Israel is in the midst of a rather complicated teachers strike. Complicated, since we have two teachers unions. One is striking and the other signed the government's demands. The government offered a contract based on "reforms," which would drastically change
To say that teachers aren't united concerning the strike is an understatement.
teachers work contracts and conditions. Lots more required hours in the schools for a a "slight" raise in salary. What it boils down to is less money per hour, but more per month and lots more rigid demands on teachers' time.
To say that teachers aren't united concerning the strike is an understatement. Not only is the dividing line union membership, but some teachers want to switch to the other union. And some teachers feel very guilty about striking.
I'm part of an online discussion group among teachers. The strike, its pros and cons, is the main topic. Recently, someone wrote that he felt that striking conflicted with his "calling" as a teacher. A "calling?" Isn't that a religious term?
Teaching is a profession, which demands academic training, like a doctor, nurse, lawyer, CPA and computer programmer. Nobody demands that those professionals "make financial sacrifices for their calling." Only teachers are expected to both study and constantly update their professions, while at the same time, they're made to feel guilty for expecting a proper middle-class salary.
In the teachers' room, we mention, in awe, the superior salaries our children receive, even though they may not be as well educated. So often I hear my fellow teachers saying: "My children won't go into education. They've seen my salary slip."
I've worked at a number of varied professions. I've done clerical work, taught physical education and creative dance, worked at public relations, cooked in a day care center, sold children's clothes, ladies hats and even bagels. But I really love teaching English to my high school students. It demands at least one of the skills I developed in each of my prior jobs.
This teaching job is both the most challenging and the most rewarding job I've ever attempted. I'm an actress, writer and secretary. And that's an easy day. The fund-raising letters I used to write are nothing compared to the psychology and tactics I need to get those teenage boys to look a word up in the dictionary.
Sometimes, the energy I expend moving around the classroom leaves me more exhausted than when I performed Israeli Folk Dance. But my teaching is much more important. The applause I used to hear from the stage is nothing like the sound of: "Thank you, Teacher. If it hadn't been for you, I never would have passed my English Bagrut."
So, why do I support* the strike? A successful lesson gives me a great feeling, but it doesn't pay the bills. The teachers I meet at professional conventions are on the verge of retirement. We wonder who will replace us. The younger generation thinks we're fools. They wouldn't want to put up with what they know we put up with. Teaching's not easy, but getting a salary that's lower than average wage is an insult.
Unfortunately, too many teachers are under the misunderstanding that they're doing some "holy work" and shouldn't let their students suffer. Teaching is a talent, a skill and a love, but it's not religion.
Teachers must demand to be treated and paid as academic professionals. Otherwise, the governments and society will continue to abuse us take us for granted. Yes, "abuse" us. Pay attention to what the politicians and "educational reform committees" have been saying. They keep blaming Israel's low showing in international educational studies on the teachers. According to them, the old teachers must be replaced. The fact is that years
A successful lesson gives me a great feeling, but it doesn't pay the bills.
ago, Israel did much better in these surveys. Today's rankings are not the sole fault of the teachers.
Remember that not all that long ago, only Israel's elite graduated high school. It was expensive and not required by law. Now, all teenagers are supposed to attend high school, but the curriculum wasn't adjusted to serve the varied needs of today's youth.
The bureaucrats in the Education Ministry keep adopting failed teaching methods, especially in the lower grades, which make it harder to get good results. Of course, the teachers are blamed.
The striking teachers are not responsible for the recent teenage violence. Just like during summer and the long holiday vacations, they have parents who are supposed to supervise their actions.
I agree that there's a need for educational reform, but the politicians and their commissions haven't a clue.
To be a teacher is not to be a babysitter and it's not to be a factory worker. It's also not a "calling." It's a wonderful, challenging and rewarding job for those trained, talented and lucky enough to be teachers.
* The Yeshiva High School B'nai Binyamin, in Beit El, isn't striking for security and other reasons. We, the staff who are members of the Irgun Morim (Teacher's Organization), fully support the strike and attend demonstrations.