I normally keep this Blog as my medium for sharing my teaching practice, but today I'm going a bit industrial on it, because I love my profession - but enough is enough.
You may have seen some media about teachers, primary and intermediate teachers specifically, being unhappy with the Collective Agreement offer made by the Ministry of Education after the recent negotiations.
It was an insult. And it was especially insulting to the most experienced teachers like me, because I'm worth more that a 2.1-2.3% increase per year over the next three years and does not compensate for the very poor increases under the previous National led government. Teachers like me are the ones mentoring the younger teachers and holding things together.
As a result teachers have voted to strike after years of being undervalued.
When this announcement was made on the evening of Tuesday 3rd of July, naturally media covered it. And then the comments flow through.
It's kind of an unwritten rule now to not read the comments, especially the Stuff comments. But some people (not me, for once I showed restraint) couldn't help themselves.
One in particular was the wonderful lady behind the fabulous teacher resource maker, Green Grubs. She regrettably dived into the cesspool that is the Stuff comments and thankfully made it out again.
This is what she has to say on Facebook on Wednesday July 4th:
Urgh - I made the mistake of reading some comments on social media this morning in regards to our amazing kiwi teachers planning strike action, and I'm more than a little alarmed at how out of touch some people seem to be!! Maybe these commenters no longer have kids at school? Or maybe they're reflecting on their own schooling experiences from years ago? Either way, times have changed & what is now expected from teachers is not compatible with a healthy work/life balance. I've got SO much respect for our fulltime teachers also juggling family and life - a whole lot would need to change before I'd consider going back to work fulltime with a young family. So... if you're feeling out of touch with what's going on, find a teacher and talk to them about the issues they're dealing with daily! Kua tae te wā - it's time (for change) and you've got my full support
She also posted some questions in photos on her Facebook post. I'm gonna answer these in regards to myself.
I reckon on a conservative week I put in 50 hours, but on a busy week it ranges between 55-60 hours. Currently my hours at school are curtailed by it getting dark so early... So that means taking more work home with me. But I usually try to put in 2.5-3 hours after school at school and if I leave earlier than 5:00pm or 5:30pm, it is so I can get to either Warehouse Stationery, David's Emporium, a $2 Shop or the Warehouse to buy stuff for my class.
I sometimes do work before I go to school, and this is my compromise for not being the earliest teacher to school.... because I'm often the last teacher to go home as I get more done in the afternoon than the morning. I often take home marking in the evening or spend it making resources. This can range from an hour to five hours in the evening. It's not unusual for me to be up until 2 or 3:00am cutting out the activity for art the next day. At the weekend I will often go into school and spend several hours there sorting out the reading and homework. If I don't, I will be at home doing other activities for school.
In the school holidays I will do most of my planning at home. That will take about 6-8 hours. I will make resources. I will spend 1-2 days in my class making it ready. I will shop some more for my class. I often attend conferences and courses. In the April term break I went to the Pasifika Fono. Most September/October term breaks I attend the NZEI annual conference and ULearn.
I'm constantly reading and finding new ideas for what I can do in my class and with my students and building my knowledge as a teacher. C. O. N. S. T. A. N. T. L. Y.
Apart from teaching my class, there is duty. I have, currently, one morning tea duty, three half lunch duties and one road crossing duty. Everyone supervises the children eating morning tea and lunch in their own classes, so that's an extra. It means that if I'm on duty at lunch time I have 22.5 minutes to eat my lunch. Legally you are supposed to get a 30 minute lunch break under employment law, but teachers simply don't get it. Often your lunch eating time also doubles as a meeting time or dealing with a hurt student or a disruptive student.
Once upon a time I used to coach netball and rugby teams.... but quite frankly, I'm far too busy and exhausted to do that now.
I lead writing within the school. I am responsible for supporting other teachers and helping them to improve how they teach writing to enable students to improve their achievement in writing. I monitor the assessment data.
Our school was doing a staff and a team meeting each week, but after my principal attended the Rural Teaching Principals' Conference in May where they had a presentation on stress and workload experienced by principals and teachers, he came back and asked us what we could cut out of our workload. We brainstormed many ideas and have put many into action. Meetings was one such target. So now our staff meetings are one week and the team meetings are the other week. They start at 3:30pm and finish at 4:30pm (as several staff have preschool children).
Meetings with other professionals either happen after school or in my "lunchtime". I had an IEP meeting last year take up 1/3 of my CRT day last year... not really an ideal use of Classroom Release Time in my opinion.
