Stronger together

Nicole Calnan
Membership and Training Officer

The battle for quality public education is constant and new hearts and minds are always needed in the campaign: clockwise from top left: a 1960 petition by Federation for better state aid; funding protest calls continue in 1979; in 2014, teachers use the Community Day of Action to ask for more money to be put into public schools

The NSW Teachers Federation has a proud history as the voice of the teaching profession. Our history is full of advancements achieved by members acting collectively in the face of governments and employers that have sought to hold back the working conditions and salaries of teachers.

Generations of members before us have engaged in campaigns that are eerily similar to those that we face today:

  • the fight for school funding
  • protection of teacher qualifications
  • securing permanent employment and a statewide staffing system
  • class sizes
  • adequate teaching and learning environments
  • release from face-to-face teaching (RFF), leave entitlements such as maternity, parental, sick and special leave
  • performance and development
  • support for early career teachers
  • access to workers compensation
  • dignity in retirement through superannuation.

This list is by no means exhaustive. As we approach the centenary of the NSW Teachers Federation in 2018, it is worthwhile reflecting on and celebrating the successes our collective action has achieved and not take for granted the achievements of those who went before us.

Our strength is in our unity and preparedness to fight for improvements in the public education system. We should also remember that nothing has been achieved as a result of the benevolence of the employer or the government of the day. Federation members over the past 100 years have campaigned together and fought hard to achieve our working conditions and salary improvements.

If we are to continue to advance and fight for improvements to our conditions we must ensure that we continue to build our union. We all have a responsibility to encourage and recruit potential members to join the Federation. Aside from having access to high-quality professional development opportunities, advice and support, knowing that you have the collective strength of almost 60,000 members across NSW is of significant comfort.

As the number of teachers in NSW increases it is important that the union grows so it has the financial means to run campaigns and provide services at the levels members have come to expect.

Our power in the workplace and the respect we have in the community, from the Department and government comes from our collective size. For the past 100 years we have shown that when we work together, we can achieve incredible things.

We need to continue to work together to recruit new members to our union and to build on the traditions the Federation to get the best for teachers and ultimately public education.

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Recruitment: A beginner's guide

Recruitment is essential to the success of our union for we are only as strong as our collective voices, but it is not always the easiest conversation to have. It is not something that comes naturally to me, which might sound strange coming from someone who has spent the past six months working as a Project Officer, speaking to dozens of potential members every day — but there’s a difference when you believe in what you are promoting. Here are some of my suggestions on how to start the conversation.

Build rapport: Building rapport is something we teachers do daily with our students and this habit naturally extends to new staff members. It is also an important element of attracting new members. A quick coffee catch-up is an opportunity to take a genuine interest in a colleague and raise the topic of Federation membership in a non-threatening way. It also gives people a chance to ask questions. It’s important to listen and learn so you can explain how being a member of Federation is relevant and helpful to them as an individual. Explain why you joined.

The follow-up: This is really important as teachers are busy and we often let things for ourselves slip to the bottom of the pile. That conversation over coffee can often be forgotten in the craziness of daily school life. A follow-up conversation a few days later could make all the difference.

A constant presence: An eye-catching display on a staff notice board constantly updated with the latest Federation news will draw the attention of members and non-members. Having the latest information in an accessible place will also be helpful when you refer to it in conversation.

Quality professional learning: The Beginning Teachers Conference and courses run by Federation are a great selling point. They provide early career teachers with the opportunity to learn more about their rights and responsibilities and offer workshops on accreditation, programming and an introduction to how Federation works.

The Centre for Professional Learning (CPL) delivers a range of courses targeted at early career teachers.

All these conferences and courses are held around the state and allow teachers to network with others in similar situations and realise the support that Federation can provide. The transition from university to school can be daunting and beginning teachers are often grateful for any help.

Student membership: Don’t forget the prac students! The free membership available to university students ensures they receive current Federation information, access to our professional and support services to assist them navigate the path to employment as a teacher, and access to our library, which is helpful for uni assignments as well as prac.

Fiona Smee, Project Officer

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