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If Teachers Were Paid More I Wouldn’t Have Become One

Another year, another impending strike. I know I am a lone voice on this  one, but I find the notion of teachers striking very distasteful and selfish. The job of a teacher is to support and nurture their students. When a teacher decides not to front up to work, they are robbing children of a day of school.

I have never met a teacher that went into the caper for the money. It is a well-known fact that teachers don’t get paid vast sums of money. Partly, this is due to tradition and partly it is due to the fact that Governments simply cannot afford to offer large pay increases across the board.

Am I suggesting that teachers should not be paid more? Absolutely not. I think I work hard enough to justify an increase of salary (currently 3% less than a public school teacher). There is enough wasted money spent on education, I think it would be quite appropriate for some of that misspent money to be allocated to teachers.

What I don’t agree with is the argument that teachers should be given a marked increase. If that was to happen before I started my teacher training, I never would have become a teacher. A large wage increase would have led to a greater popularity in teacher enrolments. The flow on from this would have been that to get into a teaching course, the tertiary rank (based on Year 12 results) would have been much harder. I simply would not have had the grades to get a place.

Some would see that as a positive. Teachers should, according to many, posses outstanding academic credentials. After all, the smarter the teacher, the better the teacher, right?

Not necessarily. I was a late bloomer. I struggled throughout school. My teachers found me very frustrating. No matter how much I applied myself, simply passing was a huge challenge for me. And yet, it is this struggle that has made me become a decent teacher. It has provided me with patience and it allows me to understand the struggles of students with learning difficulties and confidence issues. I try to be the very teacher I felt I needed, but never had.

Whilst I believe that teachers do a wonderful job and they deserve to be paid accordingly, I would like to reach that point without strikes and without Education Unions (they shouldn’t be allowed to be called the Education Union – they aren’t representing what is best for education). I would like potential teachers to join this wonderful profession more for the passion and dedication they have for the job than the money.

I expect that I will be critcised roundly for my stance. I look forward to reading your take on this.

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4 Responses to “If Teachers Were Paid More I Wouldn’t Have Become One”

  1. bhuskie Says:

    I’m not familiar enough with the details of union strikes in education in Australia, or of your “Education Union” (we call ours the Teacher Union, which does sound more appropriate), to comment on that, either way. I will agree with you, however, that I believe it is useful, in terms of empathy and patience, to have had personal academic struggles. We’ve all had the brilliant professor that just couldn’t communicate, or teach, in terms we could follow.

  2. John Tapscott Says:

    If teachers were paid more, I wouldn’t have become one either, for the same reason I didn’t become a doctor or a lawyer. My family couldn’t afford to put me through university. To become a teacher I won a scholarship to Teachers College. Had that not been the case the teaching profession would have been closed to me too.

    We did not have the luxury of choice. This does not mean that we should not work to improve the salaries and status of teachers and that the union should not be involved. The union is no more or less the membership. It is not a separate body that orders its members to strike at a whim. It is only by the members being involved in the business of the union that its role as a representative body is preserved. It is by members not being involved in the decision making process of the union that leads to the kind of union where the organisation and not the members call, the shots.

    A union is only as good as its members allow it to be.

    Unionism is not only about improving wages. It is about improving conditions for both teachers and students. If the union is weak conditions will be eroded as government seeks to do it’s real work on the cheap in order to preserve funds for pork barrelling issues, expenditure that has little lasting benefit for the community but which is noisy and flashy and attractive to swinging voters.

    A strong union is not one that resorts frequently to strike action. A strong union is one where the membership is in control.

  3. Rue Says:

    I am not currently a teacher, so it is hard for me to fully imagine the circumstances. However, as a student planning to become a teacher, I agree that I am going into the field fully aware of the pay issue. Personally, I feel it’s less of a problem with exactly how much the wage is, rather that income is correlated with the prestige in the eyes of the population. And what I can’t stand for is this lack of respect for teachers that having low pay entails.
    Yet, going back to the blog post, it isn’t something that could be changed by strikes. Nor are strikes particularly effective in bringing a change in opinions, which I believe to be the problem; and the concept of being in a strike as a teacher, (as mentioned above) negatively impacts the students – it’s irresponsible.
    Yet there is one point in the post that I simply cannot agree with, where all else I can at least understand.If it is said, you are glad that the pay rather low because that discouraged competition, and therein allows you to become a teacher… I find that highly selfish. I believe the students deserve more than teachers that only became so because it was the better of the poorer options.
    @bhuskie I too agree that having personal academic struggles, or simply enlightening realizations during one’s personal schooling, is highly “useful” and that such teachers are often more understanding, patient, and empathetic. Of which, is certainly more important in earlier years than later.
    @John Tapscott I don’t believe this was quite a complaint about unions as it was about the means in which they use for their ends, if at all about unions in general. Rather, this seem to be solely a salary issue.

    • Michael G. Says:

      You make some good points Rue and I really appreciate your comments. It’s interesting that you found my comment on pay selfish. I personally see it quite differently. I think it would be extremely selfish of me if I accepted the pay rise without sparing a thought for what that could potentially do for young aspiring teachers who are in the same position as I was. Whilst I think greater pay would be a fair result to hard working teachers, I never want it to come at the expense of prospective teachers who have a burning desire to impact a classroom. If wages go up markedly the profession would become attractive to a lot more people (including those wouldn’t have ordinarily even considered being a teacher) and the ranking requirement would surge upwards, thereby penalizing some who see teaching as a dream job but didn’t finish in the top 10-15% of the State in 12th Grade.

      I don’t have to worry about these things now as I am already a teacher. I choose to worry about them because I am so grateful to be one and hope that those who have come from a similar path have access to do the same.

      Thanks again for your great contribution.

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