Monday 17 March 2008
Former NSW Central Coast teacher Richard Neville is one of many who has left the profession out of fear for their safety.
He ended his 12-year career as a high school teacher after two students attacked him with scissors and a lump of wood.
Now a fireman, Mt Neville said he found the job "safer than teaching".
"The boy who came at me with the pair of scissors and the one who took the swing at me with a lump of wood were 13 year olds," Mr Neville said.
Department of Education and Training incident reports show teachers are regularly threatened with firearms or other weapons - from broken bottles to knives - by students, parents or intruders.
The issue tops the list of teachers' concerns in secondary schools (more than 65 per cent).
- Teachers flee schools as attacks rise, AAP and the Daily Telegraph, 17 March 2008
"I am in my 50s and have been a teacher for more than half my life.
I have always had a sense of pride in my chosen profession and my ability to do a good job.
I feel that I have been a positive influence in the lives of the many children I have taught.
"I still enjoy the craft of teaching but now I find myself feeling that I would like to pull the pin on my career.
I am unable to do this because of my personal circumstances; in fact, I will need to continue working for a significant number of years.
I will continue to do my utmost to do the best job that I am capable of. The (job) is too important to do otherwise.
"I now find myself heading into the last phase of my career feeling undervalued, overworked, frustrated and depressed.
Sadly, I suspect that I may be voicing the feelings of many of my mature-age peers. ...
"The workload has more than doubled in the course of my career, actual teaching seeming to have become secondary to the continually increasing demands on teachers to produce data, evidence and assessment facts and figures.
These massive and growing demands for documentation, although having a place, rob teachers of time which could be better spent devising effective, interesting and even innovative ways by which they could be optimising the learning opportunities of the children in their classrooms.
"Those who know and live with teachers bemoan widely-held negative attitudes about our "short" working days, long holidays and "high" salaries; they are often our only advocates.
I was a Kindergarten Teacher in NSW and I had been offered a full year's contract.
But I was pregnant.
The principal told me that I could no longer remain on the class because I was pregnant.
She was worried that I would need time off for medical appointments and that I might become ill during the pregnancy.
So I lost the job.
I contacted the union.
They told me that it was discrimination and they promised me help.
But I heard nothing.
I called again and there was no record of my phone call.
This happened on a number of occasions.
The principal gave me a job for half a day, every day, sharing with the reading recovery teacher.
She asked me if I would return in Term 4, after my baby was born, to teach in the mornings only every day.
I could not guarantee this as it is difficult to get child care for half a day.
She told me that if I didn't come back in term 4 that I would not get a job the next year.
So I arranged care for half a day every day through family and friends.
But then the reading recovery teacher decided to have the class full time, so I lost that job as well.
I ran the bookclub for the school.
I sought some help on how to set it up from one of the admin ladies.
This admin lady suggested that the bookclub be run a certain way so that cash was not taken out of the school grounds.
I followed her suggestion.
Later the admin lady seems to have complained about how the bookclub was being run in the hearing of the principal.
I felt very disadvantaged on a part-time contract.
For example, I was not allowed to attend a professional development course because I was only contracted for half a day.
I was only a first year teacher, and I can honestly say that I don't think I could return to teaching.
I could not hand in a resume to another school and have then call the school I previously worked as for a reference, as I know that I would not get good comments.
I am unable to work casually as I can not afford to put my baby into childcare in the hope that I will get a phone call each day.
I have worked so hard to get where I am.
I had a baby at 16 but struggled my way through fulltime school and uni, all to become a teacher.
And this is where I am today.
Its very sad and such a waste of time and effort.
I just wish there was some help for teachers out there, especially temp teachers that get walked over.
The system is against us.
A physics graduate with hopes of becoming a teacher has no ability to adjust or amend the collective teacher working conditions that govern education.
This lack of negotiating power (or even permission) is perpetuated by union collective agreements (negotiated in good-faith by all stake-holders).
What is the motivation to gaining a full honours degree in physics then learning to teach, when you can simply enter a teacher training program learning some physics along the way?
And Western Australia is toying with the idea of allowing lower than normal TEE scores for acceptance into teacher training programs and the dilution of academic skills and qualifications continues.
What value should we place on a full honours degree qualification?
Assuming one decides to give-it-a-go entering the profession fully qualified with a contract negotiated in good faith, what are the conditions that will affect the physics-teacher’s level of work satisfaction?
Outside of the same demands placed on all teachers, it will most likely be the physics (and science) curriculum.
Today’s physics curriculum (or syllabus if you prefer) has become entrenched with an emphasis overly based on teaching engineering, or on entertaining students with so-called hands-on activities.
With an incessant compulsion for making physics practical, hands-on or worse yet, fun, the educational establishment has watered down physics to the point that it is of little interest to the physicists who teach it.
Although physics can (and should) be applied, it is a fundamental science that must be taught promoting scientific ideals.
Building bridges of spaghetti is not enough.
If the very calibre of teacher we desire to teach difficult and technical subjects like physics and mathematics is choosing not to teach, then many features of education need to change before they choose otherwise. The compulsion to change ought to rest within the system.
This is an interesting article that raises quite a few new issues.
It is written by an intelligent teacher - a species that may soon become extinct.
John also writes about the endless paperwork necessary to gain teacher registration in Queensland.
What John may not realise is how easily his qualifications, his career and his health can be destroyed in Queensland with malicious gossip and a few scribbles on sticky-notes.
A full copy of the article can be found at -
Ex-teacher R.J. Burns emailed The Courier-Mail :
"I walked away from a 20-year teaching career that I loved due to undisciplined students who have no respect, are openly arrogant and receive no serious consequences for their behaviour.
I became tired of explaining to parents that their child behaves like a brat at school.
When you try to convince them that their son / daughter really is a little monster in the classroom, you then have to defend your own teaching style, classroom management and even your personality.
Parents - wake up and start teaching your children what respect really means.
And show some yourself when dealing with teachers.
I will never return to secondary teaching as I can only see this problem getting worse."
Saturday 6 October, 2007
Judith Szalontai of Wendouree wrote a letter to the editor of The Melbourne Age.
Judith had decided to go to uni at the age of 40, to train to be a teacher.
She gained a Dip Ed with high distinctions.
She spent five years doing casual teaching and short teaching contracts.
She had no stability, no security, no holiday pay.
She was threatened with violence by students and teachers.
She was unemployed for five months and finally decided to take a non-teaching job.
What a waste of effort.
- Letter to the Editor, The Age , 6 October 2007