I never expected to find it so hard to get my first teaching job and then when I finally achieved it, the challenge was to prove I was worthy of getting a second contract. I can certainly relate to the following account:
Harry Knock’s first term teaching Indonesian and English at Eltham High School might have been his last.
He was hired this year on a single-term contract, replacing another teacher on leave. But fortunately he gained another short-term position so he will remain at Eltham at least for 2014. ”I’d like to have an ongoing job but this is pretty good,” he said.
He is among a group of graduate teachers The Age is following this year, all of whom just completed their first term. Mr Knock said he just focused on doing a good job rather than dwelling on its short-term nature.
So far his experience has shattered the myth that good teachers can start at 9am and leave work behind six hours later. He regularly stayed late and worked weekends.
”I guess I expected it to be fast-paced but I didn’t expect to be exhausted every week.”
Eltham principal Vincent Sicari was still sufficiently impressed when Mr Knock sat the interview for his job. ”To his credit he really outshone the other applicants,” Mr Sicari said. ”He’s a first-year teacher so he obviously still needs some support to establish himself in the profession but he’s a very committed young man.”
About 45 per cent of graduate teachers start on short-term contracts, according to the Australian Education Union.
The union’s state president, Meredith Peace, said short-term work placed considerable strain on graduate teachers. ”When you’re trying to attract people into the profession, security of employment is very important,” she said. ”I think it’s very distracting, particularly towards the end of the school year. Contracts tend to be for 12 months.” These teachers started their careers at a contentious time. The federal government launched a review of teacher training and Education Minister Christopher Pyne has promised to lift the ”quality, professionalism and status” of teaching.
Bronwyn Aitken said her university training was good. But her first term teaching home economics and health at Gladstone Park Secondary College revealed the limitations of a degree, despite the work experience placements.
”You’re in someone else’s classroom when you’re in training,” she said. ”You can’t establish the relationships you need … until you’re on your own.”
At The Lakes South Morang P-9 School Naomi Harris had her own grade 6 classes but also worked in teams with other teachers.
She previously completed a placement at the school but found teaching was a ”big learning curve”. She has also learnt some teachers have a special ”presence” in the classroom that comes with years spent on the job.
Tom Davis, 22, said the support of experienced colleagues and his degree would guide him through his first year at Montmorency South Primary School.