Still having fun after 40 years

There’s a lot of talk about productivity but how do you measure it? More kids in class,more band sixes? It’s so difficult to define you end up with things like reducing sick days.

Forty-four years in the game and Peter Meehan still loves teaching.

“If you get to the point that you don’t want to be bothered by children any more that’s the time to give it away. I’ve got a few years left in me yet,” Peter said.

When he started at All Saints College, Liverpool on the grand sum of $32 a week Peter couldn’t afford his union subs, although he was committed to the Union.

“I came from a working class family. My mother in particular was strong on workers’ rights and conditions and encouraged me to join.”

It wasn’t until 1974 that Peter could afford to join, and he’s been a continuous member ever since. The IEU celebrated his 40 plus years of loyal membership with a badge presentation.

Peter’s now at St Dominic’s College Kingswood, but he spent a big chunk (28 years) of his career at St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown.

“When I began teaching at Liverpool we did not have pay parity with the state school teachers and women were paid a lot less in those days. I could see the AMMA was dragging us towards parity with the state system. Most employers are decent people but they don’t want extra costs if they can avoid it.

“If it hadn’t been for the Union advocating for us things would have been very slow to change.”

Peter started as an English/History teacher but he became interested in IT as soon as it started emerging.

“I had a computer at home in 1979. I could see IT was going to change education.”

He became the IT teacher by default, being the only person in the school who knew anything about it. About 20 years ago a principal suggested he get formal qualifications so he took a Masters in Information and Communication Technology in Education at Wollongong University.

Peter said he doesn’t try to “keep up” with every new thing in IT. He said many teachers are concerned the students will have better knowledge than them and be more up to date when it comes to technology.

“I find the kids know about games and Facebook but their knowledge is actually quite shallow. They don’t look into how technology works in society and how it can be used as a tool.

“Teachers should fall back on their knowledge and pedagogy. Kids don’t want someone talking to them on their level about how many people they killed in the game last night.”

Peter said he was “astonished” with the conditions initially offered in the recent Catholic pay dispute.

“There’s a lot of talk about productivity but how do you measure that in schools? More kids in class, more band sixes? It’s so difficult to define you end up with things like reducing sick days.

“Considering the things that were being bandied about compared to the dignity and morale of the teachers, I didn’t see an equilibrium. I would describe it as petty.

“What was on the table might have improved the bottom line but I don’t think it would improve the education of the children.”

Sue Osborne