Sunday, February 26, 2017

Long promised post: Teaching in Australia pt 2: the struggle to find work

After many months of struggles with getting registered to teach in Victoria, Tyler and I were finally able to put ourselves out to the schools and beg for jobs. I wasn't even looking for a full time job since I still had a semester left in my graduate studies; I would only be available for part time work, perfect for subbing. I went about the job search the only way I knew how: Hoof it around town with a stack of my resumes and introduce myself to some schools.

Yeah, that's not how things work here.

I had absolutely no leads from those days of walking around town and sweet talking receptionists. One or two principals humored me long enough to shake my hand and take my resume, but most schools just told me that they only get their substitute teachers through such-and-such agency.

So here is where the first difference between teaching in Australia popped up. I'm still not entirely sure how it is all structured here, but the system I am familiar with from home is that public schools are zoned into districts (usually bound by county lines) and are administered through a central office (usually located at the county seat). Each district is different, but usually there is a district pool of substitute teachers that have been vetted by central office and are made available to schools. Sometimes principals at home just keep a list of dependable subs that they contact when needed and once you've made a relationship with a school or registered with a district you can get work and are paid for your day's work.

Yeah, that's not how things work here.

There are no school districts or central offices. Schools enlist the help of one of a slew of agencies that have a database of VIT registered "teachers" and call the agency once they know about a teacher absence. I'm sure it makes a lot of sense for principals: all you have to do is call a number, say, "I need x-number of subs today," and someone else has to spend the next hour on the phone seeing who is available for the day. I get it.

What sucks about the agency set up is the fees the agencies charge. Each one is different, but they all pretty much involve skimming money off the fees paid to the substitute by the school and also charging the school a fee for their services. A solid business model, but some agencies charge the teachers a one-time registration fee ($250 or more) and then also take either a percentage (10% or more) or a flat fee (up to $50 a day no matter how many hours you work) from the fee paid to the teacher each day. In Victoria, substitute teachers get paid REALLY well...IF they can contract the work without the help of an agency. As previously mentioned, schools were not interested in eliminating the middle man, so my day's pre-tax pay of $293 for a full day's work ranges from $160-189 per day after taxes depending on which of the two agencies I'm linked with found the work for me. Doesn't sound like so much, but it's at least $250 a week if I'm able to work a full five days. That's a week's worth of groceries!

I digress.

I interview with a couple of agencies (the two I heard most frequently from schools on my days of schlepping around town) and was added to their databases. I was soon able to start subbing, and I got somewhat consistent work for two weeks...and then it was semester break and there was no school, therefore no work to be had.


The tides turned, however, the night before term break ended when I got a call from one of the agencies that they had a lead on a school in the West that had had a resignation and needed some help. This job might lead to a potential contract....

Stay tuned for how THAT adventure in teaching in Australia got started.

Vicariously yours,

No comments:

Post a Comment