Monday, October 02, 2006

Those that can't do, teach. Those that can't teach go on strike.

Let me preface this post by saying that I am a staunch advocate of the teaching profession. I believe that teachers as a whole are undervalued, underappreciated, and underpaid for what they do. I’ve been friends with a few elementary school teachers, and I’ve witnessed the care and effort they put into their classroom and students.

All that being said, I am disgusted at the opprobrious actions of elementary school teachers in Greece, and the secondary teachers might just garner a bit of my ire as well, depending on their behavior in the upcoming week. Elementary school teachers are now starting their third week of strikes, and secondary teachers are staging a 48-hour strike as of Monday. The reason? Teachers want the Greek government to increase educational spending to 5% of GDP, which isn’t an unreasonable demand. But they also want a nearly 50% increase in their monthly pay, raising their 900 euro paycheck to 1400 euros.

Unfortunately, here in Greece teachers aren’t made up entirely of people who choose the profession voluntary. For some teachers it is the luck of the draw – or the luck of their national exam scores and what university spots they are offered. Better to be a public servant who can never get fired than unemployed, right? Sure, I can’t blame them for that. Employment in Greece is very difficult to find. But if being a teacher is your lot in life, then you damned well better step up, because educating the youth of the world is probably one of the most important things anyone can do.

I can accept teachers striking for a day or two, to make their voices heard. But any teacher who actually cares about their students and about their job as an educator could not, in good conscience, strike for three weeks – especially given the extravagant demands they are making. You have to assume teachers are at least somewhat intelligent, and so if they live in Greece, they know damn well the government can’t afford to increase anyone’s pay by that much. Do I think 900 euros a month is a paltry sum for teachers? Yes and no. It is considered a living wage here in Greece, where average monthly salaries seem to hover around 700 euros a month or so. Not to mention they get paid during the summer months as well, when they are not actively working, and as a civil servant they have automatic tenure. Personally, I would be happy to make 900 a month as a teacher here. Would I want more? Of course, wouldn’t everyone? But I wouldn’t see the prudence in striking for three weeks (or more) for any terms, let alone unreasonably lofty demands that are impossible to meet.

In the end, what is happening is a subtle form of terrorism. The teachers are basically holding the Greek government, and the students, hostage. While I am sure that there are some genuinely decent teachers in the mix, I am disappointed and appalled that any teacher would engage in such actions. Honestly, at this point I have serious doubts about the integrity and ethics of teachers in Greece. This isn’t an honorable strike. It is an avaricious strike, with tragic victims – Greece’s children. I certainly hope the matter can be resolved soon, for the good of all. Greece’s future is riding on it.

6 comments:

St. Caffeine said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Mel -- and I'm in the profession. Oh, it's actually a little worse than you stated. An increase from 900 to 1400 euros is a 55.6% increase -- more than 50%.

Strike Hater said...

Too bad there is not someone like Ronald Reagan in Greece who can just fire all of them and start over like he (Reagan) did with the Air Traffic Controllers. Made things crazy for awhile, but made a point. DON'T STRIKE!!! Do your job and SHUT UP.

If you don't like being a teacher, and the pay is too low, get another job and quit whining!

I'm so tired of all these many groups who can strike at the drop of a hat and us citizens can't do anything about it when we are delayed getting to work by these idiots!

Anonymous said...

ZARDOZ SAYS :

THIS IS NOT SOMETHING , I AGREE WITH YOU MEL .

YOU SEE MOST TEACHERS

AND 70 % OF THE WORKING POPULATION

IS BRINGING HOME , BOTH SPOUSES ABOUT 1500 HUNDRED EUROS

LIFE IN GREECE IS ,, IS RIGHT ABOUT THERE . VERY DIFFUCULT .

THE PROBLEM IS NOT ONLY THE TEACHERS ,

BUT THE WHOLE OF THE GREEK WORKING SOCIETY .



THE TEACHER THING IS SIMPLE IN MY OPINION IF YOU WANT TO KEEP

ALL THE GOOD TEACHERS AND BRING OTHERS BETTER ON BOARD THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

.......1)RATE THEM , ON A POINT SYSTEM FROM THE CLASSROOM, THEIR FELLOW TEACHERS , AND PARENTS .
.......2 GIVE EM LIVEABLE WAGES , AS THEY ARE ASKING (AND LOOK VERY CLOSELY ON WHAT TEACHERS SPENDS DURING SCHOOL
........ FOR HIS KIDS ,NOT ALL BUT MANY DO PUT OUT . )
........AND EXTRA BONUS SYSTEM IF THEY GET GOOD RATINGS FROM THEIR CLASSROOMS AND OTHER ASSESMENTS TEAMS .
.......3) STRIP THE SYSTEM OF ITS 'JOB FOR LIFE STATUS TEACHERS AND MINISTRY' PERIOD .

........ASSES AND TRAIN TEACHERS IN EVERY NOMARXIA (COUNTY).EVERY YEAR . FOR NEXT YEAR STANDINGS
.......4 )STOP FUCKIN UP THE SCHOOL SYSTEM EVERY TIME SOME NEW MINISTER
........COMES INTO HIS JOB ,, EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM HAS A DEPLORABLE ,HAIRBRAINED IDEA ON HOW TO REFORM
........THE WHOLE EDUCATION SYSTEM ,EVERY TWO -THREE YEARS WITHOUT THE CONCENSUS OF THE PEOPLE OF THIS COUNTRY
........WITHOUT HAVING ACADEMICS MAKE PROPOSALS AND QUALIFIED AT THAT.
.,......MAKING EVERYTHING FALL ALL THE TIME INTO THE CLIENTELE POLITICAL SYSTEM .

