After serious consideration I decided to write this post knowing that I risk my job in doing so.
A recent newspaper article uncovered that by 2015, the state that I live in will be in dire need of approximately three thousand (3000) teachers, due to a large number of retirements and resignations. I read the opening sentence of the article, and then immediately turned the page. I refused to read any further.
It’s important to note here, that I am bound by professional group membership, not to say anything disparaging about the teaching profession. A professional group membership, which I am required to have. As a teacher, I have no choice in the matter – it is compulsory for me to be a member of this group if I want to teach in the state that I live in. A professional group that charges me seventy dollars ($70) per annum to be a member.
What do I get in return? A newsletter maybe once a year, the right to vote for board members from a group of people I have never met nor have any professional or personal knowledge of, a list of ethics that I must adhere to for fear of losing my job, and every year, I get to justify why I should be allowed to continue teaching by inputting into a central database all of the professional learning I have done during the year. Because we all know that the more courses and professional learning opportunities a teacher attends, and the less time they spend in a classroom, the better off the kids they teach will be. Oh, and I also get the right to report any of my colleagues whom I believe are breaching any of the numerous ethics that we are required to adhere to. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
I recently faced a difficult situation with regards to my employment in the education system next year, and a friend made the comment to me that I should write about it and post it on my bloggy thing, so that everyone could see just how ridiculous the situation was. I told her that I would love to do that but couldn’t because I would be in breach of ethics, and would no doubt, be fired. Now, after seeing the article in the paper, I figured that I probably could write something about the situation, if I chose my words carefully and didn’t mention too many specifics. So here I go.
A shortage of 3000 teachers is hard for me to believe. My education system doesn’t need teachers. That has been demonstrated to me, quite clearly, this year. For you to understand why, I need to explain the situation that I find myself in.
At the end of this year, I will receive my permanency. After having worked in a Country Teaching Programme (CTP) school for two years, I have essentially been fast tracked into permanency because I work in a school that is, or was at some point, considered hard to staff. The department always found it difficult to get teachers to come here. I think most of the schools in my town are considered hard to staff, not because they’re rubbish schools, but because of the location of the town.
In order to encourage teachers to work in hard to staff schools in the country and city, the department created the CTP, which allows teachers to avoid all of the ridiculous assessment procedures and paperwork, and attain their permanency, in the hope that they will remain in that school after becoming permanent. For those of you who are not aware, a permanent teacher can essentially transfer to, and work in, any school they want. They can take positions that are held by fixed-term, or temporary, teachers, and they have a bit more power when it comes to saying where they will and won’t work.
I received a letter informing me that I would be a permanent teacher and was told to discuss my position with my Principal. He’s more than happy for me to stay in the school as a permanent teacher, telling me that I fit the profile of a staff member that is good for the school. My paperwork was submitted to the department and everyone was happy because I get to be a permanent teacher.
A week later it hit the fan and I was told that under no circumstance could I be a permanent teacher at the primary (elementary) school that I’m working at. Why? Because I am a high school trained teacher working in a primary school. Regardless of the fact that I have attained my permanency in a primary school, I will never be given a permanent position. If I want to have a permanent job in a primary school, I have to go back to university and study primary school teaching, or at the very least, undertake a bridging course. Apparently, teaching primary school kids is hugely different from teaching high school kids.
Of course, about six or seven years ago when I returned to teaching, nobody seemed to have a problem with the fact that I am a high school teacher. However, now that I am about to reap the benefits of the CTP, I have a problem. Despite the fact that I have two, count them, two university degrees in education, I am unqualified for the job if I want it permanently. If, however, I am happy to apply for a job every single year that I want to continue teaching, then I may be in with a chance of working in a primary school. But if I really want my permanency, I must go back to university, or go back to work in the high school system.
Here’s the clincher: if I go back to work in the high school system, I lose the permanency that I have already attained in the primary school system. It’s a lose-lose situation for me. And the real sticking point for me: if I had continued working in the high school system, allowed myself to be bullied and harassed by those who were making life difficult for me, I would have my permanency and I’d be heading towards my second run of long service leave.
My Principal has been fighting for me, and seems to have come up with a happy medium for next year. If I keep my job, I’ll be on reduced hours, which I’m totally fine with. He’s also hoping that if I can stick it out for a few years, apply for my position each year, he’ll push to maintain me on staff, and at some point he may be able to say ‘Hang on a minute here, she’s more qualified from on the job experience, what’s the point of her going back to uni to do this course?’ Fingers crossed. And thank you to the staffing officer who looks after my school. She went out of her way to try to solve the problem by looking for loopholes in the staffing policy. Apparently, she may have found one and she may just have secured my job for next year.
Rather ironically, I am more qualified to teach than a number of my colleagues, who are recent university graduates. For some of them, this has been their first year on the job, and they’re still trying to find their feet. Some of them even come and ask me for advice, because in their words I’m ‘approachable and you know what you’re doing’. And yet, in the eyes of the department, I’m totally unqualified.
So when I read that there will be a shortage of 3000 teachers, I almost choked on my lunch. How can there be a shortage when there are teachers who want to work, who are not being allowed to have jobs and take up positions in hard to staff schools because according to the department, they are unqualified? Once again, bureaucracy and stupid politics stands in the way of common sense. However, the real eye opener in this situation is my Deputy Principal . . .you see, he is a high school trained teacher. I worked with him at the local high school. And what does he do now? That’s right, he’s a permanent staff member of a primary school, despite his high school teaching degree.
And don’t get me started on the internal politics and bureaucracy of the education system. That’s another subject for another post.