Wednesday 12 December 2018

Strike is teaching our children one thing: That it's OK to hurt those relying on you if it means better wages

'The last time the ASTI teachers went out on strike, the following year there was a 26pc increase on the usual number of students repeating the Leaving Cert'
'The last time the ASTI teachers went out on strike, the following year there was a 26pc increase on the usual number of students repeating the Leaving Cert'
Stella O'Malley

Stella O'Malley

'Is it valid?" This is the question that is on everyone's mind today as the teachers go out en masse to protest about their pay conditions. "Is it appropriate for teachers to strike while they are supposed to be in school, or would it be more appropriate to strike during their fully paid mid-term break?"

Whether their protest is valid or not, by holding students and parents all over the country to ransom, many people believe that teachers look like great big babies who are throwing the rattle out of the pram because they want more jam.

Of course, it is mostly the students and the parents who are negatively affected by this proposed series of strikes. Parents are worried that their unruly teenagers might get up to all sorts while they're home alone, while the more committed students are stressed as they worry whether their teachers will be able to cover the course if they keep going out on strike. Indeed, the last time the ASTI teachers went out on strike, the following year there was a 26pc increase on the usual number of students repeating the Leaving Cert.

My parents were teachers and so I'm well aware of exactly how committed good teachers can be but, sadly, these committed teachers appear to be the puppets of an over-zealous ASTI.

So the unions are using the teachers for their own aims and the teachers, in turn, are using the schoolchildren for their own aims.

But being a teacher is more than just delivering a curriculum, being a teacher means that you are willing to act as a role model for children while they're in your care. There are ethical considerations involved and if the teachers decide to take their football and go home during the school day, then the teachers, whether they intend to or not, are sending the students the message that if you're not happy with the conditions of your salary, it is acceptable to hurt people who are relying upon you.

Every single year, in my work as a psychotherapist, I see students suffering from stress as a direct result of the Leaving Cert. The distress the Leaving Cert causes teenagers is horrendous and it seems to be getting worse. But, just like the Lansdowne Road Agreement, the Leaving Cert is the only show in town.

If the students want to go to college, then they just have to put up and shut up. Sometimes students have to put up with rubbish teachers, but they are told that such is life. Most of the teachers are great and sometimes we need to accept a less than fully perfect situation.

Sooner or later, all reasonable people learn that negotiation is based on compromise and this is what's known as a golden teachable moment. Similarly, the ASTI members who are protesting so loudly about the Lansdowne Road Agreement also need to learn how to compromise.

Teenagers are raw. Their emotions run riot and they need leadership to pull them through the storms and stresses of adolescence. They are often idealistic and, because their emotions are often heightened, they can feel very let down when a role model in their life behaves badly. Parents and teachers are generally the main role models in teenagers' lives and this is why teachers need to show calm leadership in their role.

These proposed strikes smack of greed and brinksmanship. The teachers aren't striking over huge class numbers, they aren't striking over the shocking lack of resources for children with additional needs, nor are they striking over the serious issue of young teachers being offered only insecure contract hours - instead it's all about pay disputes.

Even so, protesting about pay conditions is a perfectly acceptable activity - so long as it doesn't negatively affect people more vulnerable than yourself.

Back in the day, going on strike was a powerful medium for the small man to fight against the fat cats.

At that time, if the workers went out on strike, production would slow down and the boss man would realise that he had to listen to the workers or his profits would be impacted.

But times are very different now; the union leaders are well paid themselves, living off good salaries while they fight for better pay for the middle-class members of their union.

The INTO and the TUI were able to accept the Lansdowne Road Agreement, but the ASTI seems to believe that it can hold out for a better deal.

If the teachers want to protest about their pay, they could organise a mass demonstration held on a Saturday to show they are committed to their work but they are unhappy with the pay conditions.

What better way to show their pupils that they are impassioned about the issue - but also committed to the welfare of their students?

Online Editors

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