This was a long time coming. Prior to this strike Primary School and Intermediate School teachers and principals had not walked off the job since 1993. During the Fifth Labour Government of former Prime Minister Helen Clark, High School teachers had gone on strike in a wave of rolling strikes. The 2018i strike was an opportunity for the rest to catch up with the high schools.
No one should be surprised it has happened. Schools have undergone huge change in the last two decades. The idea that a teacher’s workload is from when the students arrive at the start of the day, through to 1500 hours, is now generally recognized as nonsense and that teachers are only half done with their working day when the students leave at the end of each day.
The workload has also diversified considerably. In 1989 a Primary School teacher was not a de facto social worker, though they were definitely trained to watch for visual or behavioural signals from students that suggest there might be problems in their lives. Statutory paper work required by law has also increased, much to the chagrin of teachers. How much of it they actually need to do and is not already covered under other laws, is questionable.
Without doubt teachers face many challenges in their careers, irrespective of which school they teach at.
We can be certain that there will always be disciplinary issues among some students, no matter how they are (not) taught discipline at school or at home – complaints about aggressive students with no understanding or respect for other people, their property or the community at large. Will the student be made to stand facing the corner of the room or will they be given a Managing Student Behaviour¹ notice, which is what my old high school often did with students who were disrupting classes.
Another big and no completely unavoidable issue is how to make sure that students are able to benefit from social media technology, whilst being safe and learning how to use their devices responsibly. Classes in my opinion should be made to surrender their cellphones at the start of each period and shall be able to collect them again afterwards. Videoing abuse is one thing, but then posting it for others to see quickly sends a message that the abused is vulnerable.
And then there are student fees. Whether it is for text books, or stationery or for activity needs the annual cost of these is considerable. Not all parents can afford to pay and therefore not surprisingly can cause a break down in the relationship between parent and teacher
So, I welcome the strike, which I think was necessary to release pent up anger and frustration with the state of the eduication system. But now that the teachers have had that opportunity to vent, it is time to go back to the negotiations table and work out a deal for all primary and intermediate school teachers and their support staff.