the supplies or chance. The old teachers or just plain bad teachers who don't give a flying goose anymore and just go through the motions, are given the pay and the chance, to do more of nothing.