Today was the Australian Education Union’s second strike for 2012. It was fantastic to see so many teachers, ES staff and Principals at the rally. We reached numbers of 15,000 or so.
Walking up the road in my red union shirt, we merged with 1000s of teachers who have given up a day’s pay to be apart of the strike. Immediately we notice that we are some of the young ones as most of the teaching profession is mature aged workers, and of those teachers the majority were women. (The aging population of teachers is something the industry is going to suffer with if graduates are not staying in the job.)
I kept thinking as I walked towards the gates of Rod Laver Arena, that I had a pile of marking on my bench that I could be getting done. But that was a thought for tomorrow, when I spent my free periods on IT work that I used to get three days for.
The truth about teaching is that we do get 12 weeks of holidays per year. But that doesn’t mean that those holidays aren’t without sacrifice. During the reporting period I work about 38 hours over my weekends trying desperately to get my reports done. Currently I teach 6 classes of 25 students, that’s something like a total of 150 students and 150 individualized reports. We do this twice a year.
Then there is the exam writing, marking and reporting. Another tedious process that could easily take up another week of our time, and this does not even include the amount of correction during the year. I have currently five English classes and they all can be writing essays at the same time. It is a nightmare.
So yes we do get holidays, but I would argue that we have already worked them before we physically get them. So the flimsy idea that they are ‘holidays’ and that we do not deserve them is ridiculous.
It also frustrates me intensely when people tell us that we only work from 9-3pm. This is again ridiculous. Over the past year I have worked more 12hour days than I have in my life. Leaving school at 8pm. On normal days I am not normally out before 5pm and I am not even a student manager.
I am also frustrated when people say that we are not professionals. Or are not seen as a professional workforce. To this I reply; we work in academia. We are academics and we a more educated than most of the population. Conversely I am always sitting next to someone with a PHD, a Masters or a Graduate Diploma. About 90% of us have more than one degree and yet we are not ‘seen’ as professional.
I do agree that we do not live in the ‘real world’. But in saying that ,we also do not get to have ‘real world’ dinner parties, luncheons and events. We are constricted by bells and structured by timetables. On holidays I barely know when it is time to go to the toilet or eat.
As I bring you back to today’s rally, where in the seats in front of me sat a lady doing English correction, whilst Mary Bluett rambles on in the background. She sits there marking essays and not getting paid for it. Not a cent. If that is not commitment to students and the teaching profession then I don’t know what is?
I congratulate all my comrades for turning up in red today to show their support for not just better pay but improvements in working conditions. The reality is that if the Victorian Education System does not meet the conditions in NSW we will loose 1000s of qualified teachers.
More than pay, we want funding. Currently Private Education is funded more significantly than Public Education and you can see that when you walk around the buildings of my school. But at over $20,000 a year in school fees, unless I marry rich, Private Education will not be an option for my future children. So therefore we must invest in Public Education.