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Archive for July, 2011

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If we knew we had a gold mine on our property, we would do whatever it took to get that gold out of the ground. In education, by contrast, we keep the potential of millions of children buried in the ground.

Worked it out yet?

Clue: He has been in the media a LOT this week – with his son, James.

Answer: Rupert Murdoch.

Interesting speech. Read it here.

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This letter appeared in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. It is a frank letter to the NSW Treasurer about the true worth of a teacher. Great stuff!

Hello Mike,

I write to you in despair as a result of the 2.5 per cent public sector wage freeze policy announced by the government.

Teaching these last two terms has been particularly difficult. I arrive at school at 7.15am and prepare my resources for the day. Once the bell goes at 8.55am there is literally no break until 3pm. Recess and lunch are usually spent with students to catch up on work missed, detentions, reports on classroom incidents, committee meetings or supervision duty. Monday afternoons I spend with students at ”homework club”. The rest of the week, between 3pm-5pm, I write lesson plans and prepare resources. If I have any marking, I generally take it home with me.

Last term, I spent four weeks in my own time with my head teacher applying for a $20,000 grant from the federal government to introduce Asian Studies into our curriculum. We would often leave the staffroom at 7pm and go home to complete the rest.

If I take a ”sick” day it is usually to complete marking at the end of exam periods as I physically do not have any time left in my day.

I am not special. I am not asking for a pat on the back. This is my job and I enjoy doing it but I do not know how much longer I can continue like this. I have worked in the private sector, in human resources at Bayer and in hotel management, so I have experience in other industries but I have never worked harder than I do now. I am 36 and have been teaching for seven years. I can either go for promotion or move back into the private sector and get paid twice as much for a job which is half as hard, but half as fulfilling.

I do not know any area of my job where I could improve my productivity or achieve ”cost savings”. I am proficient in all areas of information technology, I run video workshops for students, I help them design websites, I train a girls’ touch football team at lunchtimes, I am involved in the school’s upcoming drama production, I attend all school fund-raiser evenings to raise pathetically small amounts of money, I am undertaking a degree by correspondence and I complete all of the tasks mentioned earlier.

The NSW government loses millions of dollars each year through a corrupted tender system that uses ”preferred suppliers”. Once listed, these suppliers increase their prices and schools have no choice but to purchase equipment at inflated costs. When builders or plumbers do a job for a school, there is no foreman or competent workplace supervisor on site and they often over-quote and complete unnecessary work.

Tradespeople arrive in the morning at a school then leave, complete other work, and charge for a whole day. I recently applied to buy three data projectors and three personal computers. The quote from the preferred supplier was $1400 more than market value. These are small anecdotes but if you multiply them by every state school in NSW these costs start to add up.

There are savings to be made but you are looking to make them in the place where you will lose the most value; your teachers. The wage freeze you have announced is really going to hurt our ability to attract and, more importantly, retain good, hardworking employees in state education. The removal of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission as an independent umpire in wage negotiations is also extremely disappointing.

By taking away the independent arbitrator in a dispute, you leave public sector workers with no alternative but to strike. I have not been a fan of all of the decisions made by the NSW Teachers Federation, but these announcements have forced me to rethink my attitude towards collective action.

What are the cost savings of an inspirational teacher who captures the imagination of a troubled student and steers them in the right direction, equipping them with the knowledge to make a positive contribution instead of ending up in the criminal justice system? These little ”miracles” happen daily in NSW state schools, far more than in any other educational system – simply because we educate all of society, rich and poor.

I do not deserve a wage freeze, nor do my colleagues. The students of NSW public schools do not deserve to see their best teachers moving to the private sector as a result of these wage freezes and the inevitable industrial action that will follow.

I am asking you to please reconsider this destructive policy and find cost savings elsewhere in the budget. Thank you for reading my letter and considering my views.

Kind regards,

Dany Alarab

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Go Noni!

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Discuss.

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As part of SBS Australia’s reality show “Go Back To Where You Came From” – six ordinary Australians following the harrowing journey of refugees – a simulation game has been created. This was an incredible documentary which can be viewed online. The simulation game would be useful with older students to examine the complex issues involved in the current “boat people’ debate.

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Thanks Jane Knight!

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