Thursday, 9 April 2009

Fine sounding words

I have been boring myself senseless since 5am reading the policies of the Parents and Citizens Federation. Bleah. I was hoping that would help me get back to sleep. No such luck.

I didn't actually want to read those policies at all. Originally, I was looking for the quarterly newsletter that the Federation publishes - it turns out it is only available in hard copy. I wanted to link to it because I flicked through it recently, and found that it was the greatest grab-bag of leftist pap that I have seen in a long time.

By the way, I ended up looking for that this morning because of escorts and union funds. I'm not kidding. I started with the story on Craig Thomson and his alleged misuse of union credit cards to fund his election campaign. What can I say - if the card is issued in your name, you are responsible for every transaction made with that card. You have to provide documentary evidence of how you spent that money, via receipts and so on. That's par for the course when an organisation issues you with a card.

From that story, I went fishing for information on Thomson's pet group, Dads in Education. Apparently he set this group up to raise his profile, and used his union credit card to donate $10,000 to the group.

Health Services Union members might be asking why they are having their pay packets docked with union fees when the money is being spent on things that has nothing to do with the direct welfare of the HSU members. I looked up Dads in Education on ASIC and a NSW register of charities, and found that it is listed as a company but not a charity. So at least it is not a fake charity.

I noticed that one of the Board members of Dads in Education is Vicki Scott, and she is a member of the P&C Federation. She is also a Labor Councillor in Gosford. When I saw the P&C bit, I went trawling through the P&C site looking for that newsletter.

Anyhoo, some of the policies are absolute crackers - the right to this, the right to that, blah blah blah. Given that sacking useless teachers is a pet cause of mine, I was taken by this policy clause:
The key to the continuing development of our public system of education is well educated, highly motivated, professional teaching staff, supported by a sympathetic education authority and working in close co-operation with the community. Teachers should be endowed with the following personal attributes: the ability to communicate a high level of knowledge and skill; imagination, enthusiasm, tolerance, judgment, sensitivity, perception and individuality; and an awareness of people, of nature and of the dignity of those whom they teach. It is self-evident, therefore, that teachers should be qualified for the work they do and sufficient in number to allow for effective school organisation, including remedial teaching, student welfare programs, career advice and appropriate programs for students with special needs. The selection of potential teachers and their training and development are of the utmost importance since the quality of schools is positively and significantly related to the quality of their teachers.

Yes, all good motherhood statements. A teacher should be this and that and something else. I agree with most of it.

But what do you do if a teacher fails to meet these lofty expectations? What do you do with someone that commences well, and then starts sliding downhill after a few years? You counsel them, you retrain them, you give them some opportunities to develop, and they continue the downward trend into sloth, indiscipline, and unprofessionalism?

I wish groups like the P&C Federation would have the balls to confront issues like this. Clearly, in any given group of people, whether they be doctors, lawyers, police, nurses, teachers, what have you, there are going to be stars and there are going to be utter duds. In some organisations, you can shuffle the duds off to some insignificant backwater where they can do no harm, and you leave them there, gathering dust until they leave.

However, I don't think the education system has the resources to do that, so dud teachers end up standing at the front of classrooms, where they help to destroy a generation of kids.

Can I pick a dud? No, not with enough certainty to have them fired. But I expect that Principals would have been around long enough to be able to pick them, and we all know from our own experiences in many different walks of life that duds exist everywhere. I can't weed them out, but I expect Principals to be doing it as part of their job.

Why isn't the P&C Federation standing up and saying, "These are our kids that you are teaching. We will support the good teachers to the best of our ability, but the flipside is that if someone is not suited to teaching, they should be booted at the earliest opportunity and told to try their luck in another field of endeavour. We will not accept run-down, poorly maintained buildings and schools, and we will not accept run-down, unmotivated teachers either".

Rant over.


1735099 said...

As a principal for more than twenty years, I came across a few "duds".
I would put a great deal of effort into supporting them, and helping their colleagues to support them. That often required daily demonstration lessons, observation and critical mentoring, setting them up with highly-effective teachers, and in some cases working on improving their relationships with staff, students and parents. In terms of resources, it cost money in teacher release time, but we had a budget for that. It was money well spent.
For the majority, this consistent support and encouragement was sufficient to make them effective. The minority who wouldn't/couldn't be helped almost invariably resigned or were superannuated out as a result of stress breakdown.
Generally, the only teachers who were a major problem to my school communities were those in denial about their own performance. I was forced to use the Diminished Work Performance (fancy name for sacking) a handful of times in those twenty years.
Personally, I would like to see the same kind of standard adopted for non-performing corporate execs as exists for teachers.
At least non-performing teachers don't pocket obscene amounts as golden parachutes when they get the flick.

Boy on a bike said...

Believe you me, I am more than happy for useless execs to get the flick. I've seen quite a few marched out in my time, including two CEO's. They got reasonable payouts, but nothing like the massive amounts he see US execs being paid.

I saw one manager get the boot only last month. He was stumbling along ok, but not brilliantly, yet he still got the axe. There was a better performer waiting in the wings, and they booted Mr Average out to make way for Mr Better.

nic said...

I have let three go for next year (September). It's the benefit of a contract system. To be honest, one had prviously been demoted, etc, etc, though reported to me that he never realised that he was close to termination. All the more reason for a wake up call. Two more to go.