Thursday, June 7, 2012

And then we went on strike....

Today I went on strike for the first time in my life. At first I was not going to strike; my salary doesn't really bother me, and I didn't want to lose a days pay, or a day of report writing. Then I got into the hype (I am very easy to get hyped up and join in something), and started to rethink my choice. The media wasn't helping with my choice; they seemed to only push towards the angle of wanting more pay (we can clearly see which political party a lot of the media is working for), and as this didn't interest me, I wasn't swayed. It was an article I read that really convinced me. This is the article: 

These lines are what impacted me the most - "How do you measure the teacher who lifts a student's self-esteem higher than their mathematics mark? If a student does well in a NAPLAN test does that mean they have been taught well or coached well?"

As a teacher who loves my job, and cares about her students, I don't want to see them become tools to increase salary. This is what the government is trying to enforce. By bringing in performance based salaries teachers will focus on the criteria that is needed to increase their wage, and not necessarily what the students need. Of course, not all will do this, but pay needs to increase as inflation goes up. I know at the school I work at, often being support for a student, and knowing they have someone who cares, does more for them than pushing them towards a certain grade. If the criteria were to be based on grades, will we really just end up creating robots that can churn out results? We need to build better citizens - that's what makes a strong society. Giving teenagers support that I wished I had is the reason I got into teaching. Of course, I love English and Literature, but I could teach it to adults if I wanted. There's something about school aged children where you know you can impact them for the better if you care about your job.

Another issue with pay based salaries, is it will create a divide amongst staff. Some of my co-workers I consider to be my closest friends. We can vent to each other when we have had a stressful day; we share resources; we give each other tips; basically your co-workers in this job can be a main source of support. I don't want to start competing with my friends. Simple as that. I want us to work collegiality, for the students, to give THEM the best opportunity they deserve. Not work against them for our own self benefit. I imagine this is how politicians work, so they expect their citizens to work the same way. Yet, if many of them were paid by performance, they would be living on the streets. 

I also can't yet work out how performance based salaries are going to cater for socio-economic divisions, and multicultural diversity. How can they determine that it is the teacher causing low grades, when the students can hardly afford text books, no parental support, and often, are still trying to get their grounds in a new country? Even if a student has low grades, isn't it better to have an ex school refuser wanting to come to school because they finally feel safe? Schools are full of human, not computers. 

The following article gives a perspective of a Victorian school who has trialled performance based pays-

The next issue I have is bigger class sizes. I have some students in my class who require a lot of attention. Whether they are special needs, or have behavioural issues, they do take up a lot of my time. This doesn't bother me, I am happy to help them out as much as possible. Putting more students in the class though, will make it impossible to get that extra time to give to some students. Honestly, it's near impossible to get around to 25 students in a 47 minute period. By the time the lesson is introduced, instructions are given, and students start working, there is about 25 minutes left. I can imagine you would want your child's teachers to be able to help your child as much as possible if they are struggling. Furthermore, with all the learning styles and intelligences it can be difficult enough to teach to 25 students, and know each student so well to ensure the lesson is reaching them. Add to this, I teach usually 3-4 different classes in one day. That's about 100 very different students in one day.If the government wants teachers to KNOW their students, they will not increase class sizes. 

Thirdly - the government wants us to have more accounted for time at work. Let me explain my day. I wake up at 7 - leave for work at 8 - staff meetings Monday, Tues, Wed that go til about 4.30. On those days I will usually leave work at 5. Thursday I stay back and do marking. Friday - stay back for after-school bus duty, then try get home and relax. I do try not to take work home too much, so I will stay back to do marking (English teachers have a lot of marking), and planning. After-school can also involve detentions, and classes for students struggling, or wanting extra help. When are we supposed to do these 'so called' extra hours? I often spend one weekend day doing work, and half my holidays. The other half is usually spent sleeping as I am so exhausted from a whole term. I don't want to sound like I'm whinging, I just think that until you have done the job you can't understand the exhaustion of it. There is no time to relax during the day. When you are teaching 25 hormone driven teenagers, you have to be on the ball at all time. It gets very exhausting. Pushing more hours for teachers is ridiculous! Where are we supposed to fit these hours in?

Can you understand now, why I striked? Not for the extra pay, or because Baillieu didn't keep a promise (although that is annoying). I didn't get into teaching for the wages; you will find most didn't. I would still teach even if I had the chance not to work at all. My job brings me so much happiness, and I think my students know that. Happy teachers = safer and engaging classrooms = creates more learning. It's common sense really. 

All pictures are from June 7th - Victorian teachers AEU strike rally and march.


  1. Amazing! I agree!!!

  2. Good reasoning. I think you'll find most of us didn't strike for the money. It was either the ridiculous idea that we are such useless teachers, we need an incentive to do our job properly (performance pay), that we would be crazy to go into this job at the moment because of the lack of security (contracts) or the way Victoria has apparently decided our young people should either be university graduates, drop outs, check out chicks or in jail (decimating vcaa and now cutting tafe courses). I know the thought that most of my students already difficult future is getting bleaker by the minute thanks to baillieu was the final push in getting me to strike.