Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
A&R. These letters strike fear into the hearts of so many educators.
Not because we think we are doing the wrong thing by the children. We know how committed we are to being good educators. (Would we spend so much of our own time talking shop otherwise?) It is the process that is scary. The feeling of intimidation, of being judged. The reports of ‘losing marks’ for tiny bureacucratic things, and the apparent inconsistencies. A&R is a new thing. Many of us have still not experienced it. So maybe it is just the fear of the unknown. Or maybe there really is something wrong with the process.
On my travels, I met an Ancient Mariner who told me a tale of what happened once upon a time when a bunch of teachers felt the process being used to judge them was wrong. They thought about it long and hard, and discussed it over many flagons of red. And then they decided to act. This campaign is part of our union history. It is a story we should know. Perhaps we will need to take inspiration from it one day. So read on:
Just on fifty years ago the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association (VSTA) started a campaign against inspection. The campaign was part of a program called Professional Action whose aim was to improve teachers’ qualifications, conditions and standing. Teaching would be seen as a profession rather than a public service subservient to bureaucratic and political control.
At that time, secondary school inspectors were known as the Board,shorthand for Board of inspectors of Secondary Schools. A typical Board visit comprised a number of inspectors each specialized in certain subjects. Although primary school teachers had to have early warning systems to know when the inspector was coming, the Board gave notice of its arrival. Freshly pressed suits and ties and impressive blackboard displays appeared. The kids were on the teachers’ side and played along as they’d been told.
Had the main purpose of inspection, as was usually asserted, been to see how the school was managing, the union would not have objected. In fact the main aim was to inspect each teacher to grade his or her eligibility for promotion through the five classes of the career hierarchy. An inspector in your subject area would watch a lesson for a while from the back of the classroom as well as go through your test papers and marking. Each year you were given a mark from unsatisfactory through good and very good to outstanding. An unsatisfactory mark was pretty rare and an outstanding mark brought you accelerated promotion into the next class. Once promoted you fell back to a middling mark for a few years. Essentially seniority was being dressed up as ability, with fortune often favouring the yes men.
In all it was a demeaning way to treat a profession.
The Professional Action campaign was remarkably successful. The VSTA was unusually militant for a teachers’ union so various forms of direct action backed its campaigns: stopworks, strikes, bans and so forth. In the case of inspection the VSTA used bans. If an inspector walked into a classroom the teacher would leave. The Department gave up after short war. The virtually automatic system of progress through the classes was replaced by a system in which positions of responsibility were filled on the judgement school-based panels. The sky stayed up and teachers inched closer to professionalism.
(c) The Ancient Mariner 2015
Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates
Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.