Knowledge is power
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128 No 1, 17 February 2023, page no. 16
“Knowledge is power” is a phrase that you may hear regularly, but it’s one that has certainly made a difference in my teaching career.
As a fresh-faced graduate, straight out of university, I felt nervous but excited to be doing the job I have always wanted to do, as a music specialist. To be honest, I am not sure anything can prepare you to become an itinerant, working on a circuit of six schools and travelling 500kms a week.
However, on the first student free days of the year, I was handed a document. I remember at the time thinking “Why do I need to read this and what’s so important about the Teachers’ Award?” I was then told that primary specialist teachers have different working conditions to general teachers. “You’re going to be on a circuit, travelling, and its important you have the correct face to face teaching time and receive your lunch break.”
Remember what it’s like in those beginning years of teaching, getting through every day just about keeping your head about water? Over time, your confidence develops as you gain knowledge and establish your practice. You know what you can and can’t do. But do you really know your working conditions?
While out on school visits and meeting with members, I am often asked questions around general working conditions and entitlements.
For example, did you know:
- non-contact time (NCT) is to be used for the purpose of preparation, planning and correction and how teachers use the award entitlement to NCT is at the teacher’s discretion
- you have to ensure that you are at work prior to the official start of the school day, and you can leave after the official conclusion of the school day
- bus and playground duty rosters should be developed in each school, in consultation with staff and the local consultative committee (LCC)?
Many of you are aware of these conditions, but for some of you this information may be new. So how do you go about ensuring that you and your colleagues are receiving your entitlements, and can make change happen if you’re not? That’s easy. Make sure you have the knowledge and know your working conditions; and of course, the best way for teachers and school leaders working in Queensland state schools to know their working conditions is to be a member of the QTU.
The QTU provides advice and support through the Queensland Teachers’ Assist Desk, aka QTAD, for general enquiries. You can contact them either by phone on 1300 11 7823 or online via email at email@example.com
On the QTU website there are several information and advice brochures (for QTU members only) on industrial and professional issues (www.qtu.asn.au/seek-advice). Talk to your Organiser, attend your local branch meeting, or enrol in a course with the Queensland Teachers’ Education Centre (QTEC), which offers a wide range of industrial training workshops.
Upon reflection, I consider myself very fortunate to have been given the chance to familiarise and understand my entitlements, right from the beginning. Over the years, I have used this knowledge many times to ensure that I didn’t take on additional tasks that would compromise my time as a teacher. Knowing your working conditions allows you to focus on your core role as a professional teacher.