Over the past two days interest in this, my most recent blog post has far exceeding any of my expectations. So, I sit here feeling the need to state very clearly that all opinions expressed here are entirely from my own experiences and my own challenges. Mine is just one story of thousands. I hope by writing this other teachers both young and mature of all ages will grow in confidence to share their own challenges and difficulties and stand together as one.
In school I was asked what do I want to do when I get older? What did I want to study in college? There was always one answer I wanted to teach. So, I went to college feeling incredibly blessed to be able to do so. I was going to have a respectable job and a job that I loved to do.
In the first year of my degree we found out that due to the recession and cut backs newly qualified teachers who qualified after 2011 would be hit with a cut in their pay. At the time, this didn’t really bother us. Qualifying seemed like a distant dream when you have essays to write, teaching practice to prepare for and a daunting thesis that needed to be finished yesterday. Despite the workload I loved every minute.
Then in 2013 reality hit. Job’s were nowhere to be found. After we graduated over half my year left Ireland for jobs overseas. I decided to stay home and upgrade my CV. So, I enrolled in a Masters degree in Education.
In total I spent 5 years studying to get a job. I left college with my degree in one hand and my Masters in the other ready to face the world, how naïve I was. My first year out I was unemployed for months. I received my first job in November 2014, a 6 hour Maternity contract. I was delighted. Employed until May 2015.
When summer 2015 came along I signed on to receive the social welfare. Slowly as time went by anxiety, depression and anger began to set in. One thought constantly haunting me ‘I have done what society has asked of me, I made all the right choices, I worked hard, I went to college, I received a masters degree and here I am unemployed and lining up to collect my social welfare every week.’
After a few weeks on the social welfare I received a letter from my local office stating I had to attend a meeting. This meeting would according to the department of social welfare help me find a job. It would introduce me to the jobs bridge program and I would get my own career guidance councillor. The anger, anxiety and depression began to set in deeper. I did not need Jobs Bridge and I did not need a career guidance councillor. I needed a job, a job that I trained for. I needed the department of education, the minister of education and my unions to hear me. Instead I felt alone and forgotten.
September 2015 passed and I found myself yet again without a job. December 2015 a guardian angel was looking over me and I found myself with two jobs in two schools. I work a total of just 7 hours a week divided between two schools. I will be receiving the social welfare again in the summer. After tax one week I earned €80. If I did not have the security of living at home with my parents I would be living out of my car. I would be homeless.
This is my life, I cannot save money, I cannot move out of my family home and I cannot plan for my future. I am faced with constant job insecurity. I know I am not alone with this struggle. There are thousands like me.
Currently Newly Qualified Teachers are fighting for equal pay. Being heard and listened to is a big step. I am 100% behind all teachers fighting for equal pay for equal work. One thought however lingers in my mind. What good is this pay equality when I cannot get a full time job? Any prospects I have are cover sick leave, maternity leave or if I am really lucky cover a career break. As controversial as this may sound if someone turned around to me tomorrow and offered me my own full time teaching hours at the lower pay rate I would cry tears of joy.
Some of the public have forever scrutinized teachers over our holidays and short working days. Now we face more scrutiny for wanting to be paid as equals. If these people knew that teachers are living in such poverty with no job prospects what would they say?
Teachers are not the only group in public service that this is affecting. This is happening to nurses and gardai also. People who have made a decision to enter the public service. We have chosen to serve others, to dedicate our lives to educating future generations, to heal and to protect. To help people and hopefully make the world a better place.
This year we are surrounded by memories of 1916. But what have we learnt in 100 years? Young people are still emigrating, leaving their home country for a better and more secure future across the seas. Unions are still striking for better working conditions and better pay. Families are once again living in poverty and homelessness is on the rise. I often wonder if the seven signatories could see Ireland today would they be proud? Would they be proud of a society that begrudges others for wanting better working conditions? Would they be proud of a country that has forgotten the younger generations?
I live in hope that one day we can achieve an Ireland described in the proclamation “the republic guarantees…equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation.”