When Being An Expert Is Actually Bad For You!

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How can it be possible that being an expert in your field is bad for you?

Well in my case, it is.

I am a secondary teacher; I have taught Maths up to Year 12, Information Technology to Year 12 (including programming) and Science to Year 10 (plus VCE Physics).

I started teaching in regional Victoria and since then, I have taught in Government, Catholic and Private schools. I have even taught interstate.

I have been a teacher for 15 years and am classified as an “expert teacher”. I am very good at teaching – all my reviews have shown this – and I enjoy it a lot. This also means that I have reached the top of the pay scale for a classroom teacher.

So, how is any of this bad? Well, as it turns out, my last contract was a replacement one – for a teacher on long service leave – which ended in Term 3 2011 and now I find myself unemployed. I applied for over 100 positions during Term 4, but without success. When I rang schools to find out why I was unsuccessful, I was given the run around. I was left to guess why I was now “untouchable”.

A recent article in ‘The Age’ (Wednesday 4th January 2012) gave me a clue. Principals have a set budget for hiring staff, and any money saved in this area, can be used in other areas within the school. Graduates cost approximately $25,000 LESS than Experts. In tight economic times, that is a significant amount of money. Multiply that by four staff and that becomes an extra $100,000; which is quite a chunk of cash.

A better system would seem to be that the principal of each school employs individual staff, but the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) pays for the staff. This way, schools can try to employ the best teachers, rather than concentrating on the cheapest.

So, a great teacher, who loves teaching, can teach Maths and IT up to Year 12, who has demonstrated their ability to fit in at any school, cannot get a job. This is how being an expert can be bad for you.

If any principal is reading this and would like to hire an excellent teacher, please contact me (iainmckenzie3160@bigpond.com).

By Iain McKenzie

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