Friday, September 2, 2011

Teachers work too few hours

Bethany usually writes well thought out pieces, but I don't understand the reasoning behind today's West article. If the intent was to start another round of teacher bashing then it will probably succeed. After all, teachers work between 9am and 3pm, forty weeks of the year. What a bunch of bludgers!

There are some flaws in this argument. Entry cost is high, with a four year full time course with practicum times devoid of income and a high attrition rate during university and in early years of teaching. The level of individual responsibility is high, including responsibility for curriculum, behaviour and teaching methods plus liasing with parents, teachers, CC, admin and other schools to maintain teaching programmes. Burnout is a constant risk, varying with the level of admin and collegiate support. Pay is not in this case a simple case of salary divided by hours worked.

When I hear an argument about teaching conditions I ask the following, "what would you have to be paid to give up your job for four years and then... work with reticent kids in a public school?"

I think many think I am mad and perhaps I am. A few of my friends that try and consider teaching as a possible profession, fall down when they consider that they present for six hours in front of an audience in an interactive manner. Imagine entertaining and engaging adolescents for forty weeks. The breaks are not optional, you can't do it without them. It's recovery time.

The problem is not being overpaid, it's establishing a fair equity position for teachers. It's not a job everyone can do, and to keep the good ones, they need to be paid enough to re-enter the trenches each year and seek the best for our children.

Populist arguments supporting positions that degrade working conditions and teachers position in society is not the pathway to a public education sector that can compete and contribute to education in WA. It's the path to a society where income governs your level of education - even more so than today. If we make teaching uneconomical or where the salary does not justify the conditions, it is unlikely we will end up with many vocational teachers in public schools. It will just get too hard for too little.

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