Beginning teachers – knowing the ‘must, should and could’

When I was doing my fourth-year teaching practicum, my master teacher shared gems of wisdom about how to be a teacher, content mastery, assessments and ‘never smile during Term 1’.

One gem he shared when I was feeling overwhelmed with a lesson was to go in focussed on content students must, should and could know. In your first days in the classroom, what, as a teacher, must you know, should you know and could you know?

The musts

You must know all your rights at work and that they must be upheld by your employer. You must know that you are being paid at the right classification based on your qualifications and any previous teaching experience, including overseas. You must also be on the right full or part-time teaching load and being given your daily break entitlements.

You must also know that in your first year of employment, you are on a six month-probation period, whereby the employer can terminate your employment and you have no recourse to unfair dismissal. Knowing your school’s policies is a must so you are not in breach of any codes of conduct and work in line with your contractual obligations.

The shoulds

You should know who your supervisor is to assist with your accreditation to become Proficient, and if your enterprise agreement has any provisions for additional accreditation support, such as time release and professional development.

You should know your leave entitlements including personal, parental and domestic violence leave, notice periods and evidentiary requirements. Non-government schools are all different, so what you may have in one, doesn’t mean you will have in another, such as study leave.

The coulds

You could look into your enterprise agreement, the Fair Work Act, workplace health and safety and workers compensation legislation, contract law and the multitude of other regulations and codes that govern your employment. But when could you have time for these? Thinking back to my master teacher, he was right, you don’t have to have all the answers, but it is good to know where to get them from.

So, join your union, chat to your IEU rep and know you can lean on them for confidential advice. Go to the IEU chapter meeting, introduce yourself to your union organiser when they visit, familiarise yourself with the union’s website, join IEU Facebook groups, access professional development courses and keep the union’s number handy.

Enjoy your career, class and students, keep safe and ask for help. These are musts.

Lubna Haddad