Notes on Dialogue

Poor Helle. She got up to make a couple of speeches praising the solidarity of the labour movement, only to be booed off and hit with a water pistol and a tomato. Not her day.

Her response to the noise made by the crowd to drown out her speech was surprised, pedagogical hurt. A stock in trade for most teachers. ‘It’s your own time you’re wasting! You’re only cheating yourself!’

“Today is about dialogue.”

The thing about dialogue, though, is that if you are having a dialogue one-on-one and the other person appears not to be listening, eventually you stop listening. And if what they are saying offends you or hurts you or irritates you, you interrupt them. You shout at them. You stop them from talking.

For a crowd of a couple of hundred people in easy-going ligeglad Denmark to turn so mean so quickly, has major implications for Helle’s administration.

The teachers had planned a peaceful protest which took place: where they turned their backs on her. I don’t know who was booing and whistling. Maybe teachers too but not part of the main group.

I chose not to attend because even that: turning your back on someone speaking, seemed a little too edgy for me. A little too offensive.

You see, I have been there. So many times.

School classes turn mean if they do not feel respected or listened to. And they too will prevent you from being heard. In my first term of each UK school I have taught in, I have had to deal with students ignoring me and making it impossible for me to continue with the lesson. After a few weeks of demonstrating that I do care about them and I am a good teacher, things settle down and it is only the mentally ill students who cause trouble after that.

What you need to remember about the UK is this: the teaching unions were very strong and teaching practise was led by practitioners. Then the government decided they needed to denigrate teachers for political points between the 80s and the 90s and massive campaigns to reduce respect for teachers were launched. These are ongoing to date. No one respects teachers in the UK, which means their kids don’t. Which means classes can be really difficult to reach.

I learned in my teaching in London schools that ‘respect’ is earned and that the children would need to be taught to respect me. I gave them activities that were not boring or didn’t waste their time, I talked to them like adults, I was fair when I had to decide things about them. I took their views into account. I gave them responsibility in the classroom.

And eventually, the class realise it is a dialogue and they stop drowning you out. Because they trust you to listen.

I guess Danish politicians are finding out that they do not deserve respect just because they have the podium. Maybe it is not too late to win trust back.

News Translation: No one’s Listening Anymore

From Politiken: Thorning booed off on the first of May

By Søren Astrup

Anger about the Social Democrats’ leader was clear during State Minister Helle Thornin-Schmidt’s 1st May speech in Aarhus.

She was met with protest whistles and boos from the audience at the event in Tangkrogen.

It was only a couple of minute’s speech where she tried to get the audience to listen before she left the podium. At the same time, a large number of the audience turned their backs on her.

The protest against the State Minister is based on the government’s criticised reforms and intervention against the teachers.

“Everyone is entitled to think what they want about me but it’s a bit of a shame. It’s a strange paradox when the first of May is about dialogue and listening to each other,” was how Helle Thorning-Schmidt reacted.

“I don’t think we tells each other anything when we try to drown each other out. There were some Social Democratic Youth down there who would have liked to have heard the speech,” she said after the speech.

Also, in Fælled Park in Copenhagen, a leading Social Democrat had to fight to drown out protesters. That was the city’s mayor Frank Jensen who was met with jeering protesters who also used his speech to show their dissatisfaction with the government’s cuts and intervention. He stood across from a banner with the text “Helle is Blue” (Translator’s note: Helle is supposed to be left-wing and therefore “red”.)

While fingers were pointed towards the stage, the Social Democratic premier in the capital gave up trying to make himself heard.

“GO HOME!” was the cry to the mayor while the organisers tried to get the audience to get the large audience to adjust their angry outbursts.

This was not successful, even though the mayor was going to talk about the town’s schools, school meals and better help for the poor.

The answer from the crowd in Fælled Park was the fighting cry “GO HOME” which was shouted over and over through a megaphone.

Frank Jensen also had to duck an item that was chucked up on stage by a First of May participant, just as the speech was carried out in the smoke from fireworks or similar.

“May I wish you a good First of May in Fælled Park in Copenhagen,” was how he signed off his speech, which he carried out despite massive protest from the lawn in front of the stage.

The person after him at the podium in the capital was SF’s leader Anette Wilhelmsen. She also had to raise her voice to try to drown out the protesters.

“I stand by the compromises, even if not all of them have grassroots support,” she explained in competition with the megaphone shouts.

Finance Minister Bjarne Corydon (S) talked to a wall of backs when he spoke in Vojens, where teachers protested against the government’s intervention in the union conflict that started when they were locked out by the association of municipalities.

News Translation: The Worm Turns

From Ekstra Bladet: Helle Attacked

It’s all going on right now on the first of May.

A man was just arrested for shooting water at the States Minister Helle Thorning in Aarhus with a water pistol. And in Copenhagen, the mayor Frank Jensen just interrupted his speech because the protesters were so loud that he had to give up. Chair of the Unions in greater Copenhagen tried to moderate the masses but was not nearby to try to get people to listen to Frank Jensen.

