You should say yes to extra work

20th May 2005 at 01:00
It might seem churlish to argue with Phil Revell's advice that teachers should just refuse to carry out more responsibilities for no extra pay ("All work and no pay", Jobs 1, TES April 29).

There is always the danger of teachers agreeing to take on more work because they are being subjected to moral blackmail concerning future career prospects and references. This should be resisted by everyone.

However, my work with international schools has shown just how damaging it can be when teachers only see teaching as a job. In the Netherlands, for example, a high percentage of teachers are part-time. They turn up, teach, go home and do the hours that they are paid for: not a minute more or less.

Some teachers never attend departmental meetings or training days because it is impossible to hold such events on a day when all staff are present.

A school in Scandinavia adopted Mr Revell's idea of giving teachers extra free periods for extra work many years ago. It has reached the ludicrous point where some "teachers" hardly ever teach: they are being paid to stay at home and complete administrative tasks.

These examples demonstrate the danger of always saying "no" to extra duties, as Mr Revell suggests. Teachers become "workers" and school leaders are seen as the enemy. Yesterday's generous privileges become today's absolute rights. It is us and them all over again. Whatever happened to collaborative learning, distributed leadership and teaching being a bit more than just a job?

My own advice to teachers being asked to carry out additional duties is to think of the famous words of JF Kennedy: reflect not on what the school can do for you; but what you can do for the school.

Once you have thought it over, a better response might be: "Yes, I will do my best to support the school in whatever way I can."

I said "yes" to extra work many times in my early career, which might have had something to do with a rapid advance up the promotion ladder. It also led to additional pay, once I had proved that I could actually do the job.

James C Laing

Ridgeway Associates

5a Round House

Calne, Wiltshire

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