This is about the teachers’ strike. If you are not a teacher, please read this; this is to you. This is the stuff you may not know but you need to understand.
So primary school teachers are planning to strike. I no longer work under the primary school contract, so I’d like to pen my support for them (as I think all secondary teachers should). For anyone grumbling about teachers, I understand. You really have no idea. You think you know because, after all, you went to school – but trust me, you don’t.
The current state of education in New Zealand worries me and I think you should be worried too…quality education is the foundation of a healthy and prosperous society. It impacts your kids and our future communities.
What am I worried about? Mostly about the increasingly complex needs of kids coming to school and the lack of resourcing going into education. In any given class teachers will be catering for refugee children, migrant kids who speak absolutely no English, students with severe behaviour, kids with complex mental health disorders, students with complex learning and behavioural needs, and severe anxiety. Teachers are trying to figure out how to help the child with dyslexia, the boy with autism, the girl who has come with no breakfast and the kid who we suspect is being abused.
Teachers will quietly feed the boy with no lunch. And the teachers are trying to teach your child…your quiet child, your high-achieving child, your child…whatever their level and ability.
You are correct that teachers chose to teach and we love making a difference. Your child’s teacher has probably had a coffee at 8:30am and then will often be racing for the rest of the day…no breaks, no lunch, no toilet stop. After school many teachers will have meetings or coaching until 5pm so they take all their planning and marking to do for a few hours at night and weekend. We do this because we are passionate about teaching and we truly love and care for your kids. And don’t even get me started on the hundreds of hours teachers put into productions, choir, band, dance, jump jam competitions, sports teams, kapa haka, cross country, school camps…
But what non-teaching people don’t realise is that teaching has changed in the last 10-15 years and these changes will affect your child. Funding has been reduced so teachers have less help with the diversity of needs. For example, in my previous job as a SENCO I had to wait 18 months to have one of our highest needs students even assessed by the Ministry of Education’s special education team. They are amazing, but…it’s a funding issue.
So, for years teachers just had to cope with having this child (non-compliant, kicking, hitting, running away) in their class with the other 30. And this is not the anomaly! Teachers have multiple challenges in every single class. Teachers used to have curriculum advisors who would come in to give us professional learning and support – but the National government got rid of those (probably to fund the ineffective National Standards).
Teacher aides, who are an invaluable part of your child’s team, are terribly underpaid, but even the number of teacher aides has been reduced. The workload on teachers is huge. To judge a teacher for ‘all those holidays’ is completely misplaced. Teachers do take some of their holidays (deserved), but they need time in the holidays to prepare for the following term, write reports and attend PLD. The curriculum has increased with increasing demands to teach digital fluency and social-emotional curriculum, often with little to no PLD.
We would be naïve and complacent to just put our collective heads in the sand and think teachers will keep doing this. We can’t keep piling more stuff on teachers and not expect cracks to appear. And they are. Teachers are leaving the profession. Good people are not choosing to come into teaching. And relievers are really scarce. This affects your children.
So please support the teachers. They are doing this for everyone. Striking is not something they will want to do, but will feel they have no choice. Please support teachers because it affects us all.