Friday, April 5, 2013

When Exploitation Masquerades as Altruism

Altruism - doing something for nothing simply because you love it.

Yesterday I was informed by my boss that people working in the education sector put in extra hours outside of their contracted hours because they love it and it's about being professional. So 'suck it up' was basically her reply to my complaint of too much paper work and not enough non-contact time.


Recently, an Auckland ECE centre was touring Aotearoa with examples of their documentation work in the form of wall panels - and they were exquisite. In reply to a query, the teachers responsible informed us that no, they didn't get a lot of non-contact time to produce these, they did it in their own time because they were 'passionate' and 'professional' - these were the results they wanted so they simply did it.

Last year in the First Years Journal a similar ethos was being espoused by a newly graduated teacher. Donna Bergmen writes in 'Quality of Commitment' (2012, Vol 14;1) that "as a professional teacher .... it is about the willingness to go the extra mile and make sacrifices to take on extra commitment" (p. 29).

I imaging that most of us are teaching because we enjoy being with children and find the learning process/journey quite fascinating. Yet I feel that this passion to work with children, to take on a difficult and demanding job is exploited. It is exploited by our employers who pay shit wages to University graduates doing a vital job. It is exploited by our employers who demand more and more on less and less time.... assessment and planning for children is barely a blip on the radar for many teachers: self-reviews, parents news-letters, long-term investigation projects ala Reggio Emilia, presentations, repairs and maintenance, resource gathering...

In the big bad world of business and profit at any cost, we are the poor cousins of the workforce - I mean what the fuck do we really do but play in the sandpit and change nappies right? And now to top it off we have teaching colleagues cheerleading this ethos of exploitation.

Does this fit with your idea of what it means to be professional? Suck it up and work your weekends? Not mine.