I am writing this as a secondary school teacher in Ireland. I am teaching almost ten years. The first two years of my career were spent teaching in Essex. Luck brought my CV to eyeshot in 2008 and I have worked at home in my own country since. Unlike many others. I am privileged to have my job. I love what I do. It is ever changing and often very challenging but I find myself increasingly more confident to face them. Many, many people would not dream of doing my job despite the holiday time. There has always been some stigma attached to my profession and that is hard to deal with at times. Recently though, I have been downright in despair at how we are viewed. No one ever takes our side (Ryan Tubridy as exception). Even when we are doing exactly the RIGHT thing
The following was written a short while ago. We have since suspended our strike action and all is happening as before. One grievance we have is the expectation of teachers to do duties We are supervising and substituting for no financial gain. It is now November and rain has been the preferred weather type. My yard duty has been in the midst of said rain. Secondary school boys are oblivious and want to play sport regardless.
We are fighting on three accounts. One of these is equal pay for equal work. Our NQT staff work hard and equally to all those who aren’t NQT. They get paid less. They still work hard. They remain underpaid. I almost laugh at the innocence of the Taoiseach when I hear him talk about our young NQT workers. Yes, many are young. However he casually forgets those people who left employment and retrained to become teachers at a later stage. Out of the NQT staff I work with (five) two are men (older than I ) with their own families (older than mine). I got paid more when I first joined than they do.
We are fighting the horrible way a new Junior Cert is bring implemented. Personally, i am all for a new way to examine students at this age that is inclusive. It is just wrong that this oppprtunity has been overshadowed by incompetemce. I am horrified by the rushed botch job they are giving us. Meanwhile this ‘new Junior Cert’ (we are still uncerain of what they expect from our kids) is progressing without us. I teach Romeo and Juliet to a class who are loving it. I am delighted with these lessons, where the play is brought to life, work is differentiated and prove to me that teaching is where I should be. However the country know me as an ASTI member who is not cooperating. I have never worked so hard in my life for less recognition than before. I just want their assessment to be fair. I want them to have access to enough resources as other schools. I want a Minister who is working for the kids’ interests and not their own notoriety.
So here is what I wrote in those strike/ lock out days. I wasn’t planning to publish it but feel I must spit it out in order for it to stop swilling about my brain like a poisonous ring pull abandoned into an aquatic haven, waiting for calamity. I can’t seem to move on with my blogging without saying it.
I am a secondary school teacher in midland Ireland. My union are called ASTI. For the last while, we are in dispute with our government over several issues. It has been a slow build of tension and anger with many, many voting slips, dead ends, various statements back and forth and dangerous misunderstandings. We have passed three Ministers of Education since the beginning of these problems. It has really been getting tougher with no resolution in sight. However, the you know what has officially hit the fan in the last week.
We were at home Monday. On the picket line today. Tomorrow? Who knows. It looks bad though.
Our students are at home. The thought of all that unstudied work required for my Leaving Cert class leaves my mouth dry. I panic.
I know that I will give up free time to teach extra classes. (We often come in over Easter anyway to do exactly that). I know I am spending this’free’ time making resources. This is no fib. I spent yesterday working on a Unit for Romeo and Juliet comparison with West Side Story for a further study. I made revision notes for LC. My house has gone uncleaned as it would have done if I had been allowed to work.
Recently the following has happened to me:
- I own two pairs of what I call decent blue jeans. They fit my post ‘two babies in two years’ body and keep me warm and dry. They don’t look awful. BOTH ripped at the inside thigh this week. Dramatically. I am broke. I shelled out a needed tenner for a pair in Penneys. Don’t get me wrong- I am not above Penneys clothes. I love them. I just have to clarify that this teacher of ten years buys Penneys not just because of liking them but because they were a tenner. I can’t afford anything else this month. It is a fact.
- My car tax payment was rejected. Insufficient funds. I will fix it soon. My salary didn’t stretch.
- My phone services were cut off. I didn’t pay my bill when I first got it as I usually do (things were tight) but the final warning came as things were so tight, Jack had no cows and no magic beans at all. No payment. So they cut me.
- I am counting change to pay for essentials. My baby’s food. Milk.
This is not just me but many of the ‘squeezed middle’ as we are referred to. This Job for Life I have is one I love. It is also not what it appears. The connotation for my job status is that I should be well off. Travel all through the holidays we get, several times a year. Go home unstressed at four o clock…have coffee in my ‘free’ classes. Save for a wealthy retirement. Plenty of funds for extras.
This is not the reality. I don’t know any teacher of my age who is not living wage to wage. Like most other workers, we look for our deals too. We happily shop in Lidl. We stay in on our weekends and home make activities. Because we get BROKE TOO. The truth is this. I have my fortnightly wage. I pay for crèche, bills, my loan repayment. Without spending another bob, I have about 150 euro left for a fortnight. It sounds good. Take out shopping (include nappies and baby food), fuel and without unforeseen circumstances, I have personally left very little. Twenty quid maybe. Savings? What are you talking about? Lavishly spend on luxuries that is wrongly associated with my profession? Not even possible.
I want to say all this even though I know I will not be read but for the reasons I blog in the first place. Keep my head sane. Get out the words. Say them so I can move on. Deal with it.
This is not to whinge. My friends have the pleasure of hearing that! It is my truth. My facts. I’ve my job. I lucky to have it. It has its issues. It is not what is perceived by many non teachers. I wish others would support us and not knock us further when there is reason. It is demoralising to spend your day teaching, planning, having those glory moments when a kid ‘gets it’, bonding and educating, feeling like Rocky in the classroom to go home listening to your profession being hammered on the news. To hear yourself (as part of a larger group) being merged into one lazy, greedy group when they are so wrong. So very wrong. You are killing it in class. You are being verbally killed on media. You stop off for milk. You find yourself (like most of Ireland) digging for loose change in the cracks of the car seat. Even though you go through the same struggles you aren’t afforded the same respect. Because you are a ‘teacher’.
I recently read the Irish nurse’s story of reaching the poverty line in her own life. How is it even possible? It was a very tough read. I am blessed to be away from those depths of despair but I can almost taste the fear of it occurring.
We have these jobs that Ireland has spent decades aspiring to. Begrudgery has set in. We are almost hated at times as a profession and personally I feel very misunderstood more often than not. We have the holidays, yes. They are our blessing. We also have the same problems and issues as all the other people in our world.
Give us a break from the hate and the bitterness. We are doing our best.