Andrew Taylor admits he was “a little reluctant” to shoulder a Fed Rep’s obligations in addition to a teaching load. Why did he do it?
For many younger teachers, Federation’s role is not as clear as it is for more experienced colleagues. In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed some hard but necessary battles with all sides of the political spectrum in order to protect our place as professionals in a job that, in general, attracts caring personalities. Without Fed Reps in schools the union cannot get its message over successfully and chalkface teachers have no voice to their school executive.
Cost-cutting, the lowering of entry standards, failing infrastructure and workload stress are very real day-to-day experiences of most teachers. These problems are not going to suddenly get better unless teachers communicate the benefits of an effective education system to our employers. The Federation, on behalf of members, offers that feedback and I am happy to be the voice of the Federation at our school.
Now two years into the role, Andrew is honest about its complexities and the mistakes he made in the learning process:
Being Fed Rep is often a thankless task and many people don’t see all the little things that go on behind the scenes. Occasionally you are the councillor, at other times the political negotiator and then the next day you might be the canvasser. The role will force you to multi-task and empathise with a wide range of teaching roles.
The main advantages to anyone considering the role are that it will reward you with a wider vision of how your school operates and provide the chance to facilitate positive change for your colleagues.
I know some teachers use the role as a vehicle to start their middle management careers, and it does provide that opportunity. A younger, beginning teacher asked me to support her in an allegation of bullying. I approached the principal, I interviewed the members and attempted to set up a mediation meeting. Wrong! I quickly learnt that the Fed Rep is a facilitator of policy and not a problem-solver. The situation was resolved through the proper channels and, in fact, brought a good outcome for all. Encouraging members to solve their own problems with your support was a hard but important lesson learned.
Integration of the new Performance and Development Framework was hard:
Executive demands and staff expectations do not always mesh comfortably. Many teaching initiatives developed as part of the old Teacher Assessment Review Schedule (TARS) had to be adjusted, not always to the executive’s immediate satisfaction. I am happy that through careful negotiation the whole school community now appears to be thinking along the same lines.
Help for the Fed Rep:
The role is autonomous so you have to motivate yourself but if a few like-minded colleagues are there to help, the job is so much easier. We have an active Federation Committee of four plus four others who assist with specific matters as requested. I am released from one lesson a fortnight and morning roll duties to give time to Fed Rep work.
Here’s how you find Drew Taylor at home:
I enjoy tinkering with car and house renovations and spend a lot of my spare time fixing up our old house in the Blue Mountains. I enjoy listening to music too, and play a little guitar. My choice of exercise is swimming and we are lucky to have a local year-round open-air pool. If red wine drinking is a hobby, count me in too!