How many of us take work calls at 2am? Or supervise strangers’ kids 24/7 for five days for nothing? Or block out whole weekends to write reports without overtime or time in lieu? Teachers do this and more all the time.
A government high school teacher friend is so busy that some days she literally has no time to go to the toilet. “I would usually work close to 60 hours a week and we are paid for 38 hours,” she says.
Before camps my friend prepares class plans for a fill-in and then marks the work upon her return. She gets eight hours off for reports, enough for one class. Most teachers have six, so the rest is in their own time.
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With schools about to start in a couple of weeks it’s a good time for parents to brush up on education fads and gobbledegook.
Every profession and job has its clichés and jargon words. Canberra politicians talk about ‘at this point in time’, ‘ moving forward’ and ‘having a big agenda’. In business, consultants talk about ‘synergy’, ‘triple bottom line’ and ‘leverage best practice’.
Primary schools and teachers also have their own special way of talking that often makes it impossible for parents to work out whether their kids are learning or not and whether the school is the best place for their child. Following are some examples of education jargon that you need to understand in order to work out what’s going on with your child’s education.
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Victoria, it appears, is leading the fight for teachers’ rights, recognising the countless unpaid work teachers are expected to put in without any financial compensation.
The Australian Education Union (AEU) is holding strong, threatening to ban activities previously taken for granted such as writing detailed comments while marking, supervising sport, music, theatre activities, debates and other projects, which are often outside of their contracted 38 hours.
The heart of the problem is this: teaching is valued differently to other professions, with various governments and the greater public relying on the generosity of teachers’ time to fulfil duties which, in any other profession – except nursing – would simply not be tolerated.
Social media is robbing employees of the right to behave as they like in their private lives.
A Melbourne teacher has reportedly quit her job after her raunchy Twitter account - through which she posted racy pictures and engaged in explicit online banter - was discovered by her principal and exposed to the public by Fairfax.
This account had nothing to do with the teacher’s work and precautions were taken to keep her identity hidden. She posted under a pseudonym and never named her school. But her conduct on the account is being judged against the same standards as her behaviour in the workplace.
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Think back to your favourite school teacher. What do you remember them for? Things that spring to mind might include love of their subject, enthusiasm for teaching it, an approachable personality and the stuff they taught you about life.
It pays to remember that today, before we judge next year’s new university recruits too harshly.
According to the Undergraduate Applications, Offers and Acceptances 2012 report, this year’s crop of uni recruits is the biggest group yet of Year 12 applicants who received “50.00 or less” ATAR band to be offered a university place. Among them are 532 education students.
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Parents and kids have nothing to fear from NAPLAN. In fact, we’ve got everything to gain from finding out how are kids are faring at school.
Teachers and schools doing their job well should also welcome NAPLAN, which is the national literacy and numeracy test given to kids in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. So why are so many educators trying to scare parents into thinking that standardised testing is a bad thing?
It makes me think some schools don’t welcome the accountability offered by the most rigorous national testing regime we’ve seen in decades As a parent, I want to know how my kids are shaping up against other kids in their class, in their school, and across the country. I also want to know their teachers are doing a good job, and I think NAPLAN helps us keep track of this.
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On the face of it, it’s hard to know whose side to take in the row over the sacking of Methodist Ladies’ College principal Rosa Storelli.
Ms Storelli, who was put to the sword by the school’s board last week, is clearly an inspirational figure to some, and her sudden and unexpected exit has her supporters up in arms.
On the other hand, it is not in dispute that she has been overpaid a very large sum of money and the board would appear to have been within its rights to send her packing - with a nice payout, mind you - once it decided it had lost confidence in her.
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Amidst news of the tragic death of Australian servicemen, worries about the economy and concerns about firearms in Sydney, it has to be a great day when our national government calls a halt to bad news and focuses attention upon a positive goal: improving our children’s education.
The old Australian value of the “fair go” is at the root of many of the recommendations of the Gonski review. The basic idea is that every child should have the opportunity to develop according to their abilities and not their parents’ financial circumstances.
The Prime Minister’s response deserves praise for strongly supporting that value. She recalled some less successful students at her old high school, some no doubt from disadvantaged backgrounds being called “vegies”.
