Teacher 1 – single.
The first teacher I spoke to is single. She has been a kindy/early primary teacher for nearly 20 years. She started her career in a Kimberley town and worked there for about 8 years before relocating back to Perth. She has toyed with the idea of advancement to deputy level. She is a senior teacher at Level 2. And she is getting out.
The final straw I think was volunteering to help create an art project for the school and being asked to pay for the materials to create the art works. We’re not talking a lot of money – enough for three large canvases – but she resented the principal telling her to “suck it up” and not expect the department to pay for every little thing.
She doesn’t feel supported by the principal who seems to be at war with the staff rather than trust them to support her, and the deputy is ineffectual.
Teacher 2 – married, two children
This teacher also teaches kindergarten. Like my first example she began her teaching career in the Kimberley – this time in a remote community. Both of these teachers went to the country in order to get permanency with the Education Department. Permanency was important to them and they value it highly. This teacher is now in a northern suburbs school, close to her home and she appreciates being only five minutes from work.
However, she feels she isn’t teaching. She is too busy doing admin work trying to get some of the children in her classroom assessed for various learning issues – like autism, Aspergers, speech and hearing difficulties. The few children in her class with these issues disrupt learning for the others. It is now halfway through the year. Part of the problem is language difficulties, many of the parents of these children have difficulty speaking English.
Teacher 3 – married, no children
The third teacher I spoke to teaches music. She loves her job. But she has some issues too. Do you know that teachers have to pay for their own computers? What other job makes you pay for your own computer! You can buy it if you like but you don’t necessarily get the computer you’ve cared for – just the most munted from the pool. And for her it’s especially difficult as the classroom she works from has no internet access at all.
And then there’s the problem of reports. She had just about completed all of hers when they decided to upgrade the system. They were all lost. You can’t change a report if you make a mistake – you have to go through the help desk and get the change authorised. What a nightmare!!
Teacher 4 – married, works part-time
Then I went to another function and met another teacher.Â She only teaches one day a week at a primary school in Perth.Â And yes, she’s getting out as well.Â It’s not that she hates teaching, but other things have become more interesting.
The news article recently that 25% of graduate teachers leave within their first year doesn’t surprise these experienced teachers one bit. With permanency no longer offered for rural service there is no incentive to go bush. There is no real advancement. To go for a level 3 position takes a lot of extra work and there is only a few places each year. They don’t feel it’s worth it.
I could never be a teacher and I thank the powers that be that there are people out there that consider it their vocation – for a calling it truly is. You wouldn’t do it for the pay and conditions.