..... A N D--USUALLY--N O N E--OF--T H E M--ARE--QUALIFIED--NONE--....MOST OF GREECES POLITICIANS ARE UNQUALIFIED ......TO LEAD THIS COUNTRY IN THE JOBS THEY DO .
.......BECAUSE ITS DEJAVU ALL THE TIME , ITS GETTIN DEMENTED.


AND MEL FOR SURE THIS GOVERMENT OR THE ONES BEFORE THIS ONE,,, SURELY ARE NOT BEING TERRORIZED.

THEIR JUST PAYING THE PRICE OF THEIR CLIENTELE-ELECTORATE,, AND THE PROMISES THEY MADE .

AS FOR OUR CHILDREN ,, DONT WORRY TOO MUCH , ITS BEEN ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL FOR THE LAST THREE DECADES ,

I SAY THIS BECAUSE EDUCATION IS NOT A REAL PART,,,,,,OF REAL LIFE IN THIS COUNTRY .

AND TO SIMPLY PROVE IT FIND YOURSELF ONE GRADUATE OP HIGHSCOOL OR TECNHIC HIGH SCHOOL WORKING

IN THERIR FIELD OF EXPERTISE................?............?

THEIR ARE NO MORE ANALYTICAL MINDS BEING FORMULATED FROM WHAT THE MINISTRY REGARDS AS BOOKS FOR

BEING A PARROT "AND MOST STUDENTS ARE THERE SAYING"POLLY WANNA A CRACKER""

........AND WERE IT IS BEING DONE, IT HAS ONLY TO DO WITH PARENTS AND GREAT TEACHERS WHO USUALLY GO OUTSIDE

TEXTS THAT WERE MADE SO SOMEBODYS BROTHER-IN-LAW WHOS AN AUTHOR CAN BUY A "LEXUS".




ANYWAYS IM GONNA STOP RAGGIN YA ON ..



AND SEND SCRUFFY MY HELLOS (SUPPOSED STRIKE HATER)((SHEESH SCRUF YO SOUND LIKE THE KLAN.)
AND TO QUIT BRINGING STUPID EXAMPLES
FROM THE US ,, AND TO SHUT UP AND GO TO WORK
OR ELSE ILL ASK THE KIND TEACHERS TO CLOSE UP
ALL AVENUES LEADIND TO KIFISSIA ,PLUS METRO
AND BURN HIS EFFIGY.

BECAUSE YOU BOZO, YOU SAID ONLY
HALF THE STORY WITH REAGAN ,
AND IT WAS A BAD EXAMLE ,,,,,,SHEESH GROW UP WILL YA.=Z=

E-cards Zakynthos said...

More then 3 days strike is just too long indeed. Looks like they had no other plan there in Greek schools, except strike itself.

teacher dude said...

As they used to say in the old Soviet Union,

"They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work."

Which just about sums up the whol situation in a nutshell.

"A plague on both their houses."

Anonymous said...

A very interesting post on the strikes Mel. The issue is a tough one, for many of the reasons you mention, particularly because of the tension between the need for decent wages and the special responsibility of being a teacher. What Zardoz says about clientelism is also true, provided that those who strike really do strike for decency in their profession and not because of their political agenda. Otherwise they are simply perpetuating clientelism. Generally, all these issues are complex and have been the subject matter of long and heated debates in Greece.

Some thoughts. First, it is true that education in Greece is not in good shape. But perhaps there are - after so many demonstrations, strikes and school occupations - more imaginative and less wasteful ways for teachers and students to go about improving things or fighting for their rights. At this point we all know how politicians operate. Given this, we can behave less like merely unsatisfied customers and more like an intelligent force that politicians would take seriously. We can also spend a bit more time thinking how school kids (and students) can be inspired not to simply parrot the ways and words of their enraged and variously motivated elders. Alternatively, school kids and university students could also learn how to resist the political directives and instructions of self-serving and opportunistic individuals.

Secondly, strikes and demonstrations, at this frequency and in this form, are rarely effective against the powers that be. Rather, what they achieve is less and less support from those who are in fact directly affected. This includes people who are in the same wage slot but enjoy none of the privileges of public sector jobs. It also includes anyone who depends - due to their job or needs - on public transport or any of the services that are disrupted or brought to a halt. Also, and particular to this strike, it affects parents who are trying desperately to figure out who is going to look after their kids while they are at work. Faced with a microphone or a camera, most people usually express unconditional support for whoever might be striking. But this, perhaps politically correct, sense of solidarity disappears whenever a demonstration brings the city centre to a standstill and the right or need of others to work goes down the drain.


None of the above are on their own reasons against striking or demonstrating. But they could be taken more often into consideration whenever a certain professional group seeks public support for their demands. We could also ask ourselves if some of the energy (and money) that goes into consecutive weeks of upheaval about wages could be redirected towards other comparatively neglected issues, such as helping those whose lives have been made miserable by war, famine and disease.