One of the great privileges of working in schools is that we get to share in the success of our students. Although it is lovely to bask in the reflected glory of outstanding achievement in sports, culture and academia it is the “every day” success that provides me with the most satisfaction and enjoyment. Be it the student who finally is able to stand up and deliver that speech they were initially too filled with anxiety to do; or getting their best mark yet in a test; or finally nailing a three pointer; or for some students just getting to school every day.

We get to see this success every day, in small ways and extraordinary ways, and we get to be part of it.

If there is one thing that principals know, and parents know, and students, and researchers and even Treasury knows – the most important thing a school can do to ensure this student success is to have the best teachers.

This is no hunch or “common sense” or “nice to have” – it is as close to a fact as we have in the complexity of education. It is the teachers that make the difference and it is the best teachers that will make the biggest difference.

And so it is hugely frustrating, beyond frustrating, perhaps a tragedy, that there are not the teachers with the skills and experience available that the students in our schools need. The thing that can make the biggest difference, great teachers, are simply not there to be employed. Now we can muddle through and find compromises but our kids and our country need much more than compromises when it comes to the best teachers.

I am hugely optimistic and positive about the future of New Zealand education but we have got to keep our eye on what we know we need. We have to attract the best to teaching and we have to keep them there. We need the conditions that give the support for teachers to do their jobs well.

It is easy to criticise those who are not in schools but who make decision about schools, as being out of touch with the reality of school life. To an extent this is unfair because the politicians and government officials I have interacted with appear to be working hard to make a positive difference. I do however want to emphasise the urgency with which this challenge needs to be addressed.

Every hour, every day and week without the best teacher with a student is an opportunity lost – an opportunity that is not easily recovered. Hours and days and weeks and terms are flying on by. We can only bring out the best in all of our students if we make teacher supply a priority.

James Morris is chairman of the NZ Secondary Principals’ Council and the principal of Darfield High School.

Source: NZ Herald

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