Why I’m writing reports

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.

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5 thoughts on “Why I’m writing reports

  1. Kev

    Good on you! This is the first time I’ve actually seen a rational discussion of the issue. Something more than “they promised us we’d be the best paid so now every single one of us has to be paid more than every other teacher in the country” kind of over-the-top rhetoric.

    And I applaud you for taking a stance. For us, not getting reports for a kid in Prep just doesn’t sit right – as you very well know. Their first year of formal education and all you get is dots on a timeline. I know N can read 6 months ahead because today they didn’t have any books left in the Prep collection for him to read. His numeracy skills are also evident. As is his confusing between b’s and d’s and spelling problems you expect at his age. What I’m interested in is how he’s coping with the environment, groups, etc. And I’m not after the 2 pages of text we got half way through the year, 5 lines would do it. Quick status check. Not full reports, you’re still taking a stand.

    We know teachers don’t do it for the millions. They do it for kids. And this reaction just doesn’t make sense to me.

    And I’m not sure how it’s supposed to move the government. It doesn’t affect the government. Ban NAPLAN. That’ll learn ’em. But, where I would have sympathy for teachers, it’s quickly being replaced by animosity. Which is sad. The action is poorly aimed.

    And, secondly – good on you for actually saying what you think and not wrapping it up in corporate / industrial spin. We got this from the school last week:

    “it has now reached a time when it does not appear possible to establish a timeline that will enable the full writing of the student reports.”

    What rubbish! It’s written as if the government has done something that prevents writing reports. And timelines? A month out from the end of the year? Timeline? Why not say “it does not appear possible to establish a timeline that will enable the settling of this dispute” and “teachers have decided to not write reports”. Take responsibility for your actions. We’re more likely to support you that way. So, good on you, Lin, for actually saying it like it is.

    Then today we get another letter – apparently the government is offering 2.5%. That is all. Why leave out the “per year” bit? And apparently it takes 2.5 hours to write a single report. At least. I’m not convinced. (And I’m not asking for 2.5 hours’ of feedback. 10 to 15 minutes would be enough for me).

    Again, Lin, thanks for actually stating it honestly and I applaud you for your position. The teachers at our school have lost my support (I’m probably at “disinterested”). You, on the other hand, I hope you get what you’re after.

    1. lindamciver

      I have the luxury of speaking for myself. The AEU is in a PR war, and trying to speak for all of us while winning the PR war. They’re in a difficult position. I do wish, though, as with all politics these days, that more direct, honest and open communication and less spin was the norm.

      I’m sure you could get the feedback through a conversation with N’s teacher that you are seeking in report form. 5 minutes of parent-teacher interview is a lot more productive than an hour of painstaking report writing, because there’s give and take and you can query things and zero in on what you’re interested in. The ban is not on giving feedback to parents.

      NAPLAN hasn’t been banned because it hasn’t happened in the course of this escalation of the dispute. I’m sure that if the dispute isn’t resolved by the time NAPLAN rolls around again it will be the subject of bans. There are other bans, like the one on implementing the national curriculum, that are currently in force and may have an impact, but ultimately there’s not much we can do to put pressure on the government. If you are bothered by it, write to them and demand it gets sorted!

      Ultimately I wish both sides would just sit down and try to find a win-win position, rather than a political win. Negotiations in good faith and from a position of respect would be a fine thing to see. Doesn’t seem likely. :(

  2. Joe

    I’m totally uninterested in published aggregated NAPLAN results per school… especially as long as I can’t get a similar efficacy statement about each separate public hospital (et al), which would be a much more informative piece of data.

    Not to mention that basic literacy and numeracy is totally NOT where I perceive there are holes in some schools’ programs. I would believe that I could send my children to pretty much any school in Australia and by the time they were adults they would have adequate literacy and numeracy skills. (Of course, if I wanted to completely abdicate my responsibilities and hand them to the school system THEN I’d have to be a little more careful.)

    2.5 hours per student per written report seems a little quick actually. But it could be streamlined if it were generally acceptable to the parent / school interaction to say “this child’s most notable exceptions from ‘pretty much as expected’ are …” (Which I notice is what you *can* do readily in a conversation, but not in a written report. Odd, that.)

  3. Joe

    (And don’t get me started on benchmarking our schooling outputs based on comparing national academic measures from countries around Asia. Bad. Bad idea.)

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