Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Teaching's a crap job."

"I've done that crap job in Japan. People couldn't pay me enough to do that again. Besides I'm wanting a real job with a good future." This blanket statement appeared in response to a post on G+ where I've found most people are thoughtful with their comments.

If there's one way to get a whole profession offside, that's it. Dismiss every job even remotely associated with teaching as "crap" and with no future. Ouch. 

Needless to say, it was tempting to retaliate in kind, but I resisted the impulse and let my thoughts settle. What did I really think? Why did I feel so insulted?

This person didn't know I was a teacher, so presumably hadn't deliberately set out to be hurtful. But she also hadn't made any effort to assess her attitude or explore what she disliked about the position she'd held in Japan. 

I had thought of offering a few suggestions: questions she could ponder, people she could talk to, articles to read, perhaps some books. But after that rude statement, I didn't feel particularly generous. 

I replied as follows: 

“You may not have realised that by dismissing teaching as a 'crap" job and stating that it's a job with no real future, you're insulting every one of us who has devoted our lives to improving outcomes for students.

Students come in all varieties - they could be disability students, adults returning to study, migrants, special education children, crusty old blokes who need some workplace training, university students and a massive range of other people who need and seek skills from teachers. Are they really all 'crap' jobs with no future?

Without teachers in one form or another, essential skills couldn't be passed on to future generations as efficiently - think of bakers, pharmacists  doctors, nurses, aged care workers, road workers, engineers to name a few. 

The effect of hearing my profession dismissed rudely and thoughtlessly as a "crap" job with no future hurts.

You may have meant to say the position you had at a specific location in Japan didn't suit you or your personality. That would have been valid, honest, understandable and shown a courteous respect for others who have enjoyed a fulfilling career teaching in one form or another.”

In hindsight, there are things I could have added or discarded. Rearranging the paragraphs would have been good. However, I doubt it would have made any difference, the writer of the flippant statement didn't return. Some people have little desire in gaining self awareness and no interest in thinking about how their words and actions affect others.  

I wonder how many others have had their career described as a "crap job"? What do you say? How does it make you feel? Do you try to explain the positives or not bother at all?

You might have been working in the field for 30+years; moved from area to area adding to your enjoyment as you shed the aspects you dislike and focus more on those which compliment your interests, strengths and values.

I’ve written about my love of working with adults and those with learning difficulties in Learning Difficulties in Adults.  I've also discussed some of the challenges of working with adults who’ve become redundant in Redundancy Hurts. I've drabbled about teaching and students during the A - Z April blogging challenge - quite a few of the drabbles are included in this list.

The benefits of my teacher training course have stood the test of time and I’ve enjoyed many challenging roles as well as struggled though a few jobs that didn't suit me.

Whilst I now work mainly in as a career counsellor in private practice, I bring the skills of a teacher with me. The word ‘teacher’ doesn’t define me or my career, but it’s part of who I am and has provided me with rich insights and opportunities.

As a study skills teacher I’ve worked with young people as well as adults. It’s been at various times challenging, rewarding, stressful, infuriating and fulfilling. As I discovered gaps in my skillset, I upgraded and refined my skills: career counselling, learning difficulties, Acceptance Commitment Therapy and further courses in counselling.

Each of these courses has been taught by a teacher. On the whole they were keen, motivated and motivating professionals, encouraging their students to see, acknowledge and build on their strengths. To dismiss the profession globally as crap does a deep disservice to the dedicated people who help others improve their self esteem and job opportunities and even reach their potential. To imply that teaching is a job of lesser value is insulting to teachers and students worldwide.

If the person who made the above remark chooses to retrain, I wonder who they think will present the course? Will they be grateful for the opportunity to learn something new or build on an existing skillset? Will the course open up job prospects, provide entertainment in the form of a hobby, dance or exercise class or help her learn to cope with loss or bereavement?

By using the word "crap" a whole conversations has been closed down.  The opportunity to share, support and learn has gone. 

So while teaching might not suit everyone as a rewarding career it should be a valued and valuable profession. It's far more than a job and it can have a good future.

Who teaches circus skills?
Who passes on the knowledge of mosaic, how to train animals,
make The Big Top, costumes or railways?
Words are powerful, they have the ability to close down or open up dialogue. Which do you choose?


Friday, November 9, 2012

The Great Barrier Reef. Beautiful one day, an open sewer the next?

India expects to use coal imported from their Australian mines to power some of their planned 455 coal-fuelled power plants. For this to happen it's expected that The Great Barrier Reef will have even more coal terminals built along its fragile, stressed reef to fill massive tankers which will then be manoeuvred through the treacherous channels between the reefs then around the world.

What could possibly go wrong?

The India co-ordinator Chaitanya Kumar said "what we now need in India is a dramatic shift in policy that puts sustainable and clean energy access as a priority."

Link here to a petition to share concerns that ...
Indian companies GVK and Adani are proposing a series of mega-mines in Australia’s Galilee Basin to fuel their coal power expansion plans. GVK has just received approval for its controversial “Alpha Coal Project” that includes a massive new coal terminal right in the middle in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Adani Group has plans to build what would be, by far, Australia’s biggest coal mine, along with another massive coal export terminal at Abbot Point and nearby Dudgeon Point.
It's not that India is tardy in investing in sustainable alternative energy. In fact they could show countries such as Australia how to use solar panels to prevent evaporation from irrigation channels as can be seen in the photo from Gujurat.
(photo sourced from the web)
A friend recently said to me, surely the coal industry filters their waste water carefully before releasing it back into the environment, and especially when it's near the Great Barrier Reef?

