Looking at the issues behind the teachers strike


On 15 August 2018 Primary and Intermediate School teachers and principals went on strike over their pay and work conditions. Whilst there were much support for them getting a pay rise, looking back at them and having a chance to digest the feedback from others, I wonder now how support they got for addressing the conditions of their work.

1) Get a pay rise
2) Get attention focussed on the atrocious amount of other work that teachers have to do, a portion of which I simply do not believe teachers should be doing

The first aim is indisputable, though we might disagree on the pay rise happens.

It is the second one I want to focus on. The expectation that somehow they are also supposed to be part time parents, social workers, bureaucrats and jacks of all trades as well is silly. Lets get real here.

The sum of our expectations does not match the sum of what teachers can realistically expect to do. Teachers are making a 10/10 effort to meet expectations, but New Zealanders are not making a 10/10 effort to be realistic about what they can do. I think it must be soul destroying to a teacher, 100% committed to their profession, their school and their students to walk away at the end of a day and think “I screwed that up didn’t I?”.

Well, no, I doubt you screwed up anything – at least not knowing. What’s screwed up is the idea that you can do better than what you do in a teaching environment where I think there are a number of background problems.

1) Do the assessment regimes as they currently stand, actually work? You can assess a student all you want, but if the metrics that come out are goobledegook, I doubt very much when you have Teacher/Parent nights that is going to help – granted I have no idea what a school report looks like today, my high school reports in the 1990’s had three sections:

A) Curricula – where the teacher grades your performance in that area
B) Person – where the teacher notes your attendance, behaviour and whether you turned up to class in an acceptable standard
C) Commentary – self explanatory

2) Is it time to hit “reset” on our expectations of teachers, and put more responsibility back on the parent, the other social agencies – yes a teacher will see a student five days of the week, most weeks of the year and in that time they will be expected to get to know them a bit and identify behaviours,

3) Is the Education Act due for a review or overhaul – did it mandate or provide for them being all of these other things that we expect them to be? Maybe it did – I honestly have no idea what is in the Education Act 1989, but if it did not, then the time has come.

4) How much of what goes on can be put down to our addiction to social media? Would it really be too much to mandate a requirement for to hand over their phones at the start of class and only get them back a morning break and lunch time?

I think this is a conversation that we need to have as a nation, among our school communities and as parents and teachers. You could give teachers a 50% pay rise, which no doubt they would absolutely love, but if the arse is in the legislation or an aspect of teaching that cannot be sorted out by pay rises, then nothing is solved, except maybe retaining teachers is a bit easier.

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