Even the hardest-nosed economic rationalist would not begrudge state funding for primary and high schools. Take Adam Smith in 1776: “The expenses of the institutions for education are, no doubt, beneficial to the whole society, and may, therefore, without injustice, be defrayed by the general contribution of the whole society.”
Arts degrees might have become taxpayer-funded book parties, but even free-market economist Milton Friedman said public schooling imparted the “minimum degree of literacy and knowledge” required for the functioning of “stable and democratic society”.
Cost is another matter. Just as gilding lighthouses might be considered excessive use of public funds, it is possible to overspend on education. While the marginal public benefit of extra public spending falls, the cost of raising extra tax rises.
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As parents across the state ready themselves for what the Australian Education Union has promised will be unprecedented industrial action, one can’t help wondering if teachers will ever be satisfied with their lot.
Why, one wonders, do presumably intelligent people study for four years to enter a profession where they find the pay so unacceptable?
It’s akin to buying a house near an airport then complaining about aircraft noise.
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In the 1920s Russia’s economy slumped, only a few years after the Bolsheviks shackled it with communism. To revive it, Lenin felt compelled to permit some free trade among farmers. But he reassured his comrades: mining, energy and heavy manufacturing – the “commanding heights” of the economy – would remain in government ownership.
The “commanding heights” were a big fraction of Russia’s economy, so Lenin’s pragmatic tweak only delayed his country’s ultimate collapse. The conceit that bureaucrats can plan for prosperity is ultimately, as Frederick Hayek famously put it, fatal.
Western countries, and Australia is no exception, have wisely let market forces encroach on the traditional “commanding heights”, boosting productivity and long-run prosperity.
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Public school teachers remain deeply concerned that the NSW government is retreating from its responsibility to ensure that every child in every public school community is taught by a qualified teacher, and that class sizes will not be increased, and subject choices for students will not disappear.
The first O’Farrell Government Minister to announce the policy of devolving responsibility to schools was not the Education Minister but the Treasurer, last September. He declared it in his Budget papers as an example of ‘fiscal and economic reform’.
A private consulting firm, the Boston Consulting Group’s expenditure review of the Education Department, demonstrated that the desired cuts could be achieved by devolving more decision making to the school level.
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Dry ice. Wrong in so many ways. Wrong in an 80s dance floor sort of way. Wrong in a dodgy magic tricks sort of way. Yes, it keeps things super cold. But it can also be used as a bomb.
And as a casual teacher found out the hard way, it can also burn students’ hands if you make them hold it. The NSW casual teacher has been sacked after he dared his science students to hold the -78.5 C highly compressed carbon dioxide for as long as possible. Two students were hospitalised with minor burns. One may need a skin graft.
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The last few weeks have seen the annual surge of stories talking about the dangers facing young adults celebrating the end of their compulsory schooling.
Most of the headlines have been taken up with reports on the tragic fatal electrocution of a young man in Bali. However, coming close behind have been a glut of current affairs pieces, garnished with a menacing techno soundtrack, detailing the many and varied ways Australia’s sons and daughters can either have their lives ruined or cut short during Schoolies.
Predictably, parents across the nation have made public their fear and reluctance to allow their offspring to go let off a little steam, far away from the stress that has been their constant companion for the last couple of years.
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Australian school principals say that they need to have more control over what happens in their schools as a natural extension of school performance being transparent for all to see on the new MySchool website.
They are dead right, and the Coalition continues to hold to the belief that local school principals and parents (through the school’s governing council) know more about what is best for the school than faceless bureaucrats in Education Departments – number crunchers whose interaction with students is non-existent.
The strange thing about the debate on principal autonomy is that the Minister, Julia Gillard, says she’s in favour of it too – even though every action she has taken as Education Minister gives a lie to this claim.
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The bashing death at school of a 15 year old boy in Mullumbimby last week is a symptom of a much bigger statewide problem in schools.
Put simply teachers now have little control. The consequences for students of bad, even violent behaviour, are now so insignificant students simply don’t care.
A teacher cannot restrain a student at all, they can’t yell at students or else they will be accused of emotional abuse. A teacher must simply say “please don’t do this” and then hope they are obeyed. Step outside this rigid set of rules and you risk being “EPACed” - every teacher’s worst nightmare.
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