Testing times for teachers
Ask any Minister for Education -- dealing with a room full of teachers these days is more about crowd control than learning. Gone are the days when you could stand up there and get some respect just for being who you are.
Just look at poor Mary Coughlan. On her first day in front of the teachers and the new head girl of the INTO, Sheila Nunan, says: "If you don't believe half the things you've heard about teachers, we won't believe half of the things we've heard about you." The cheek of her. This would never have happened if ministers were still allowed to slap teachers.
But look, it's hard to blame the teachers for acting up. As they never tire of pointing out, they are exposed to rude and aggressive behaviour from pupils every day. What kind of example is that to set your elders? Is it any wonder they just act it out in their own lives, jeering at the Minister this week when they weren't giving her the silent treatment and jostling her as she left the stage. It's important of course to understand the extra pressures on the teachers of today. It's alright for people in the private sector who have taken pay cuts. They hardly have any time off in which to enjoy their reduced wages. Or they've lost their jobs, in which case they have loads of time but no money.
The poor teachers, however, need to entertain themselves for three months in the summer, a couple of weeks at Christmas and Easter plus a few mid-terms. You try and keep yourself occupied after a 20 per cent pay cut. It's enough to make you sick -- for an average of 10.5 days per annum according to the latest figures from the Comptroller and Auditor General.