Wednesday, March 03, 2004

AEU takes strike action

So I am on strike today. This is actually the first time I have been involved in a strike action and I must say that it has been an eye opener. I won't go into the details of why, you can read for yourselves; The Age, The Age 2, The Age 3, Herald Sun.

The best treatment of the issue is the The Age Editorial. I think it's pretty spot on the money. The AEU has been accused in the past of being toothless, unrepresentative, unprofessional, etc. and of playing petty industrial games that don't tend to lead anywhere productive. Mary Bluett (AEU Victorian Head) is often 'on about' the money only - but obviously this is only part of the problem. More sinister are the calls from government about 'increased productivity' and accountability tied to student outcomes. This position is only a sie step from the kind of difficulties the American ed system seem to be in at present with standarised testing and teachers being reduced to delivery 'robots' who just enact whatever curriculum the government believes should be used - i.e. Bush's 'No Child Left Behind' etc. Check out some 'other' stuff about NCLB!

So I tend to agree with The Age editorial team, in that this kind of narrow industrial action results in a 'stand off where no one wins'. I mean don't get me wrong, as I also understand and feel myself the frustration of other colleagues who have just had enough (a gutful!). Looking at creative options that do not exclusively focus on more pay. After all, when you ask someone whether they are payed enough, what are they going to say? But looking at professionalism and identity, more time, professional learning and development, better resourced schools, better VCE curriculum, etc. are other ways to push the barrow if you like. There is more to improving public education that reducing class sizes and giving teachers more money.

I guess one excellent example is the STELLA project and others like it that are now in progress (PRIME etc.) These teacher engaged in sustained reflection and research into their own classrooms and as a result experienced great professional growth - why not use this a model or a type of professional renewal. To engage in such activities teachers need TIME.

This has been said before, but I am coming to know it better and better - probably because I am experiencing it - that to change schools and education, to really offer students the best possible education, we need to offer teachers more powerful learning opportunities (Sharon Fieman-Nemser).


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