Like most, this virus that’s hit almost all of Australia has hit my house over the last two weeks. It lingers, it goes away, it comes back, it threatens pneumonia, it plays havoc with the asthma kids and it’s even got a little tummy bug attached to it. After hearing that we had a number of classes with up to 17 kids per class away from school this week as well as teachers, I innocently queried how many sick days teachers were entitled to per year as the virus is knocking most out for a minimum of 5 days.
After my query, I accidentally started a shit storm on Facebook. I didn’t mean to. I posted that teachers were entitled to 25 sick days a year. This surprised me. 25 full days. I was honestly surprised. I wasn’t pissed off and I wasn’t accusing teachers of not being entitled to the leave. I wasn’t saying they don’t work hard, I wasn’t saying they don’t have a tough gig and I wasn’t saying they aren’t worth it, I was just surprised when most childcare workers are entitled to 10-15 days, nurses to 10 days and everyone else 10 days.
Compared to many parents who believe they know more than a teacher, I would say I’m very supportive of teachers. All of them. Why? Because I couldn’t be a teacher, no patience and I’m not that keen on OPC’s (Other people’s children). Additionally, I once read a protest sign that said “IF YOU CAN READ THIS SIGN, THANK A TEACHER” – that message stayed with me forever. Teachers give us ALL the basic skills and knowledge that we need to live, reading, writing, math, drama, music, science, the list goes on. You always remember your favourite teachers and typically, as a child, you spend more time WITH your teacher during the week than you do with your family. Let it be said that I think teachers are amazing.
There is however a shit fight that constantly comes up and I suspect it’s because teachers are constantly told how ‘good’ they have it and they want to respond like all good workers would “yes but we work hard for those benefits or entitlements” but it can often be interpreted as something completely different “we have it tough, we have to clean up vomit, we have to deal with your kids, we have to manage family issues, learning delays, reporting, we have to work past 3:30pm” – it can sound like a sob story. Everyone in a job has to do stuff that’s above and beyond what they think they are paid for. This is fair enough, no one wants us to think they get all the perks and don’t earn them. It’s a bit like a job where you have to travel, it looks glamorous but once you’ve had to make your way to the airport twice a month, the novelty wears off, jetlag sets in and you wish you could stay in one place long enough to get done what needs to be done. But no one sees that, all the hear is “whinge whinge whinge, I have to get on ANOTHER business class flight – POOR ME”
I suspect that many teachers get their back up because “having good working conditions” can often be interpreted as “not being a hard worker”. Nothing could be further from the truth however there is no denying that, if you are a Mum, being a teacher does appear to be a slightly more family friendly profession than others.
There is no doubt that every teacher could tell you they are told a few times a week how ‘lucky’ to have 12 weeks paid leave a year, 25 days of sick leave, paid maternity leave, of being able to work ‘school hours’ (yes we know this is bollocks), that their employer is legally obliged to allow them to return to work ‘part time’, enable them to job share or that long service leave can be accrued despite changing jobs – oh did I mention it’s almost impossible to be sacked? I know a number of Mums who are currently back at University re-training to become teachers for this very reason however it’s rare to see a teacher swap these conditions for that of your average full time working Mum slugging it out as a receptionist and getting home on the bus at 7pm at night.
Yes, for all of us, the grass is always greener on the other side.
In NSW, the study time for a nursing degree and a teaching degree is similar, however the salaries and perks differ greatly. The starting salary for a nurse in NSW is $48,000 per annum to a maximum senior salary of $75,000 per annum. 40 hours, 4 weeks holidays, 10 days sick leave. According to my research, most teachers will start on a salary of $59,000 and the highest pay level is $89,000. There is no denying that if you were choosing between the two based on working conditions, the salary and additional holidays alone would make you consider teaching first and foremost.
Just as a comparison, if a teacher’s salary of $90k is based on the weeks they are at school and they swapped careers for a role where they were only entitled to 4 weeks leave a year, the comparable salary would be $106k per annum. I don’t know too many Mum’s earning that salary on an annual basis. For that reason alone, it appears to be a fabulous and worthy profession and one that I admire greatly.
It’s fair to say that average worker’s conditions are fair. A full time office worker receives 4 paid weeks leave per annum leaving 8 weeks a year working out what to do with kids in school holidays (big cost), they get 10 days of sick leave a year which can often include carers leave so managing that between multiple kids can max it out QUICKLY and the Australian Government currently pays $11,538 before tax for parental/maternity leave across 18 weeks but your annual income must be less than $150k per annum – the key benefit the average worker has above a teacher – they can probably pop out and run an errand at lunch without worrying about playground duty, run downstairs and grab a coffee and focus on that report that’s due without 30 little people tugging at their skirt or being screamed at by irrational parents because little Jonny hasn’t moved up a reading level in three months – HELL YEAH, THEY EARN THOSE PERKS and I mean every word of that.
Upon reporting the facey shit fight to a couple of girlfriends who are teachers this morning I got the response I wanted “Yes, we chose this profession because we love it. It fits with our family and we love what we do. There are benefits to every job and hardships with every job. No role is perfect but we what we are entitled to is fair.”
Shitfight over. They summed it up. Humble, happy, not defensive and loving their profession and all the highs and lows that come with it.