By JR on Monday, January 23, 2012
CROSSING the Murray felt significant. It was sunny and, after years, we were coming home to good ol' Newsouth, where it is always sunny and always Saturday morning, and the unimpeachable joys of childhood dwell in a never-to-be-disturbed bliss. The real significance hit later.
If I were a plumber, accountant or massage therapist, it would have been irrelevant: one could live in Melbourne one week then move to Sydney the next and simply front up to an employer and say: "Yep, I'm fully qualified, vastly experienced and I've just moved interstate." If the paperwork was up to scratch and they fitted the job description, it'd be: "No worries. Start on Monday."
Teachers, however, are different. We are what you might call the professional equivalent of refugees, fleeing the presumed disastrous condition of education of other Australian states.
Of course, before you can set foot inside a school, you're whipped off to the Institute of Teachers, where sniffer dogs investigate your deodorant status. That done, you front up to a corpse-like quasi KGB agent with perfect dentures and an interest in your credentials bordering on the pathological.
Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for caution; I'm cool with the fact that they need to see every piece of documentation I've received since I was 18, potentially even shopping dockets and bus tickets. This is standard bureaucratic fare.
After the interview, I go home and wait. And wait. Five weeks on, there's a letter: "Further documentation required." Nothing wrong with being thorough.
"Mother's birth certificate." Could be tricky. I google "Irish Embassy". Another six weeks and the necessaries are in the mail, with a note confessing how hard it is to feed a family without a job and could they maybe speed the process up a tad?
Ninety-seven days exactly after that fateful river crossing, I receive permission to teach in the state of NSW. My wife and children are too weak with hunger to join in the celebration. I ring the Institute and thank them warmly, but I still have one query concerning the 40 per cent cut in my rate of pay.
"A New Scheme teacher," the officer explains, "is a graduate teacher, or equivalent."
"Then there must be some mistake, because I've been a teacher for 20 …"
"Or equivalent," she repeats. "You haven't taught in NSW for the past five years." "Yes but," I begin. "In New South Wales."
And the articulation of that name is nothing less than the passing of a sentence. I break down and beg forgiveness. She's not sure what the policy is on that, but she'll get back to me.