A lot of teachers are up in arms about MP Andrew Laming’s comments that teachers get too many holidays and should be made to work the same hours as other professions.
Laming thinks teachers should work a 38-hour week and have only four weeks of holidays per year.
Right on cue, a lot of people in the education profession are saying that Laming is out of touch and has no idea of the realities of our job.
But I think my colleagues might be too quick to take offence. As a music teacher I think Laming’s suggestion has merit and deserves to be explored more thoroughly.
Here are the implications of his proposal as I see it.
A 38-hour week means 7 hours and 36 minutes per day across 5 days. This means that I can arrive at work at 8am and leave at 3.36pm every day. There’s no need to factor in lunch breaks or recess, since I work though lunch and recess every day - either directing music ensemble rehearsals, mentoring students, giving instrumental lessons, supervising yard duty, or sitting at my desk frantically trying to catch up.
According to Laming I should be able to leave my job at 3.36pm. This is a huge improvement over my current work conditions, as that never happens now. Furthermore, Laming says there should be no marking, preparation, reporting or planning to do at home. I am hugely in favour of this. When I get home every afternoon my time will be my own, I will be able to pursue my hobbies and enjoy time with my family without the need to do any extra work after dinner. Brilliant!
Of course, under the Laming scheme there will be no school commitments in the evenings or on weekends. Parent/teacher interviews will happen during office hours, as will all music ensemble rehearsals, school concerts, musical productions and other performances. Meetings that currently occur in the evenings, such as Friends of Music groups, will now happen between the hours of 8am to 3.36pm.
Departmental and curriculum meetings will need to be finished by 3.36pm, as will professional development sessions. As a music teacher, it’s a huge relief to know that I’ll never again be required for a Sunday rehearsal or a weekend music camp. I’ll also no longer be required to take students to performances at weekend community festivals or public holiday events such as Anzac Day services. And school concerts that begin at 7.30pm will be a thing of the past. We will get our lives back. Thank you Andrew Laming!
The trade-off, of course, is fewer holidays, but I don’t mind. Having weekends and evenings to myself every week of the year more than makes up for it. And in keeping with Laming’s desire to make teachers’ work conditions the same as other professions, I’ll now be able to take my four weeks of holiday at any time of the year - no longer bound to take my holidays during the non-teaching period. This will work out brilliantly.
My wife frequently travels internationally for work. Since her work trips are generally during the school term I am usually unable to accompany her. But now that I will be able to apply to take leave at any time during the term, I’ll be able to travel when she does. I can’t wait.
Those teachers who have derided Laming for not knowing what he is talking about should maybe consider further his proposal to see just how much better off they’ll be under his suggested reforms. If the proposal looks the way I described it above, I’d vote for it.
Aaron Searle is a Melbourne teacher.