I am writing today to express my deep anger and sadness at the way a large portion of society view our teachers. Teachers today are no longer valued like they once were – maybe it’s because they appear to have it so good with a 6 hour day and 12 weeks of holiday a year but if teaching was such a cushy job, why then are we facing, possibly, the worst teaching shortage since the world wars? Teachers, experienced and amazing teachers, are leaving the classroom in droves – if any other employer was losing staff at the rate schools do, they would do something about it. Now the teachers are striking, yes because they do want more pay in their bank at the end of the week, but mainly because they are desperate for something to change to persuade them to stay in the classroom. While I appreciate most people face stress and anxiety at work, with large work loads and also have to bring work home, I am not saying teachers have it worse than anyone else – the whole country is facing higher living costs and there are many people in jobs that send them to breaking point. But just because this is happening in other industries too, does not make it right and it also does not mean our teachers don’t deserve better treatment or working environments – sorry if the teacher’s strike is a trigger for you but if you don’t like your working environment, wouldn’t you too do something about it? Teachers have been repressed for far too long and it is time for us to fight back.
The high demands put on teachers by senior management, parents, the government and even kids are becoming unbearable and impossible to sustain – this is why teachers are walking away from their ‘cushy’ job. As a teacher, I have found myself pushed to breaking point more times than I wish to count – I have spent many days driving home in tears, sleepless nights unable to switch off from the day’s events or worrying about what will come tomorrow. I have worked all day, through all my breaks, only to come home and work some more just to make sure I was organised for my class – you see you can’t just walk into a classroom and expect magic to happen – an unorganised classroom is worse than anything you could imagine. Kids become feral when they are not stimulated – any parent should appreciate this. It takes considerable amounts of time to plan differentiated learning experiences to engage, stimulate and support a class full of kids who are all so different, learn differently and behave differently – and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
What teachers really want to be able to do it provide the kids of New Zealand the best possible education for them – and a happy teacher will do just this. What I have found, moving from the public system into the private system where I am given considerably more planning and prep time, and a better wage, is that I am a better teacher because I am happy. Other than those busy times, like reporting and the formal side of things, I can mostly leave work at work. I am able to spend my evenings doing things I enjoy and spend time with my family. Because I am happy, I am a much better teacher and I so desperately want this for the rest of the teachers in our country. I still work hard – I still work through most of my breaks but this is a choice I make so I do not have to bring work home. I still work during the holidays too because of the large number of students I now teach (60+) and the way my school is run, I have assessments to grade and formal feedback to give, as well as planning for the term ahead. I also have more support for children with learning need and challenging behaviour – something that is significantly lacking in the private sector – and something they are desperate for but are not getting it from the government.
Yes, teachers could just walk away from the job if they don’t like it, but we care so much about kids, learning and the future and for a lot of us, walking away is not the right thing to do – but fighting for better working conditions is. It doesn’t matter who is in government, this is not a political stunt and sadly the way media has presented these striking events across New Zealand has allowed the public to look at us as if we are greedy, lazy and ungrateful. All we really want is the support from our society, the society we have taught to read and write.
All teachers really want is to be able to teach the kids in their class, in the best way they know how – and for that to happen, they need the time and support – from the government and from you, society.