“THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION IS A JOKE.” A Teacher Speaks Her Mind - The Reykjavik Grapevine

“THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION IS A JOKE.”  A Teacher Speaks Her Mind

“THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION IS A JOKE.” A Teacher Speaks Her Mind

Published December 3, 2004

A lot has been written about the two month long strike in Icelandic schools that has just come to an end. Every day new articles appear in the papers concerning the “aftermath” of the strike. Politicians, lawyers, economists and parents all have something to say about those horrendous weeks. Some of them understand the teachers’ plight, others plainly don’t.
I’m exhausted. My partner is a teacher too. During the months of strike we went from our normal state of broke to destitute. I read in the papers that one teacher has turned prostitute. Fair play to her, but bonking in the back of cars is not my way out of this hole.
The morale is the worst. For those of you who haven’t heard, the government put an end to the strike by slapping down a law on teachers, giving us 0 kr pay raise, taking away our right to strike and making us wait (and work) the next four months while we wait for “gerdardómur”, a committee put together by the Supreme Court to reach a decision whether teachers deserved any raise whatsoever. Faced with this, teachers and the county councils managed to get a deal, almost identical to a proposal put forward three weeks ago which 93% of teachers voted against. Now we get a rehash of this proposal and the outcome of the vote is expected Dec 6th. My whoping wage of 180.000 kr (before tax) will, according to this, rise to a staggering 210.000 in May 2008. I will say no.
All the while, teachers are supposed to carry on as per usual, teaching grammar, literature, algebra and science, handling twenty kids at the time. Our policy of “school without borders” means we have handicapped and mentally ill children in with other children and every teacher shall cater to each and everyone’s needs. I teach 34 classroom hours a week, full post being 28 (which means a 43 hour work week). In addition to teaching and preparing classes, my time is taken up with registration work, student interviews and counselling, phone calls and emails to parents, teachers meetings, filling out requests for all sorts of analysis for students (for a school to get any money for students with special needs, applications in triplicate must be written and sent out). Homework I correct in my own time. That is not considered amongst the things we should get paid for.
The “minister of education” is a joke. She has proven herself to be good for sipping champagne at official openings and is of course very photogenic but not much else. It was slightly embarrassing to watch her on Channel 2 the other night, doling out lies and half-truths about teachers and their salaries, when we had all seen her on telly just three weeks earlier, admitting that the pay was certainly “much too low”. After that she was quickly removed from the spotlight and we saw nothing of her until that famous interview on C2 when she had been re-programmed and now read her lines correctly.
As my students tend to say; “this is a glorious nation of high education and literature… NOT.”

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