“Hey Teacher! Leave them kid’s alone” – “Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2”, Pink Floyd
All of us remember a bit about our teachers. It might have been a moment when one got punished for not/doing something; for something funny they did in class. Some of us would have been inspired by our teachers and some of us may have been totally revolted by them. Some of us could not wait to get out of the school system as soon as they were legally able to, whilst others went into tertiary education. But for better or for worse we all agree that in some shape or form they helped to make us who we are today.
For five year old me, getting the trust and confidence of my teachers was essential. I had severe speech impediment, poor hand eye co-ordination. With very few friends I had trouble fitting in, especially since my early interests were already starting to devolve significantly from the perceived interests of boys my age. Partially because of this, but also because of a good upbringing, I was frequently looked upon as model for student behaviour. And for the most part my teachers from Years 1-13 were very good. With the exception of a very bad maths teacher in 1988 who completely inverted my understanding of mathematics, and an art teacher in 1994 who refused to believe the medical note excusing me for a medical appointment all were quite keen on helping.
Teachers are much more than teachers. They are eyes and ears watching and listening for signs of developmental issues in children. I had several. It was pointed out to my parents that I had trouble printing and putting basic sentences together and getting me to pronounce words properly. When myself and another student needed occupational therapy to help develop our motor skills, the primary school we were attending sent a teacher to a couple of our sessions to see if they could learn anything that might enable them to spot development issues with other students. The same school organized a teacher aid to help me with my reading and writing.
With this in mind, the recent announcement by the Government of online learning smacks of two things:
- An abject contempt for teaching as a profession and the teachers who make the profession what it is
- A callous disregard for the future well being of New Zealanders
My primary concerns are that children will no longer learn how to write with pen/cil on paper, show the working for mathemical equations on paper and that forms of consent such as signatures will become electronic. Showing children how to draw charts, maps, diagrams on paper might seem antiquated but it has a basic and quite fundamental purpose as children at an early age cannot be expected to be just shown the letters of the alphabet and memorize them.
Another concern is that a proud and integral piece of New Zealand’s education system is under existential attack here. Online learning in other countries, such as the United States has failed miserably. The basics still need to be taught. Learning environments where student and teacher work together still need to exist and so do the teachers that are employed in them.