Applying common sense to schools

Forum –

Re the recent teachers strikes: as Charles Dickens implied, it still is “the best of times and the worst of times” and that certainly includes in schools.

Everyone can and needs to do something to resolve “the existential [ie ordinary everyday] problems of life”.

As a former teacher for half a century in NSW, Canadian and UK schools and as a School Counsellor for the last six years of that wonder-full career, I have a few observations.

We all need to do our reasonably practicable best.

I hasten to add my thanks and admiration for all involved including Departments of Education, parents, children, fellow teachers as well as endless professional and industrial organisations.

I felt supported throughout my career to an extraordinary degree yet there were times for innovation and “robust” discussions.

I experienced no ongoing significant discipline problems during 17 years as a Principal of various types of schools covering K-12.

Perhaps it was because we made great efforts to show care, courtesy and common sense to all.

We practised and encouraged all to ensure students and other involved parties experienced respect, fun, freedom, significance and belonging.

I had lots of fun presenting “magic wands” [magic is in the person, not in the wand], wearing odd socks or a Magic Cape which effectively made me invisible so I could observe better without interrupting.

I was at times both Principal and Teachers Federation Representative and that was a delicate balancing act but was very helpful.

My average as a Principal was a one day suspension for one pupil per year and one warning every year or two to a teacher that their “job was on the line”.

My apologies to those inconvenienced [especially family] but I found it essential to be at school before the cleaners on many occasions and often stayed until midnight.

This was not ideal, but necessary in my case in such a privileged, difficult and important role.

I certainly do not recommend that practice as others can manage so much better than I.

The relatively low teachers’ salaries have ensured teachers could not strike often, and I urge governments not to take advantage of that.

When I sought overseas experience I accepted a Canadian appointment without asking the salary.

Big mistake! There was no way I could spend all that money as it was two and a half times Australian salary in a cheaper economy.

In both the high schools (where) I taught there, everyone loved schools and schooling.

I experienced no discipline problems.

I have also known of situations that I will not identify where a teacher’s salary was below a reasonable living wage in my opinion.

As with most if not all challenges of life, if everyone in society takes their part along “common sense” lines, I have no doubt there will be enough teachers in that unbelievably wonderful career and despite the urgent and critical need for more school psychologists/counsellors at present, the need would become less critical.

Email, Dec 7
John Hegarty, Wyoming