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Praise for the profession should be paired with palpable recognition
Federation joins with the community on World Teachers’ Day — celebrated in Australia today — to voice appreciation for teachers’ dedication to their students.
But the union is cognisant that members seek more tangible recognition for their work, in terms of working conditions and salaries, having experienced significant changes to the nature and intensity of their work over the past 15 years.
A key message from members is they want more time to focus on teaching and learning.
“I always wanted to be a teacher. I always wanted to be with kids, planning engaging lessons, just spending time with them,” says Old Bar Public School Fed Rep Margaret Gordon, “but in becoming a teacher that's a quarter of the job. The other three quarters is admin. It's data collection, it's adhering to policies, it's chasing up absences. It's all the mandatory professional learning that we have to do. And it's like a completely different career. I sit down at a computer so much more than I ever would have imagined that a teacher does. And it seems so disconnected from what you do with the children sometimes. It's just two jobs.”
There’s a lot more phone contact and email contact with parents, says Hastings Secondary College (Port Macquarie campus) Fed Rep Amanda Leach. She says she uses her release time to document phone calls with parents plus incidents in the classroom and playground. “If I wasn’t regularly doing extra work each evening and on the weekends, I would just get further and further behind.”
The technology that has “exploded” into schools since 2007 has made the work of a teacher a lot more complex, says Concord High School Fed Rep Alice Leung, explaining teachers are expected to differentiate students’ work to a greater extent, the volume of staff emails has increased 10-fold and parents communicating via email or online is now common and expected.
Wollumbin High School Women’s Contact Belinda Standage, a careers adviser, says her workload has risen since the school leaving age increased. “When I interview a student in year 10 … it might take several meetings for us to find what’s suitable for them, whether it is leaving after they’ve completed their year 10 ROSA and going on to another education provider, but the majority of the students need subjects that will give them the skills that they need to go into the workforce and not university.”
The withdrawal of centralised support for curriculum development by the Department has increased teachers’ workload, says Denison College of Secondary Education (Kelso campus) Fed Rep Rob Bartulovich. Teachers are not being given time at school to work on program and syllabus development and are expected to do it after school hours. In another incursion into teachers’ time, he reports that you may well be asked to stay behind for a meeting when you were going to use that time to write programs for a new syllabus. “[It’s like] watching the waves coming on the beach and gradually wear away the beach…Every time [teachers] turn around, there’s another wave coming in that’s taking away a bit of beach, a bit more time that they would have otherwise had to focus on the things that they need for their classroom. And that makes them very frustrated, but it also makes them very tired because they are literally burning the candle at both ends.”
The “Valuing the teaching profession — an independent inquiry”, commissioned by Federation, is examining the nature and value of teachers’ and principals’ work and how they can be better supported in their roles. The inquiry panel’s recommendations will help inform Federation’s campaigns for improvements in working conditions and salaries.Alice and Belinda appeared before the inquiry earlier this week. Rob and Amanda will appear before the inquiry in week 9.
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