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Why Victorian teachers strike tomorrow

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A Victorian teachers' strike is likely to close 160 schools tomorrow. Teacher and activist Iurgi Urrutia explains why he’s joining what’s predicted to be the biggest statewide strike in Victorian history.



I'M A TEACHER and I will strike this coming Wednesday.

Most people seem to think it's because we want higher pay. I feel that the Union and the media have done a very poor job of explaining the issues but, personally, I couldn't care less about the pay rise. Don't get me wrong, I will not complain if I get a pay rise, but there are other more important issues that concern me. The problem for me is about performance based pay, as it makes no sense and would destroy school collegiality.

I work in a Learning Centre with five teachers. We all plan, share resources and teach together in the same room to 120 students. How could one of us get an increase and others not? How could it be measured, when we all do the same job? And if we are competing against each other, why would we plan and share resources?

To add insult to injury, they also propose that 80 per cent of teachers get a salary increase and 20 per cent don't. In their view, currently 99 per cent of teachers get a salary increase and that is wrong, because not everyone could be doing a good job. Should we apply the same argument to politicians? Should we implement performance pay for them? And should we only move 80 per cent of students up to the next year level while 20 per cent repeat?

These ideas show how little they understand teaching. Their ignorance and harm doesn't stop there, though.

According to the premier Ted Baillieu and his people, teachers don't do, they don't teach enough and the "teaching" load should be increased. That means less time for planning lessons, finding resources, marking student assignments, calling parents (and frequently being abused by them), following up on the wellbeing of students and so on.

I can only speak for myself, and for the teachers that I have met and see where I work, but we only get paid to be at school 8:30am to 3:30pm. However, most of us are at school before eight. We seldom leave before five and, when we get home, we continue working. Sometimes, I feel really bad because I neglect my wife and my little toddler on weekdays. Apparently, though, we're not doing enough for our premier.

Recently, a vision paper from the government has come to our attention that discusses even more outrageous ideas, such as:

  • sacking 5% of teachers;

  • different salaries depending on the subjects taught;

  • principals coming from different professions (for example, a business person becoming a principal); and

  • imposing professional development on teachers during the holidays.

  • I will not respond to all those “ideas” but let me just cover the last two because, once again, they demonstrate a profound ignorance or contempt for the teaching profession.

    The job school principals do is essential for the running of the school — but they're not business managers. Principals need a deep understanding of teaching in order to be successful in their job. Putting someone who has no idea about teaching as a principal makes as much sense as getting an accountant or a plumber to be the writer and director of a movie.

    In regards to imposing professional development on teachers during the school holidays — as incredible as this may seem to politicians, we already, very often, do this. Earlier in the year, for instance, I spent one week of my holidays on a professional development course. I wasn't the only one — there were another one hundred teachers there, most of whom, like myself, had travelled inter-state for the course. And of course, add to that the days of preparation that we had to do before the start of the term.

    I'm not complaining — I love teaching; I'm passionate about teaching. No stupid policy – no matter how senseless or misinformed – will take that passion away. However, I will not stand for total disrespect of our profession. I will not let governments, politicians and the media erode and destroy what I love.

    After all, I have never met a person who thought, "I want an easy profession with a really good salary. I know, I'll be a teacher!"



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