Fed Reps gain layers of excellent personal and professional development through courses provided by Federation, says Michelle Jarrett. These are great opportunities, and there is the satisfaction in holding out a helping hand to a colleague and successfully overcoming
Michelle grew up wanting to fight for those less able to fight for their own rights, with her exemplar being her father, who had served as president of the Newcastle Branch of the NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union. At school, she grew confident in debating and public speaking and was outspoken on issues.
“Becoming actively involved seemed to flow from that,” she said.
At Moorefield Girls High, where Sue Simpson (now a Federation Officer) was an effective Fed Rep, Michelle began chairing Federation meetings and at Toronto High Margaret Thomas (now Federation Life Member) mentored her into the Fed Rep role, a position she holds now at Swansea HS at Lake Macquarie.
The training she has received in the role has been invaluable for her and the people she has been able to help.
“The Fed Rep is the first point of call for teachers when they are experiencing difficulties at school. It is important to be a good listener and then to be able to respond with sound advice or know where expert advice can be accessed,” she says, adding that it was also important to actively recruit newer teachers and practicum students to Federation.
Michelle derives the most satisfaction from guiding teachers successfully through improvement programs and formal complaints responses, processes that can be “very emotional” for the teacher involved.
She has successfully guided Federation members through appeals when they were dissatisfied with the interview process and the outcomes, and not too long ago successfully liaised with Federation to gain fulltime permanency for a long-term permanent part-time teacher when a large number of casual teachers were being employed in a particular faculty. At her previous school, Michelle led staff in a successful campaign to resist the imposition of “extras”.
Swansea High has a Federation Workplace Committee consisting of the Fed Rep, the Women’s Contact and five other teachers. “It is great that so many are willing to be involved,” says Michelle. Whoever shows interest in Federation work is helped into training courses. As teacher-librarian Michelle’s time is more flexible than that of normal classroom teachers and this helps as she does not get release time for Fed Rep work.
Away from work Michelle, who has been an active sportswoman, has been reinventing her recreational life. “Having recently been forced to give away basketball and netball because of knee problems I am trying to keep fit with a variety of non-impact exercises. I enjoy Pilates. I’m about to try belly-dancing — that could be hilarious!”