February 15, 2017
Written by Alexander Lambrecht, President
Northern Territories Federation of Labour
Quality or Quantity? – Finding a Balance
We place education at the top of our societal values and expect nothing less than the highest quality education for our children – then why aren’t we providing the resources that are needed both intrinsically and extrinsically for students and teachers?
If a doctor saved your child’s life, most parents would be forever grateful. Yet if that same Doctor said “I’m sorry we couldn’t save your child because we don’t have the resources” or “I’m sorry we’re overworked and couldn’t save your child because I’m too tired – I tried to take a shortcut but I didn’t have enough time to plan or prepare for surgery”. Would it be fair to say if a doctor can’t save a life with the resources they have then maybe we should hire more qualified doctors – probably not, but when teachers can’t meet their work obligations they must not be qualified? Is that a fair or a logical position to take?
How many parents only found out about the reduction of up to 100 hours of classroom instructional time through the NNSL Editorial, only to be met with a bias understanding of how they think teachers spend their day at work.
There are many ways to structure the various aspects that make up society. Formal education has not changed in centuries, students are still expected to sit down, be quiet, raise their hand, listen and repeat, write and re-write and so on… yet the world around education has evolved beyond recognition of what existed when I was in school in the 90’s.
I think most office workers find it challenging to sit at their desk for 8 hours each day and dream about moving their desk to the beach so they can work under the sun – or at least I have! That old saying “continuing to do the same thing expecting different results” echoes when I see society expecting different results from maintaining the status quo.
It’s time to try something new, the system is struggling, it needs more innovative thinking. Teachers feel overworked and underappreciated, absenteeism is a growing trend, and what are we doing about it?
There is a misconception about school breaks and how teachers are paid during the year. A teacher’s salary is divided amongst the number of legislated days of school, winter and spring break aren’t a holiday as teachers are required to go to work. Whereas during summer break a portion of a teacher’s salary is held back during the school year that is paid through out the summer months – hence, the two months of summer vacation is not a direct benefit from collective bargaining. Furthermore, Professional Development days are comparable to Professional Education days that various industries require as a condition of licensing (i.e. accounting, health care, insurance…). Why wouldn’t you want teachers to increase their knowledge to better teach our children?
The average work week is 40 hours for much of the workforce – for teachers it can reach up to 50+ hours with anything above 40 hours being unpaid; obviously, there is a work-life imbalance that needs to be addressed. When do we expect teachers to plan and prepare their lessons? During the school day when they are teaching? In the morning before class? At home after supper or on weekends and holidays?
Teachers aren’t given word for word what they’re teaching, they get a curriculum and are expected to develop activities and lessons to teach what is required. How much time that is required to prepare lessons that will be insightful and engage our children – the next generation of leaders. Teachers are made up of a cross-mix of people with various skills and abilities – some may need more time to prepare than others, whereas some less; one thing is clear, the amount of time they do have is not enough.