A recent email from Greenpeace gives the following information that would make my friend's toenails curl in horror (my bold):

"There are 250,000 million litres of polluted water sitting in coal mine pits in the Bowen Basin – that’s the equivalent of 100,000 Olympic swimming pools. Some of this water has been there for two years. Instead of treating the water to remove harmful toxins, the coal industry has spent the last two years lobbying for permission to release their polluted water into Queensland’s waterways.

These waterways feed into the Fitzroy River downstream to graziers, towns, the city of Rockhampton and eventually, the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Last week, Premier Campbell Newman told Queensland Parliament “the government will not do anything to in any way degrade the feed water coming down the Fitzroy for their water supply.”

That same day, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney introduced new legislation that allows that to happen.

The Deputy Premier is proposing to create new provisions within the Environment Protection Act that would enable the coal companies to pollute our waterways.

We need to show the Premier that legislation permitting our environment, including the Great Barrier Reef, to be polluted is not acceptable. Send him this message today urging him to pull the Deputy Premier into line and to defend our drinking water and the Reef from the coal industry. 

This new legislation will give companies the opportunity to ask for permission to release their toxic water into Queensland rivers, beyond the standards and guidelines set for safe drinking water and agriculture at short notice and without public review. 

Please tell Premier Newman we need protection for our waterways and our precious Great Barrier Reef from the coal industry."

Link here to petition to let the Queensland government that allowing rampant pollution along the world Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef is completely unacceptable.

Given that Australia is considered to be the driest inhabited continent on earth, the interior has one of the lowest rainfalls in the world, and around 3/4 of the land is arid or semi arid, it seems insane (perhaps criminal is a more fitting word) to allow coal mining companies to pollute our fragile and precious waterways.
fish with lesions - picture from link
Pollution in waters outside Gladstone affects fish, the fishing industry, tourism and many locally owned and operated local businesses. Lesions in fish are common, which makes them unsuitable for sale. More information here and here.

This issue affects more than Queensland and their government which seems to be in a state of dribbling, salivating lust about squandering finite fossil fuels to overseas countries. Whether we like it or not, we're all connected. Foolish, shortsighted decisions made in Australia affect people in far off lands, India included. Our governments - all our governments and policy makers - need to have a basic grasp of environmental cause and effect to ensure that our world remains relatively inhabitable.

Politicians, no matter where they are have the ability to push in a direction that ensures shortsighted decisions aren't made. How they choose can have devastating consequences for humankind.

Unfortunately, in Australia the motto often seems to be 
"Dig it, drill it, sell it off and stuff the future" 

Perhaps our politicians need to receive training in "How to say no" to the fossil fuel companies.

Another post on The Great Barrier Reef and the devastation that Australia is allowing (encouraging?) to happen in this beautiful area.

And for a short video added 13 November 2012, showing the official line compared to what's happening on the ground

Friday, November 2, 2012

Redundancy hurts

I’ve heard some fabulous stories about people who’ve been made redundant: The vision of an older man, skipping between desks while stressed workmates hunch over mounds of paperwork, shouting “Yes! I’m leaving! I’m out of here!” is one I won’t forget in a while!

For many people, however, the reality of redundancy is very different.

Teachers and academics who have loved their workplace and invested years of time and energy to improving outcomes for students, and who are living through the erosion of a once proud institution, suffer.

The pain of redundancy applies equally to many other career people who’ve dedicated their lives to a particular sector, whether they be health care or emergency workers, government employees, or blokes in the steel or motor industries.

They’ve often seen the writing on the wall, and are aware that things are changing, long before jobs begin to go in a structured formal way. Budget cuts, departments being amalgamated, a sense that the story isn’t being told in an open and honest way, create a sense of unease that is hard to shake.

There can be a deep sorrow for the loss of all you’ve worked for, which can’t be eradicated by being told to “look for another job”. This hasn’t been just a job. It’s been a career, an integral part of your life for years – that isn’t something caring, dedicated employees shake off with a single outplacement session.

Our identities are often shaped around our worklife. Our work leads to getting up at a particular time, our commute, where and with whom we have lunch, what we discuss, argue about; the banter and camarederie. The loss of the familiarity and routine and in particular the loss of colleagues can result in grief. This needs to be acknowledged, not dismissed by the outplacement service provider.

Some employees find that their shaken world view has been ignored or overlooked by outplacement services designed to “Sit them down, tell them what they need to know, check the resume, give some job hunting tips, and get them out ready for the next one.” Whilst that might be satisfactory for some, there are others who exit that type of interview shattered. I’ve seen tough blokes, as well as strong women, desolate and weeping after such an experience. This type of interview is nothing like an in-depth career counselling session and it would be better for all if it wasn't presented as such.

The sterile interview experienced by too many redundant workers, is functional, regimented, routine and leaves them without hope, feeling that somehow they are to blame for not being ready to move on immediately.

When there’s significant change, we can experience confusion about our role and identity. Self-esteem can be deeply shaken. Questions emerge which may never have been thought about before: Who will I become? What is important? Who do I want to be? What do I value? How do I want to contribute in the future?

“Sometimes our history limits our imaginations”. 
We may need help to see opportunities, rather than believing that what we’ve worked at, is all we can ever do. Not everyone has the luxury to take time off to ponder these issues. However putting aside time to let your brain go into free fall without pressuring yourself with “I have to decide by…” or “I’ve got to start applying for new jobs immediately”, “I’m only trained to do this, I can’t do anything else” can allow you to be open to unexpected, interesting and new ways of thinking about the issue.

It really is time well spent.

If you or someone you know has come out of an outplacement interview which has been less than satisfactory, please encourage them to seek assistance and support elsewhere - not all services are the same. If the service is provided by the exiting company, please let HR know it wasn't suitable. They're paying good money for these services, and our employees who are being made redundant deserve an appropriate level of support. Feeling shattered, useless and unheard should not be part of the deal.