Victorian teachers are currently implementing work bans, protesting against the state government’s failure to negotiate a reasonable deal. They want to increase our workload and in real terms decrease our pay, and they don’t seem to be able to understand why we’re not thrilled with this as a negotiation position. They appear to be playing hardball, coming back at us with the same proposal, never moving an inch. We’ve been on strike and got nowhere, so now the union has implemented a ban on report writing.
Report writing is a painful, time consuming process, and the bans are intended to highlight the countless hours we work over and above the time we are paid for. I have supported the strikes, and I intended to support the report writing ban too. There is also a “work to rule” ban for next year that will see teachers working only the hours we are paid for – which will bring the education system to its knees in short order, as it’s simply not possible to teach effectively in a 38 hour week, given our high teaching loads.
I wholeheartedly support my colleagues who are not writing reports, but after much soul searching I have decided I can’t join them. I know that standing together makes the action more effective. Goodness knows I want to see progress on this ridiculous, juvenile stalemate (can someone please teach the government the meaning of “negotiation”, “compromise”, or indeed “promise”?). Above all I want to see teachers get the respect and recognition that we deserve for the crucial job that we do with passion and commitment, and the government’s rhetoric on our performance and our productivity is not a step forward, to put it mildly.
But. (There’s always a but.) I made the move to teaching because I am passionate about these kids and their futures. I am making a difference, and I am so proud of what I do each and every day. My students worked so hard this semester, and so many of them achieved spectacular things. Reports are their only chance to have these efforts formally recognized. In the end I could not leave them without this enduring record of their work. I owe it to them, and to the bond we formed throughout the year, to give them this personal recognition.
For similar reasons I will not be implementing the 38 hour working week next year. I can’t teach properly that way, and coming to work and doing half a job will make me unutterably miserable. I love my job and I adore my students. I want to do the best by them every day. That’s why I’m in teaching.
That, of course, is what the government is counting on. Teachers who are committed to their jobs and passionate about what they do are so easy to exploit. That’s why I support my colleagues in their ongoing bans. That’s also why I’m a member of the union – because we need a collective voice to negotiate for those of us who find it hard to negotiate for ourselves. I know that these bans are in the best interests of the school system, and hence the students, in the long run. I know that the Government needs to be forced to recognize how hard we work, and the value of what we do.
As I worked myself half to death writing my reports this week I cursed my decision repeatedly, but I didn’t question it. Ultimately I have to be true to my conscience, to my beliefs, and to my vocation. So my students will get reports from me, with personal comments about their particular strengths and weaknesses, and recognition of how hard they worked. I hope they appreciate it!
PS if you are unhappy with the report writing ban, tell Ted Bailieu to negotiate in good faith and resolve the dispute.