Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Teacher Sues the Government. Yippee!




Did you hear about the teacher who after a long battle has managed to win their suit against a school in Melbourne, for insisting that he try to manage too many under-achieving classes, even though he kept telling the Head Teacher that he was not coping.. The teacher has been awarded 1.27 million.

The school had a very strict streaming policy where kids of similar abilities were banded together, so there were, smarty pants classes and classes of fools and nuisances.

The teacher in question was given an over abundance of the latter classes.

Now this has always been the stuff of philosophical  debate. Should the best teachers be allocated to the brightest kids, where the most progress is possible, or do we believe that bright kids will achieve well regardless of teacher input,  and should the worst teachers be thrown to the wolves cos there they can do no damage. And before any of these questions are asked we should consider whether indeed classes should be streamed at all. Maybe loafers and problem kids would do better if diluted in number in mainstream classes.

I do not pretend to know what the answer is.

After 30 years I know that my biggest joy came from teaching bright kids, but I certainly enjoyed soothing the raging beasts in the oopsy classes too. I was lucky that I never felt intimidated by bright kids. I loved the challenge that came from kids who thought outside the square, but I know teachers who worried about not knowing all the answers.

Difficult classes and kids definitely got my blood pressure racing. I have been punched in the head and had chairs thrown at me and I've been pushed and shoved and sworn at and one afternoon on bus duty, an unruly mob marched me onto the bus and I had a great deal of trouble getting out. Shitty kids are painful. Sometimes I just felt like they needed a bloody good shake. I thought that about bright kids too from time to time.

So again I do not pretend to know the answers.

What I do know is that if the Head Teacher did nothing after being told that the teacher was not coping then the Head Teacher was not too smart.

I imagine that if the teacher had gone and made it clear that he was not coping and he did this over a period of 6 years, then the school was not making any effort to provide the best for the kids. The teacher was not coping and sliding into a mess over a long period of time and I can only imagine that the kids' behaviour and achievement levels also took a nose dive. Not addressing this teacher's issues must have certainly meant that the kids in his room were well and truly short changed.

Suing the government is a brave move and if this motivates school systems to address the needs and abilities and areas of expertise of it's teachers, then goodo!

For far too long school head teachers and deputies have played that shitful game of 'Shaft the new teacher'. The longer a teacher stays at a school the more perks they are likely to get. The newbies are given the shit timetables, the shit classes, the shit room, the shit yard duties, buckets of shit,  while long timers can whistle their own tunes. It seems that the newbies have to prove themselves and sometimes this can take years.

If a teacher rocks the boat then the Head Teacher and their team can and do make professional life difficult and sometimes impossible for any subversives. I have been proudly guilty of swamping the boats of a number schools, but I  have finally  worked out the I cannot beat the system. The banging of my head just got too useless and painful.

So I do not know what has gone at Werribee College, but I am pleased that someone has had the guts to take on the system. Small changes, baby steps, little bits of chipping away, can only be a good thing.

Any time the system is questioned, I smile.