Teachers strike: Long weekend for some, chaos for others

Strike confuses teachers, students and parents.

Empty Classroom (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Empty Classroom
Sunday’s one-day “warning strike” by the Teachers Association to protest failed salary negotiations for teachers of grades 10 through 12 created a world of confusion for students, parents and the teachers themselves.
High schools were fully or partially closed on Sunday, leaving ninthgrade and even some middle-school teachers and students in the dark about whether they had the day off.
David (last names withheld by request) – a member of the Teachers Association who has taught English in Israeli public schools for the past 26 years – told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that although he supports the strike, he believes such one-day actions create “temporary chaos” at home and in the schools.
David said the Teachers Association largely represents high schools, and the Histadrut labor federation represents elementary and middle schools. “When one declares a strike and the other doesn’t, it’s a problem,” he said. “Teachers who teach 10th to 12th grade, but also ninth grade, don’t know if they should come to school or not.”
This problem is greatest when ninth-graders who attend the same school as 10th- through 12th-graders share teachers who are supposed to be on strike: “There’s a conflicting directive, especially if the teacher also teaches ninth grade, because the strike does not affect ninth-grade teachers and or students” David said.
That one detail created tremendous confusion for everyone involved.
Mindy, a mother of a ninth-grader in Jerusalem, said: “My daughter went to school today, and nobody went to school... Half the school didn’t show up, and they’ve been wandering around all day without knowing which classes were on or off. The strike was poorly arranged, and it’s not clear what is going on.”
In light of the confusion, David said there tends to be less impact when high-school teachers strike: “When elementary schools go on strike, the country comes to a complete standstill because parents need to stay home with their kids. [But] when we go on strike, nobody notices because high-school kids are taking care of themselves, and they say ‘Great, no school!’” Tami shares David’s sentiment. Her 10th-grader enjoyed an extra day off, while her eighth-grade child was jealous because he could not get the day off too.
“The parents don’t care because it doesn’t affect them,” Tami said.
“And frankly, I’m sure the teachers are happy to have a day off as well.
In fact the only thing the strike really caused is that the seventh- through ninth-graders are upset to not have been included.”
Aside from expressing confusion about the strike, teachers on Sunday wanted to speak of their sense of solidarity in trying to get their demands met.
Sagi Fridman, who has taught math for three years to 10th- through 12th-graders in Holon, said: “I love my job and I love my children. I want to continue teaching them. But the fact is, my salary is very, very low, so I end up supplementing my income.”
He currently earns NIS 7,000 per month by working 25% more than full-time in the school system, and he works additional jobs to bring home more money.
“I work as a waiter, a track coach and a tutor,” Fridman said. “I do all these extra jobs just so I can get by as a teacher” He said if the demands of the Teachers Association are not met, he will do whatever is needed to support the association and its objectives.
“We work really hard, and we have the most important duty in Israel,” Fridman said. “We are responsible for the next generation, and we should earn more money because we are worth a lot more than this. The NIS 60 increase [which the Finance Ministry gave the Teachers Association in December 2016] is not enough, and my colleagues and I have reached a breaking point,” Michal, a teacher from Tel Aviv who took part in the strike, said a pay increase was necessary to reflect the actual amount of work she does in an out of the classroom.
“Our job is stressful and challenging, with big classes and many badly behaved students who we need to prepare for the matriculation exams,” Michal said. “And while people think we have nothing to complain about because our workday is shorter than in the private sector, they don’t take into account that our schedule is very tight. We are on our feet, using our voice for six hours straight. And then we continue working at home. I personally spend at least a few hours every evening preparing material, making phone calls to other teachers and parents, sending students reminders and checking exams.”
“If they want to have skilled teachers with a broad education, they need to offer new teachers a better salary to start off with,” she said.
“Otherwise, they will continue to lack good English, math and science teachers, who are often able to find a higher-paying job outside the education system.”
David, in Jerusalem, echoed that concern: “I hope the demands are met. I’d like to earn more money.
We do a lot of work and we are not compensated properly. We are people with master’s degrees and are academics.
We should be paid accordingly.”
Although Sunday’s strike was called as a one-day action, the last time the Teachers Association went on strike in 2007, high-school classes were halted for the first three months of the school year.