My daughter has just finished her degree. Next year she will participate in the Postgraduate Diploma in Education. In 2020 she will be a teacher. She will be 25.
So do I tell her? Do I warn her? She will be a fabulous teacher, the children deserve someone like her, but I do have some concerns…
I trained as a primary school teacher, and am now an RTLB. I love my job! I love the students, the teachers, schools and the families. I love that I can support teachers to see through a different lens and provide ideas and interventions that can make their students more motivated, engaged and successful. I love that I get to spend time in many classrooms, observing the passion and the commitment to children, from nurturing their emotional needs, celebrating their achievements and fostering their diverse and unique attributes. But I also get to see the strain, the stress and the burnout.
So do I tell my daughter that when she becomes a teacher she will have long days – especially in the first two years? In fact every day. Do I tell her that her weekends will be consumed with spelling tests, designing reading group activities and organising her room to meet student needs? Do I tell her that she will have meetings possibly 3-4 times a week, often consuming her break times and will require extra dedicated time to consolidate new knowledge and approaches that she will be assessed on in her appraisal? Do I tell her that there is always something new, something to evolve, something to add or contribute to her classroom programme to make her a more effective teacher? Do I tell her that the students will come and they will bring their various experiences that will be observed in their attitude, their temperament, their level of concentration and their belief in themselves? Do I tell her that some of these students will keep her up at night and there will be tears and there will be doubt? Do I tell her that many of these student’s may have significant needs – emotional, physical, psychological and behavioural, and that she will learn to manage these over time. Do I tell her that her children’s parents will want answers; they will want to know how, when, where and why you do what you do? And there will be more tears. Do I then mention the paperwork… the hours of planning, reorganising, changing, creating, developing, clarifying, marking, commenting, cleaning, deciding, worrying and mentoring that she will need to endure?
But most of this is irrelevant. Why? Because my daughter loves kids, she adores kids, she can come down to their level, be animated for their benefit and empathise with their needs. She can manage kids, she is organised and responsible. She is smart and innovative, she is friendly and polite. My daughter is nurturing and understands what little people need. She has expectations and can clearly communicate what she wants with her words as well as with her eyes. She is passionate, she is beautiful and she is determined. The children in her class and in her school need her, they DESERVE her. Those children deserve a teacher just like her. My daughter knows exactly what she is walking into; she is entering teaching with her eyes wide open. So why am I concerned?
I am concerned for young teachers entering such a politically driven and vulnerable profession. An arena where they will be judged and critiqued for every decision they make to benefit their students. A profession that puts them at risk of caring and nurturing too much, and where dedication and commitment are not acknowledged. I am concerned that this profession will engulf young teachers without the support mechanisms and resources to ensure their well-being is paramount. I am concerned that if we don’t value this profession with the right vision and the right conditions then the children lose out on enthusiastic, energised and innovative teachers. I am concerned that when this happens, society loses. The educational landscape will be arid – not worthy of those that we need the most.
I can confidently declare that my daughter will teach. She will inspire and develop young minds and influence, nurture and stimulate the thinking of future teachers. She will provide multiple opportunities, develop plans and encourage children to problem-solve, take risks and become resilient. She will do a stellar job, and her kids will adore her. We will all adore her, admire her and encourage her. We need teachers like this. Our kids need teachers like this. We need them now and we will need them in 30 years to come. So let’s think about not just the today, but the tomorrow too. We need to recognise that the teaching profession is worth more and teachers need to be acknowledged for every bit of energy they share with your children. We need teachers to know that we value them now, much more then ever before.
This Government needs to acknowledge everything here, all that is identified and recognised as the teaching profession. There is no sugar coating any of this, no magic wand to minimise behaviours, no model or framework that ensures students will perform to a certain expectation, and no answer to how we manage and nurture students with extreme trauma. This is the raw data. This is just how it will be, now and for many years to come. But what this Government can do, is advocate for teachers! Don’t compromise the apprehension of extinction here, promote and compensate the already hard working people inspiring the children of Aotearoa, and the ambitious and enthusiastic young people choosing to contribute to the future leaders of our country. They deserve your attention.