In term one we had two nights of Parent-Teacher interviews until 8:00pm, a Meet the Teacher BBQ until 8:00pm and a Gala which I left when it was well and truly dark after 9:00pm. For our teachers those were 13-14+ hour days during and at the end of a very long, stinking hot busy week.
During term two, my team had two overnight trips between our five classes. My class and another spent the Tuesday night at the Hamilton Observatory and the next day at Hamilton Zoo, and our other three junior classes did the overnighter on the Thursday night spending the Friday at the Zoo. You are constantly on high alert.
This term we have two more nights until 8:00pm of Parent-Teacher interviews in Week 2 (a pure joy on a mid-winter night - not) and our Production in Week 4 on a Friday night. Yes, that will be my third Friday night this year at a school event. 😕
I spend far too much money on classroom resources and things for my students. And my principal would be alarmed to read what I've already spent this year on making sure my classroom programme is invigorating and the students get learning opportunities.
What do I spend it on: laminating pouches, classroom storage, books, pens, art supplies, fancy paper, glue sticks (the ones on the school office for teachers are crappy), lollipops (homework bribery), toys, games...
At The Warehouse, the checkout chick or dude often ask if I'd like to make a donation to their charity of the month. I always point out the shopping just done and explain that is my donation (yet again) to the public education system.
No. We are trying to provide the support our students need, but access to RTLBs, RTLits and Speech Language Therapists is limited by the fact that there are so many kids in need and these roles are capped by an outdated population based methodology which has yet to change. Under the National led government, how these people operated and the needs of the child were changed that meant less students were able to be picked up and the focus was on meeting National Standards rather than the needs of the child.
Also property modifications required for an ORS funded student are yet to even start, despite him starting school in October last year. The hold up appears to be in the MOE itself.
I am about to initiate my sixth reading group to met the needs of the students who are moving. My reading groups cover these reading levels: Magenta, Yellow, Blue, Green, Turquoise and a combined Purple/Curriculum Level 2 group.
I have three maths groups, but even these cover multiple levels and abilities within them, and I teach writing as a whole class and then pull out individuals and groups I want to focus on. Some of these students are independent writers that need to learn how to use paragraphs and speech marks properly... others are yet to write a sentence independently with a capital letter at the start and a full stop at the end.
The most rewarding part of my job is when I sit for a moment and soak in all the students' hard work displayed around the room and the hugs I get from children. I'm also super stoked when they click onto a new concept or do a fabulous piece of work.
The most challenging parts of my job are:
- Being fully planned and organised each day
- Getting through everything I have planned each day
- Catching up absent students on work they have missed
- The paperwork - marking, recording data, IEPs
- Fitting all the assessment into two CRT days - it's just not enough
- Difficult behaviours by students
Another teacher on NZ Teachers put up this post after also falling into the rabbit hole that is the Stuff comments:
After foolishly reading Stuff comments last night and then spending half an hour ranting to my very patient husband I have come to the realisation the people really don't get what we do. And so I think we need more than just a strike. What we need is to show people what our reality is like.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. So my idea/challenge to you, colleagues, is to harness the power of social media.
If every single teacher in the country took at least one photo a day, depicting an aspect of the job; the clock showing arrival/leaving time, the field or court where you are coaching those kids, the making of sandwiches, the phone you spent x hours on about a child ... then perhaps people would start to understand our realities.
Obviously, we need to protect our student's privacy and to make sure we are within our school's policies, but if all of us did this; principals, teachers, teacher aides, support staff ... perhaps the message would gain some momentum.
If each one of us does this between now and our strike then maybe, just maybe our nation and nation's media would have a better understanding. So what do you say teachers of New Zealand, are you with me? #itstimetounderstand #itstime #letsdothis
So here's what I did on the last Wednesday of term...
And that is fairly typical of a day in my school life.
It is now the term break, or as families call it, the school holidays. This time is not a holiday for me. It is non-contact time. Some call it mandatory sick leave, because most teachers are absolutely exhausted and sick as a dog by the last day of term (that was me at the end of term one). There are some days where I take time out, but really, it's a time when I reset in the classroom and do all the things I don't have time for during the term, including sleep ins, and activities such as:
- WOF and service for my car
- WOF and service for my body (doctor and dentist)
- I catch up with friends and whanau who think I've fallen off the face of the earth
- I make a heck of a lot of soup to go in the freezer for my school lunches
- I do my planning
- I sort out my classroom
- I do as much of my photocopying as I can and sort it into weekly folders
- a big clean up of my home
I'd also like to make it abundantly clear that I understand the current coalition government has a limited amount of funding for our settlement... but a three year term and those piddly proposed increases just do not cut the mustard. I too have bills to pay...