Teachers are pushed for time, and Lynda Tyson knows this very well. Their workload often pushes professional concerns off the “must-do” list, and some often feel there’s never the right time or place to air political and activist views.
Formal meetings are just one way to build esprit de corps says Lynda Tyson, a kindergarten teacher who is in her second year as Fed Rep. “I like bringing staff together and creating a harmonious workplace community,” she says.
“We are all so busy as teachers and hardly get time to talk to each other. It’s important to enjoy the short breaks we have and to relieve some of the stress with food and friendship.
“I instigated a couple of colour-themed staff morning teas. First it was a ‘Go Green for Gonski’ morning tea with staff with staff wearing something green and bringing in green food to share. This also allowed conversation about Gonski among staff who can’t always attend Federation meetings. Our next colour was purple for ‘Wear it Purple’ Day, with an amazing turnout of purple clothes and food showing support for sexual diversity in schools.
“We then moved on to ‘white’ to celebrate a staff member’s upcoming wedding, and our next colour is going to be red for ‘Recognise’ to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our constitution. It’s a good way to create political discussion among staff.”
Lynda worked in radio, music and television before becoming a teacher. She began teacher-training in 1999 at the age of 36 and has been teaching for the past 12 years. She keeps up her music through playing ukulele with other mums and dads and has another talent which might just come in useful as an activist: “I love playing with my sons, aged 11 and 9 — soccer, cricket, chess, swimming and pillow fighting. I am the pillow fighting champ.”
She joined the union to maintain its strength as a voice for teachers’ concerns. “If we don’t have the strength we don’t have a voice,” she says, and encourages new teachers to become members, confident from her own experience that Federation “help and advice is just a phone call away”.
As Fed Rep she is “someone staff can talk to about workplace issues confidentially. I would usually then steer them towards speaking to Federation or ring Federation on their behalf. I also talk to school Executive on behalf of staff who are often very reluctant to raise issues at a staff meeting.”
One such issue was the plethora of meetings teachers are called to attend. Staff told her they felt overwhelmed by the meetings. “I talked to the principal about this and it was decided that our admin meetings could move from weekly to fortnightly to alleviate this,” Lynda says, “and most of our administrative communication now occurs via email.”
Lynda does not get any release time for Fed Rep duties but has the help of a Federation Committee. “Our workplace committee is evolving,” she says. “We need training, and luckily I have a great Organiser who has offered to do this for us.” Lynda also last month immersed herself in women’s activism as an Anna Stewart Officer.
Getting staff to Make the Switch to direct payment of union fees is a work in progress and she hopes to enlist the help of Project Officers who are due to visit the school soon.
If you were Prime Minister for a day, we asked Fed Rep Lynda Tyson, what would you do?
“Encourage kindness on a daily basis,” she said.