And in Aarhus they were simply not there to listen to what States Minister Helle Thorning said from the podium in Tangkrogen in Aarhus.

She was drowned in boos and a massive whistling concert from a large group of the “audience” who had brought whistles to sabotage Helle Thorning’s speech.

She had chosen not to speak at Fælled Park in Copenhagen but she didn’t avoid massive criticism.

The crowd in front of her blew whistles they brought with them and held up placards with sad faces “:(” on them.

The State Minister was not surprised by her heated reception because the protest was announced beforehand.

“I don’t have much time for people who drown out others. It’s a bit weird on the first of May which is about talking and discussion,” she said just after her speech.


Outrageous Lock out.

I was not sure if I would go to the big demo in Copenhagen. For one, Copenhagen is far away. For another, it is expensive to get to. But then, on the way to Aarhus yesterday morning, something snapped inside of me. I got angry.

This came as a completely surprise. I have been feeling shock and confusion for two weeks. This was supposed to last two to three days. Nine working days at worst. And here we are. No end in sight. I walked past the protestors near the railway station at 8am and I was furious. They were waving and smiling at cars. They should have been at work. They should have been doing what they actually trained for.

Now, without getting into the rights and wrongs of the actual negotiation, this action is completely unconscionable. I am furious.

There are layers of fury. I am like a furious onion. The top layer is fury for myself. I want to go to work. I effing love teaching, I do. I also love getting paid every month. I went into teaching because I know I cannot take the highs and lows of freelance. I went into teaching because I want to help people get better at my subjects. I did not go into teaching so I could march around in a yellow vest.

There is fury for schools.  The independent schools are going to suffer for this. Maybe they don’t have to pay the union wages but not everyone in independent schools is in a union, they need paying. The parents could refuse to pay for this month. The state will refuse to pay for this month too. So, where’s the money for rent and heating and electricity and wages coming from?

Then I am outraged as a taxpayer. There is a social contract here and it is being broken. I pay taxes so that they can send the kids to school. Instead, they are with grandma and hanging around shopping centres. The government is pocketing the millions meant for our salaries and spending it on.. what? Our union support payments are taxed as if they were an income *and* we have to pay them back. So, the government gets to keep half our “wages” when we don’t even. The government gets to skip out on paying a month’s salary with no accountability but still gets the same in taxes from us. You see this in dodgy dictatorships, not Scandy socialist paradises.

I am also angry because of the lack of fair play. The model of negotiations is that if both parties cannot reach a compromise, then a lockout hurts both parties until negotiations re-start. The KL is not being hurt by this. They are about the only party to this mess that is not being injured by the lockout. I am furious that they were able to threaten a lockout on day one, I am angry they had nothing in the way of compromise, it is outrageous that the politicians claim THIS is the Danish Model and refuse to consider re-starting negotiations.

The incompetence is also horrifying. Apparently, every time the teacher union man, Bondo, says “Oh for heaven’s sake, just do a political intervention already, stop the lockout out!” it pushes the political intervention back two days, so the precious Danish Model is not called into question. The politicians did not expect this much popular support, they thought people would turn against ‘lazy, spoiled teachers’ in much greater numbers. The politicians thought they could starve the unions out in two weeks, they have money for a month. The politicians thought they could run things like this and no one would notice the loss of a system that Danish people value. The politicians are possibly going to wait until after May Day (a celebration of the labour movement), before they do an intervention because they do not want to look like hypocrites as they praise the Danish Model.

I am angry that there is now no political movement in Denmark that supports me. There are the blue who hate me because I am unashamedly foreign and the red who mistreat me because they don’t think they can afford me. I expect the blue team will win next election and where does that leave people like me?

But most of my outrage is for the students. They deserve better than this. Some countries have longer holidays but the trade off is longer school days or there are activity camps. Having an indefinite time off of school means you cannot use the time for good. I don’t know how many of my readers have taught children with special needs or unsupportive families? After the summer holidays, you have to teach them things you already taught them. You need to make sure they can still read. You need to lay the ground rules again. It takes about a month to get up and going again. Those students will be especially ill-served by this government. And then there are disabled children who really need routine and certainty. Facing them with “I don’t know when school will start again,” is cruelty. And then there are students in their final year who have been preparing for exams. The government solution is “Well, we’ll just give you your average grade.” Why not do that every year then, if the exams are not important?

All the students of Denmark are being held hostage by incompetent politicians. All they needed to do was come up with suggestions the unions were likely to take, after some negotiation. They did not need to plan this whole “starve ’em out!” plot. Or they could have suspended the Danish Model and used “There’s a financial crisis on!” Or they could have let the discussions deadlock for months and months, until the people got pissed off with the teachers, and then made a political intervention. It is outrageous that they locked out the students and teachers as the first resort.

This action is completely unacceptable in a modern democracy and exposes Denmark’s rotten political workings for all to see.