I’m a teacher myself but I’m not angry about Andrew Laming’s bizarre attack on my profession.
A common cliché teachers and parents use when someone fails to show the expected responsibility or maturity is to say “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed,” but I’m not even disappointed. It is not like I expect a greater level of maturity and responsibility in his social media usage. Not after Laming’s previous forays including his ill-informed comments on an outbreak of street violence in 2013 and his Facebook feud with a group called The Simpsons against the Liberals (he is pretty much following the trump playbook now that I think of it).
So I wasn’t angry or even disappointed. But I did find it bewildering, especially along with its quick retraction and replacement with a post about the importance of self-care in the workplace and teacher burnout. That’s the sort of inconsistency that David Leyonhjelm would be proud of.
All sorts of comments about the status of teachers seem to float through public discourse from time to time. Some people say teachers should be paid more. Others will argue that teachers have too many holidays. I’m just going to say I love being a teacher. It is a tremendously rewarding job, as well as being challenging and tiring. I know burnout is a problem in the profession and I think teachers who are experiencing the beginnings of this are less effective in their job. However I wouldn’t do my job any better if I was paid more.
But back to Mr Laming and some of the responses. Did I feel ‘bullied’ by his comments as some of the responses described it? Certainly not. As I said in discussing Ruth Forrest, I feel that term is often used more for impact than accuracy and would prefer to see it reserved for severe or persistent behaviours. We don’t always have to take offence at the things people say about us, even when they are unfair. It depends how much we respect the speaker. I certainly don’t have to justify myself or my profession to the man who appears intent on taking over Peter Dutton’s role as chief dog whistler for this abhorrent government and its state counterparts. There are far too many good things in life to worry about what people like Laming say about me.
It was strange and somewhat unseemly though, even for a man with Laming’s track record. Against a backdrop of expense scandals and a growing dissatisfaction over how out of touch our politicians are, he seemed to spontaneously question teacher holiday periods. And within 24 hours the post was removed and replaced with something implicitly contradictory to the connotations of his original post. I just can’t understand what he was trying to do.
Was this meant to distract us from the Centrelink fiasco or the Ley-buy scandal, which I suspect will not only be the end of the Health Minister, but will grow to focus on many others of our profligate politicians? If so, it seemed counterproductive. By questioning how many days teachers are at work, Laming begs the question of how many days politicians like himself are officially at work. I had always assumed there weren’t many sitting days for politicians, this prompted me to research the exact statistics. According to the Queensland government website, politicians like Mr Laming had to be at work for less than 50 days in 2016. That’s not a typo. The man who questioned teachers’ holidays is at work for less than a quarter of that time!
Sorry Mr Lamming, that isn’t going to shift any attention from politicians and their entitled ways. If anything, it is another moment that sharpens the focus.