Saturday 23 September 2017

Staff only: Striking a blow for teachers living in the real world

E Grade

Great news! Derby County beat Peterborough United 2-0 on Saturday. Thing is, nobody really cares about Derby anymore -- they haven't been relevant to modern football since 1976, back when British union officials sat down for beer and sandwiches with Harold Wilson at 10 Downing Street.

In those days, the unions were always calling strikes and work-to-rules. Eventually the public got fed up with them and put union-basher supreme Margaret Thatcher into power.

Those days are long over. A shame nobody told the Irish teaching unions as we now find ourselves in 2010 threatening to implement a work-to-rule as a reaction to the public service pay cuts and the lack of investment in schools.

How do you implement a work-to-rule in schools? Does a teacher of Irish shout 'quiet!' instead of 'ciúnas!'? Does a maths teacher refuse to give the answers? Or does it mean we refuse to hold back as we normally do and tell them to 'f-off' themselves?

True, we were balloted on 'industrial action' last autumn, resulting in a one-day strike. But what is the point of this nonsense when the nation has accepted that the Celtic Tiger was an illusion and that we've got to get on with building a secure future for us all.

I have heard nothing beyond a mere grumble from my colleagues regarding the pay cuts. Most of them seem to accept that there are people out there suffering more than we are -- not surprising considering how much time we spend with their children and how often we meet them at parent-teacher meetings.

Yes, we agreed to stand up to the Government, but why does it have to be something that harms our standing in the eyes of the public and makes our job harder, as less teaching hours will mean less success for our students.

Sitting in their offices in Dublin city centre or in a period house in Rathmines, attending one meeting after another, it seems the teaching unions can't think of anything new to fight the cuts but marches, strikes and work-to-rules. It's a shame the people in the central office don't come to the staff rooms and find out what teachers really think.

How about issuing a moratorium on ordering new books for the next five years instead? Recycle the old ones and force reprints instead of parents being fleeced every year. How about refusing to use any computers in school for a month and enrolling pupils in the local library and starting a book club instead?

There have to be lots of alternative ways of protesting without hurting kids' educations. I suggest we start by amalgamating the TUI and the ASTI, thereby saving money on offices, branch meetings and the whole machinery that leads to striking and working-to-rule that can only do harm.

Irish Independent

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