DT Smith cartoon appreciated

Teaching is a great profession,
Helping students achieve their potential.
Perhaps achieved through discussion
And some tactical hushin’,
They may pursue some thoughts existential.

Mind you, I do love the old chalk.

Boyd Madden
Bathurst Campus, Denison College

A farce

It can only be described as farcical that the Federal Government plays up the notion that money will be spent on infrastructure.

It would be far more honest if the Treasurer Joe Hockey came out and said that increased funding would be available for all infrastructure other than rail infrastructure.

The NSW State Government is just as bad as the Minister Duncan Gay will not fund the restoration of the NSW regional rail network, particularly the kilometres of closed railway lines which could be taking heavy road vehicles, freight and passengers off the road system, for which it appears there is no hesitation or shortage of funds available to be spent.

The very contrasting attitude toward rail infrastructure is simply “if you want to use it you pay for the work to restore it and then we will charge you for the privilege of using it”. This attitude does not exist as far as roads are concerned.

Bill Barwood

Setting up a wedge?

The latest moves by Russia to annex Crimea with the Russian Federation have been reported in the western press largely as act of aggression and a threat to the security of Europe. However, I will say the reporting has not all been one-sided and many have tried to emphasise the Russian position that they feel threatened by NATO expansion right up to their borders.

What also provides greater insight is that Russian President Putin recently held a joint session with both the country’s State Duma and Federation Council. What he had to say articulates the entire situation in Ukraine and Eurasia more broadly, so rather than just demonising Russia it would be more constructive if we understood their motives.

In his address, he thanked the Ukrainian military in Crimea for not shedding blood and made it clear that Russia was not interested in partitioning Ukraine. More than anything, and this is where I have to agree with him, he really drove home the message about NATO expansion on Russia’s borders where he denounced military infrastructure such as the deployment of the Ballistic Missile Deference systems. He reiterated how Russia was constantly deceived and decisions made behind its back and that when it presented its concerns they were shrugged off.

Finally, one of the strongest and most profound points he made was that he believed the western efforts to tamper in Ukraine were aimed at preventing Eurasian integration. In other words, set up to drive a wedge in relations between Russian and Europe.

Robert Wrona
Punchbowl PS

Carbon copy

A definite fail

Teachers Federation Health

I am currently into my 23rd minute on hold by Teachers Health Society. I do hope some of the recent substantial premium rise will go towards increasing staff and improving call experiences.

I originally phoned with a simple question regarding travel insurance options. I always use Teachers for such insurance. It took me about 10 minutes on hold to navigate through the website and purchase a policy. I had wanted to check that I hadn’t already purchased a policy!

With that sorted, I planned to speak to someone about the delay. After 20 minutes on hold, I thought I would write this letter to the Carbon Copy section of the Federation journal.

I am still in my 28th minute on hold (since 5pm but website claims open till 8pm) as I finish this message.

Not good enough Teachers Health. A definite fail.

Boyd Madden
Phil Papworth
Life Member

Code is a triviality

Peter Johnson
DEC People and Services Executive Director

Are we on the road back to the 1950s where female teachers were told they shouldn’t wear red dresses lest male desires become inflamed?

Will we have rulings on appropriate lengths of dresses and shorts?

Will Hawaiian-patterned shirts be OK for Byron Bay but not for Bathurst?

Who will determine what is an offensive form of dress? (I’ve always found shorts and long socks pretty offensive in a fashion sense!)

You are trying to open a Pandora’s box here, and surely you know hundreds of tricky problems will emerge — all, presumably, because some conservative wowser (yes, I choose the word quite deliberately) has somehow influenced policy with arguments around how the public system must compete with the private and teachers must set good examples.

Let me assure you that public schools do already compete and produce fantastic outcomes for students without any need for “dress codes” to be formalised and made the vehicles for disciplinary action.

By all means give principals some quiet advice on how they should advise their staff regarding dress — but a code? Seriously? I recommend you consult the work of Lao Tzu on unnecessary laws.

In my 30+ years as a full-time teacher with the Department I have had ample opportunity to observe many teaching styles! My observations lead me to conclude that the capacity of a teacher to teach is not fundamentally affected by whether they wear a T-shirt or a strapless top!

I believe if a teacher is failing to teach effectively then surely it is poor teaching outcomes, rather than poor sartorial judgement, that should lead to any disciplinary action.

I am greatly disappointed that significant professional time may be wasted on such trivialities. I would be interested to know if the Department has consulted and negotiated widely with the NSWTF and other professional bodies before formulating this directive.

Sadly one of the other insights I’ve gained over those 30+ years in various schools, is that “concern over uniforms” almost always arises as a symptom of a school with a crisis of culture — a directionless leadership or a staff feeling of frustration and powerlessness to address much bigger issues (so effort is put into uniform compliance as a kind of displacement activity).

I can only hope that this particular “disciplinary renaissance” is not similarly powered by feelings of powerlessness and loss of true educational direction by the leadership of the Department.

Boyd Madden
Jim Richardson
Byron Bay HS

(Letter edited for length)