The Industrial Award Covering teachers in Victoria, specifies a maximum of 45 minutes of student supervision beyond their regularly scheduled time-tabled classes.
As CRT's technically we do not have a timetable of regular classes, unless we are asked in advance, to replace a colleague for a full week or more, when their timetable and the Industrial Agreement, should stand to protect our maximum allowable duties and ensure Award conditions compliance for that lucky CRT.
In all other cases we are employed on a daily basis. Therefore we can teach over every timetabled class of a day, as well as doing a yard duty.
You should be pleased to know however that another clause in the Award, states that "teachers are entitled to a thirty minute lunch break, free of scheduled duties where they are free to leave their workplace". Now, if you are a member of The Australian Teachers Union, or Victorian Independant Education Union, you should at very least queery the school's Daily Organiser as to whether they have made a mistake, in the case where you do not have thirty minutes free of scheduled duties to enjoy lunch. The Union can support you if this is not happening. It is a good reason to be in The Australian Education Union!
As for yard duty itself, remember you are legally liable to be in the appropriate location and actively supervising the students in the area. If anything goes wrong and it was you that was scheduled to be on duty, you can be sued for failure to undertake your duty. In the case of death, or serious injury of a student, this could be very expensive negligence that could cost you your home and savings!
Strategies gleaned from years of experience doing yard duty:
- Picking up Rubbish. Students will argue about or refuse to take rubbish to the bin, even the nearest ones. Make this ask much easier on yourself by taking the bin to them. This simple act will ensure the area will be much cleaner for your efforts and you will have few soul destroying encounters with students refusing to follow your very reasonable instructions.Most students think it is rather novel to see a teacher dragging a bin around and are more than willing to help you fill it!
- Canteen. Maintain orderly queues. Discourage non-buyers from accompanying their friends along the lines, or hanging around, blocking exits and creating additional noise.
- Lockers. Allow only those using their lockers to be in the area. Eating and socialising should be done elsewhere. Redirect them accordingly.
- Toilets. Use discretion when entering toilet blocks. Only female teachers should enter girls toilets and male teachers the boys toilets in an ideal world. I usually ask a student to go ahead of me and let student's know I am heading in to check all is okay.
- Fights. The easiest way to break up a fight is to make your presence known, if that fails grab a student by the hair, but do this at your own risk. If possible call in extra staff if the fight is serious. Ask other students the names of the kids involved. Pass these on to the relevant co-ordinators, even if you break up the fight and difuse the situation. Better still escort the students concerned to the Administration area and let them know what was going on.
- Bullying. Usually students are canny enough to refrain from overt bullying of another student in the vicinity of a teacher. However, you will find the students vulnerable to or regular victims of bullying inhabiting lonely and sometimes out of bounds areas of the school at lunchtimes. Redirect these students to more appropriate social areas, but do get in touch with co-ordinators if you find the same student, in the same area on a regualr basis. If that student tells you other kids are giving them a hard time, send them to the Student Welfare Co-ordinator, or Year Level Co-ordinator immediately to let them know what is happening. Make sure you follow up later to check they have reported what is happening to make them feel unsafe at school.
- Intruders and/or Drugs. Schools are part of the broader community, so the best and worst of the world beyond the school is bound to enter it. Notify the school administration immediately you encounter an outsider that refuses to report to the school office. Be cautious when speaking to outsiders, you can instruct a student to move away from a fence or out of bounds area, but you have no authority over outsiders. Some teachers have been seriously injured when dealing with outsiders with ill intentions. I once witnessed a student receiving a bag over the fence of the adjoining park from a seedy looking character and money changing hands. I suspected intervening in the situation would put myself at risk. I notified the principal, who called in the student in question immediately. She was found to be in posession of illegal drugs. She notified the police who became involved. A few days later the area where the deal had taken place became out of bounds to students.
- Should a student ask you if Mr or Miss Soandso is for instance gay, or goes to such and such a night club on weekends, I tell the student or students concerned to go and ask that teacher themselves, not to ask me as it is none of my business. That usually satisfies them and puts up an appropriate professional wall.
- Should you hear hair raising rumours of staff misconduct amongst the staff or students even once, report it to the principal. They may not have heard and there may be a basis to it. I once repeated a rumour to my School Principal. The rumour proved accurate. Consequently, she was able to meet and greet the staff member and female students he was regularly taking out of the school without appropriate permission proceedures, at a local fast food restaurant as they arrived in his vehicle the very next day. That knowledge empowered her to deal with the situation and instigate appropriate discipline and dismissal proceedures. It also protected students and eventaully the education system from his predatory behaviours. Even as a CRT, you are part of a school and its staff, if on a casual basis!