I read it first in this publication, and then again in a school newsletter:

"As you may be aware the Post Primary Teachers Association has made the decision to take industrial action by striking on Wednesday, May 29. [My children's school] will be closed for instruction on this day."

Argh. I'm annoyed about the impending strike. I felt smug this year, with two kids in college. No more worrying about teacher walkouts. None of the inconvenience of ensuring the cherubs have something constructive to do while I'm working. They need to be learning while I'm earning. Instead, there's a high likelihood they'll disappear into the quicksand of cyberspace when there's no school.

Teachers nationwide are planning a first-of-its-kind mega strike at the end of this month, where 50,000 primary and secondary teachers walk from the classroom.


Eight-hundred thousand students at every state-run school in the country could be affected.

While the Government wants to keep talking to avoid the strike, it says it won't budge on a $1.2 billion offer previously proposed to teachers.

Teachers' unions say the offer fails to address their workloads and need for extra resources.

Under the government proposal, most teachers' pay would increase by 9 per cent over three years. Teachers with diplomas would get a big boost: the upper income cap would shift from $63,929 to $82,992 by 2020. The top rate for teachers with graduate diplomas and masters degree would rise to $85,481.

Sounds like good money to me. Makes me want to be a teacher …

... until I talk with teachers and people who work with them.

I thought teachers taught reading and writing, geography and geometry, physical education and music.

I was wrong.

Sure, they're still instructing those subjects, but they're also handling an increasing number of children with behaviour issues - kids diagnosed or undiagnosed with mental health disorders or pupils who are simply violent. Many of these children come from homes with a scarcity of food, housing insecurity, time poverty, parental dysfunction ... so many ways to raise and neglect our young.

Principals and teachers nationwide have being punched, kicked, whacked by furniture and poked in the eye with pencils.

Master 13 tells me he saw students last year smoking weed on school grounds. He says one kid got suspended after punching another pupil in the face in class.

Imagine you're a starting teacher earning around $50,000. Is it worth it? Even at $80,000, how much salary makes up for a groin kick or black eye?

Miss 15 says she hasn't witnessed classmates acting outrageously. "Those kids get expelled." She did see two girls fighting at college, one of whom performed manoeuvres, as if moving through an obstacle course, before putting her opponent in a chokehold.

If we remove all the behaviourally-challenged children from schools, who will they become as adults? It's unlikely to be the answer.

I'm not sure the answer lies in bigger salaries, though teacher compensation must be competitive enough to attract the most-qualified candidates.

A friend who sits on a local primary school trustee board says figures show just 20 per cent of new entrants have acceptable number and word skills this year, compared with 50 per cent in 2012. These children are entering classrooms less prepared to learn than their predecessors.

Maybe they're not getting the same lessons from a child care centre as they would at home; maybe they're waking earlier than they used to because parents drive ever-lengthening commutes to school and work. The trustee tells me her deputy principal spends half his day taxiing pupils to doctor and dentist appointments because parents aren't available. It's not just a school issue - it's a societal issue.

Teachers are asking for more classroom support for children with behaviour issues. Volunteer in a school and you'll understand why. Last year I tried to tutor a boy in reading. Not only did he refuse to read aloud, he refused to talk. Or make eye contact. Fortunately, he had a support person. I don't know if his helper was with him each school day for the entire time. Imagine having two or three similarly-challenged children in a class of 30 students. Or in a class of 60 with two teachers, which is becoming the norm in many schools.

I'll probably still be annoyed by another classroom strike if it happens on the 29th. But I think I understand why it's happening. I hope the Government can provide enough classroom help so educators can spend less time being social workers and more time being teachers.