Teacher unions fighting to maintain standards
To be honest: A teacher writes:I’ve been a member of a secondary teaching union (ASTI) for the length of my career. I’ve noticed in recent years that, along with the general union-bashing I hear on the airwaves, some of my own colleagues are starting to complain about their union.
I’ve heard it said by teachers that unions are unrealistic about their demands, or that union officials are only interested in protecting themselves, or that new members are not given the same respect as the rest of us. It worries me to hear teachers talking this way.
Some teachers are starting to see their own unions through the eyes of a resentful and uninformed public. Perhaps they are starting to become embarrassed by all the complaints they hear about the public service, and they are parroting what they hear in order to distance themselves from the unions. It’s understandable, but worrying nonetheless.
Many of us are forgetting what the teaching unions really do. It’s not just about protecting pay and conditions for teachers. Teaching unions spend a lot of time and energy trying to defend the rights that our children have gained in recent years: smaller class sizes, decent school buildings, support for children with special needs and modern equipment to prepare them for the real world of work.
I remember what it was like to go to school in Ireland in the 1970s and I can tell you there is no comparison. The teaching unions are to be congratulated for helping to ensure that conditions improved for children.
When those standards start to slip, the unions are the first to call the Government to account. If it wasn’t for unions, many people wouldn’t be aware of the many cuts that are now impacting on schools.
What’s wrong with defending the profession? If teaching is undermined during this recession, standards will fall. In time, the Government will be forced to try and redress the situation. That process could take decades, so much will be lost in the meantime.
Our unions defend our profession and maintain its status, for richer, for poorer. Teaching is still a very desirable career choice and this has kept the academic requirements for teaching high. Our classrooms are headed up by some of Ireland’s brightest and hardest-working individuals. You need very good exam results to get a place on the teaching course. I doubt many parents would want it any other way.
Unlike other professional groups, the teaching profession has not been undermined by findings of corruption, incompetence or abuse of power. The only threat to our excellent relationship with the public is what I regard as a passing resentment regarding pay and security which most people would surrender if they gave it any real thought. I hope my colleagues have the courage to ride out this storm and stand by their unions. One day the country will credit our unions for standing by our schools.
This column is designed to give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously. Contributions are welcome. Email firstname.lastname@example.org