A number of years back I completed a graduate diploma in primary teaching in Brisbane and was happily informed that I was given a fulltime teaching post in Hervey Bay at a fairly new primary school in the area.
I spent the first term at this school. Everything was going fine, I was learning the ropes and had good support from management and got on well with the teaching staff.
However, at the end of the term the school was informed that there were too many teachers for the number of pupils, and I had been chosen by the Department of Education to move to another nearby school.
Looking back this should have been my first warning signal. The fact that I was just settling into a new career and school and then being moved is an act of mismanagement and non-care of new teaching staff as far as I'm concerned.
The callous nature of QLD Education as employers was confirmed a few years later when a very good friend of mine was told, demanded, that she do her country service, after getting all of her points mind you, through teaching for 7 years in the Wide Bay area, and then being given her 2nd choice of Toowoomba. She was engaged and told the department who curtly told her that they "Dont recognise engagements as a vaild reason for not doing country service". She had been teaching for a few years in Toowoomba at this time.
Anyway, I went to this new school which was a marked difference to the previous one. More problem children, more behavioural issues. On the day before the kids came back I met the deputy principal for the first time when he walked into my classroom, stated his name and position and then said in a very serious tone of voice, " My son is in your class, and he is my only child, and I expect you to do a good job". Then he turned around and walked out. Needless to say, I found that encounter a bit unsettling.
I was then introduced to my "mentor" who a number of weeks later I learned was doing a spy job on me worthy of the best Gestapo agent. She watched a few lessons, made notes but never spoke to me about anything. I thought this was normal, but I know different know. I made the big mistake of assuming that she would speak to me only about anything that needed to be worked on or changed and I assumed her silence was a sign that things were okay.
I do specifically remember in the 2nd week there that I asked her which end of the building the PE cupboard was in. I was pretty sure where it was, and she pointed to the area of the building I was heading to.
Here I was, naive in my thinking that all was rolling along OK. I had a very difficult pupil in my class who was was trying her hardest to make my life difficult. On one occasion she went and sat on the edge of the balcony about 10 feet above the ground. I was scared to safely remove her because I was petrified that if I tried and she fell I would be in deep water and she would suffer big damage. So I phoned the deputy principal, who came and ordered her off, and he walked off. He didn't offer any advice for a situation like this or anything like that.
On the Wednesday of the 6th week in that school I got a phone call from the principal saying that he wanted to see me in his office straight after class.
I came in, sat down, not having any idea what it was about. He then plonked a 20 A4 page pack in front of me and told me that this was all the information he had on things that concerned him about my performance. I will repeat that, 20 A4 pages, I counted them. Listing in bullet point form, sentences and paragraphs all the things I wasn't doing right.
His next words were, "Here are my concerns, I have had numerous complaints from parents (of which I had no idea of or heard a single complaint myself). This is a formal procedure, you have 4 weeks to prove that these things can be removed, I don't believe that you can do it, I strongly suggest you resign, I am asking the Department of Ed to rescind your employment, if you choose to use the 4 weeks to correct things and fail, it will go to a board and you will not be able to teach in QLD". "Again, I strongly suggest that you resign". Then mentioned someting about teaching in another state, like WA!
I was gobsmacked and speechless, I looked through some of the pages and clearly remember reading one bit about having to ask the mentor where the PE cupboard was which showed that I had not familiarised myself with the school. There were many things in there, along the same sort of lines, which I then realised had come straight from my "mentor".
I was so stunned and naive that I followed the principal's suggestion to phone the local union guy, who already had a copy and the union organiser's exact words to me were, "mate, you're screwed".
I look back now and wonder if they were drinking buddies or something like that.
I quickly realised that I was going to lose, even if I had 40 weeks to correct things, so a few days later I wrote out my resignation.
I was devastated, my career seemed to be in ashes before it even began. I went to live with my father who had to come and cart all my stuff a few hundred km away, and then had to pay the QLD ED 2000 dollars for removal costs as I didn't stay in the allocated position they had given me for at least a year.
I had made some silly mistakes, such as turning up an hour late on an inservice day as I had the times wrong. And I made an error of judgement when grading the deputy principal's son's test. But they are things that could have easily been sorted, managed and changed in the future.
I then got supply work in the area my father lived in and taught between 6 different schools for the next year or so, including a Catholic school, and got nothing but positive feedback and continual requests for work. There wasn't a day when I didnt work, so my self esteem was rebuilt. But there seemed to be no permanent future in teaching in Queensland for me, so I moved to London and had the most awesome two years of life that was beyond my imagination!
Now I live in London permanently , and I'm still loving it. I compare Hervey Bay to this place and the travel opportunities and laugh, and just think, my God, I couldn't imagine living there for a day longer than I did.
I also look back now and realise that I wasn't on a proper misconduct procedure, discussions and warnings were not given, just a straight to a paper document where the next step was career annihalation. If that happened over here, I could sue under the Workplace Act and under the Human Rights convention.
Besides the unions here would have those doing such a thing pummelled under law so quickly that their heads would spin.
The Unions here are good. They really stick up for teachers, and know their stuff.
Anyway that is my story. Chewed up and discarded at the foot of my career ladder, and feeling very alone with it at the time. Trust me, a young adult man cried that day from disbelief. I will never teach in QLD again, just on the sheer fact that NO ONE takes away my freeedom to choose where to work, live and create a life for myself.
I tell friends and co-workers that your basic life choice freedoms are negligable in QLD as a teacher. After their jaws hit the ground, we laugh, and get back to passionately teaching to the best of our abilities.
The principal of the school mentioned retired a number of years ago.
I love London. It is an extraordinary city. And I've travelled to over 30 different destinations worldwide. Accommodation is more expensive, but I'm earning over 30,000 pounds a year, or about 75,000 Aussie dollars.