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Go The Extra Mile

September 24, 2012

The extra mileSo Mr Wilshaw’s at it again, having established that he thinks that a head is only doing something right if morale amongst the staff is low, he has now set about reinforcing that principal amongst the teachers of the nation, so that he can be sure he is doing something right. Teachers, he says, if they want more money, must “go the extra mile”.

Actually, it’s an interesting metaphor “go the extra mile”, I did a little research, turns out that it comes from the Sermon on the Mount , it was spoken by Jesus, no it’s okay I am not going to compare Mr Wilshaw to Jesus, but the context has some relevance. In the days of Roman occupied Palestine any Roman soldierCarry my bags could force any citizen to carry his equipment for one mile. The essence of what Jesus said on that day, was that if that happens to you, then go another mile with him, own the moment, don’t be a slave, take away his power to force you to do it by offering the service voluntarily, take the moral high ground. Now I’m not entirely sure that that is quite what Mr Wilshaw meant.

Hold that thought.

To be fair the vernacular use of that phrase in the new millennium has come to mean doing extra work, putting in more effort and not necessarily expecting (but maybe hoping) for anything back for that effort. To be honest (to use another vernacular phrase) I have always been a little bemused by this idea of free work. I have only been in teaching just over ten years, before that, like most of the rest of my family, I did not have proper job, I was freelance. When you’re a freelance you assess the job, you assess the time, you sign the contract and you complete the job in the hours assigned or you charge more. Of course, it’s a nightmare of judging the value of the client to you, if they ask for more than agreed. Your tender may come in more expensive because you want to do a good job, than someone else’s and so you lose the job, you have to judge all the time what the job is worth, and if the client comes back to you and asks for more, they should be aware that they’re trying it on. The principle is clear, agree the price, do the work for that price. Anyone who has ever had building work done, a boiler put in or windows done, knows the price of the job and what it covers, nothing more.

When I was first employed I was given the contract, which outlined my designated hours and was immediately told that that didn’t matter because everybody worked at least 10 hours over the contracted hours anyway. SAY WHAT? How does that work then? Is the contract not worth the paper it’s printed on then? Why would I work more than I am contracted to for no more money?

Taking the moral high ground.

It seems to me that Mr Wilshaw is very much in the role of the Roman soldier, he is asking teachers to work more for nothing. He is suggesting that they may get more money, but then that really does allow him the power over the extra mile, which is, in principle a voluntary act, nothing should rest on it, not pay, not expectation, like a lawyer who does pro bono work. A teacher should not be paid according to their volunteering services and, more to the point, other teachers should not be judged if they do not “volunteer” – who knows why people don’t do unpaid work, aside from it not being a contractual obligation, health problems, sick partners, elderly relatives or volunteering for a charity might be the reason why a teacher is out the gate at 3 o’clock.

Out the gate at 3 O’clock but still working

Of course you could be out the gate at 3 o’clock with a pile of marking, a good bit of lesson preparation Homeworkto do, and the facilities to do it at home, that are more efficient, more up to date, better heated and isolated from the constant demands that distract you from completing that wonderful Scheme of Work, or uploading some good resources to the VLE.

In the flipped classroom where you work will become increasingly irrelevant, that will be true for both student and teacher, particularly at the post-16 level which I inhabitant. Perhaps the main problem with the flipped classroom, is that you can never get away from it, parent email, uploading resources, colleagues asking for one more thing by email.

As for me I work in FE, teaching A Levels, my teaching hours are 9 – 4, I am never out of the gate at 3 and I earn thousands less than equivalent colleagues in secondary school, my mile is well and truly trodden.

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