Striking Teachers: Win or Lose?
While a resounding cheer went up at ‘The Stadium’ when given the option of striking for two days, numerous teachers looked at each other and shook their heads. Minutes before we were told of two possible further actions, one that made no sense, and another which was striking for two days. ‘Now shout for which you want…’ Needless to say, without the clarity of thought or time to process either option, the cheer was for the less confusing option.
However, the last thing teachers need is the voice of an Auckland principal speaking for the profession like he owns the place.
His words come from a place of self imposed importance. He’s welcome to his opinion though. So we’ll just make a few notes here.
“The current collective agreement round for teachers takes us back to the 1970s, and teachers and their unions (with the approval of their members) are screwing this up very, very badly. They have already lost even if they “win”.
They have attempted to frame this as a solution to the apparent shortage of teachers. If so, they should provide researched evidence that an increase in pay will solve the problem, not anecdotes from whingeing 25-year-olds complaining about their chosen career.
If New Zealand is to avoid a genuine crisis in education provision for our young people in the near future, a few things need to happen. As a start, the bar to entry for primary school teaching needs to go much higher in terms of prerequisite qualifications in maths, science and English. Lift the entry requirements and create a genuine bar for aspiring teachers to strive for, thus lifting the intake quality and enhancing the reputation of the profession in the eyes of Kiwi families.”
– Alwyn Poole, Stuff, August 2018
Where do we start. Firstly, don’t discriminate based on age. These 25 year olds are the future teachers we’re trying to keep in the job. And if they’re complaining, you can bet your bottom dollar, the rest of us have been complaining and have given up.
Secondly, raising the bar for entry to primary school teacher training isn’t the answer. As it is, when I trained in the late 2000’s, I was required to maintain a B average across all subjects of my degree. I’ve met some very smart people, with copious degrees, who I wouldn’t want (and who wouldn’t survive) in front of a class. Similarly, I know some people who would make incredible teachers, but whom aren’t academically motivated or interested in pursuing the career because of the university requirements. Kiwi families aren’t asking for smart teachers. They just want good teachers to be the best for their kids. Aspiring teachers shouldn’t need to strive academically for the thing that they know they were born to do. Furthermore, I’m not sure anything I learned in tertiary education (in terms of my Bachelor of Arts) has ever come in useful in my Year 5/6 Primary school classroom. Just saying…
Alwyn goes on… and on…
“Teachers and their unions need to stop whingeing about their jobs. Seriously, nowhere else on the planet does a profession have 12-14 holiday weeks a year. If you have to do some work in those holidays – woolly-boolly – you still have huge choices about how you go about that while in Fiji or Bali.
Stop complaining about the greatest job in the world: working with young people for the good of their future. Have teachers even considered that the children might be just a little upset that they are regarded as a burden and a chore, and that the normal things that go with teaching require a little extra work? How on earth does all this moaning and complaining inspire the next generation into this amazing career? It doesn’t. The unions are making it embarrassing to want to be a teacher.”
Seriously? How much were you paid to say this Alwyn?
You are right… though you used the word ‘else’ incorrectly in that sentence. No where on the planet does a profession have 12-14 holiday weeks a year. Not even in teaching. Seriously. As a principal, with experience, I would have thought you’d know this. Teachers work in their holidays, constantly. They work, it’s just that they don’t have 30 children around them at the time – which is the same as a normal day of work for most New Zealanders!
Obviously principals are getting paid too much if they’re taking holidays to Fiji and Bali all the time. Not sure I’ve ever had the chance in my nine years of teaching, nor can imagine taking work with me if I did.
I guess if we all only had 15 students in our class (as is the case for Alwyn and his staff), we might not have to work as much during the holidays. That’s right… Alwyn is a principal of two charter schools in Auckland, and his schools only have 48 students and 180 students in them. Both have the same website and school logo design. Brilliant.
I mean, let’s look at other professions that might be more appealing. Doctor? Lawyer? ICT?
All of these have significant pay associated with them. The average wage for a GP is $97,000. Lawyers in large firms around $87K per annum (after four years experience). ICT is a wide field of possible jobs, but an IT Manager gets between $90-$130K each year.
In comparison, the average primary school teacher gets $56K. I continually tell people, you don’t become a teacher for the pay. Nor should you. But come on. How are you meant to suggest that anyone take that kind of pay for this kind of job, and expect words like ‘love’ and ‘passion’ to pick up the slack?
In response, this was written by Shirley Maihi, a decile 1 principal from South Auckland.
“In a column published on Stuff on Tuesday, Mt Hobson Middle School principal Alwyn Poole said in focusing negotiations on pay, teachers and unions were “screwing this up very, very badly“.
Responding to this, Maihi said the demands for a pay increase were “absolutely right”.
When teachers’ pay competed with other sectors in the past, people were attracted to the profession, she said – New Zealand needed to get back to that point.
“It’s impossible to get staff,” she said. She has been advertising for one position since November and is yet to get a single applicant. Two other vacancies also lie dormant.
This only made teachers’ lives more stressful, she said. If a class had to be split when no relievers could be found, teachers might end up with five or six extra kids in their class.
This was on top of a workload that already caused “huge mental stress”, Maihi said.
Teachers spent much of their time dealing with social issues before they could even get to delivering an education, she said.
A teacher could not expect to start the year with 25 students and see the same 25 children at the end, so a lot of time was spent resettling children and getting them ready to learn.
That’s before the extra time they spent pouring into sports, study centres and after school care, and the hours spent working in the evenings.
As for holidays, she scoffed at Poole’s suggestion that if teachers had to work in the holidays “you still have huge choices about how you go about that while in Fiji or Bali”.
“Most of my teachers are trying to pay mortgages or living expenses,” she said. “They’re not going abroad.”
For most teachers, time away from school was an opportunity for family time that was sorely missed during term time, she said.
And – yes – for work.
“‘Holidays’ – in inverted commas – are not holidays.”
Finlayson Park ran its professional development courses in the first week of mid-year holidays, and the second week was spent preparing and setting up the classroom. Teachers might have a day or two to do shopping, but that was about it, Maihi said.
Over the summer break, she encouraged staff to take four weeks away from school work.
“Most other professions get four weeks off – so do we.”
– Shirley Maihi, Stuff, August 2018
Pretty much sums it up I think. The two photos featured above speak volumes. I know which I would rather work for.