Saturday, August 29, 2009

Do unto others

Using the golden rule as a basis for personal ethics causes many philosophical dilemmas as a teacher as it constantly comes into conflict with the utilitarian nature of public schools. As an employer I faced the issue of overstaffing and needed to tread the path of redundancies for staff. It was not the most pleasurable event in my life and one I would not seek to repeat.

The half cohort is causing schools to take a long look and decide - do we keep young or less experienced talented staff that are the future of the organisation or do we keep staff members that have provided long service to the school and have a raft of experience with our kids.

I imagine the former could be rationalised by saying that long standing staff are compensated through long service leave, having continuous employment and having the opportunity to develop a depth of subject knowledge not possible when often coming to grips with the individual needs of students in new school environments.

To some degree, the criticisms I hear issued at long standing staff are often grossly unfair - I would be quicker to point the blame at past management that has allowed or even promoted issues that lead to less competitive performance of staff. Staff need to be managed - if staff are struggling they need real support to improve (this takes effort and planning) or assisted to find an environment that works for them (a controlled exit takes less effort and is a more likely event in teaching).

The bottom line is that if I worked for a school for a long period of time and was asked to leave instead of a younger and seemingly less experienced staff member, I would feel let down, hurt and angry. To start again mid or end career in a new school would be a daunting event (even after being at my current school 2.5 years I would still have some fear - imagine doing it after 10 years!). Could I put someone through that now (as I would have without blinking as an employer) with little warning? I think without maintaining 'management distance' that it would be very difficult.

I suppose it's reasons like this that I put leadership positions behind me and focus on the classroom and departmental development. Having that level of inner conflict again (doing what must be done vs the right thing to do) is not something that I relish and there would need to be some real compensation or financial need to consider it again.

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