The last time secondary teachers went on strike, I was in Year 9. My large, diverse high school in northern Christchurch felt empty and quiet, with different year groups told to stay home. The shopping mall next door was especially full when teachers stopped running extra-curricular groups. Students had enough and joined their teachers on strike. This was obviously the straw that broke the camel’s back – the teachers won.
I am a teacher at a well-resourced school in Wellington. I am a third year teacher, meaning I am teaching a full set of classes for the first time. We have a management team who thinks about staff and student wellbeing. We limit assessments, limit meetings, and have flexibility over when we need to be at work. Still I find myself working well into the night, through my weekend, and on public holidays. After planning time, marking, conferences and professional development, our twelve weeks of term breaks in a year look much more like the minimum four weeks annual leave.
Like all teachers, I have students who need support of all kinds. I want to be able to help them all achieve success, but I simply do not have the time or expertise to be able to do the best by them. When you don’t have either of these things, you revert to what you’ve experienced yourself and cater to those who don’t need your help. I want to have extra time to work with my students who are struggling, and to be able to give more challenging work to those who need it.
This is a complex job. I love the challenges, but my patience is wearing thin. My teachers were passionate, dedicated, and inspiring. They had fought for the time to do their job, and to be paid properly for it. I want the opportunity to be that for the 250 students I teach. Today, I am striking for my whānau. I am striking for my students. I am striking to be able to do my job properly.