“Oh you teachers, you just want everything to stay the same – what’s wrong with choice? Bloody teachers. Typical that they don’t want testing – trying to hide that they’re all useless. What about our poor kids? Gnash gnash.”
That’s what I hear, in various forms, over and over again in the debate about charter schools, and it’s an ill-informed, simplistic and sometimes downright rude accusation against a profession that cares deeply for the education and well-being of children.
Let me just be clear about something:
Teachers do not fear change – they embrace it.
Teachers do not object to choice – they love it.
Teachers do not fear professional development – they want to up-skill.
Teachers do not oppose testing children – they test regularly and value how it helps them plan how to move kids forward.
What teachers object to is change that is wrong. Change that will not help kids or that will help a small handful at the cost to many, many more.
Let’s look at some of the claims.
Testing Is The Work Of The Devil
Nope, not even close. Testing can be fabulous. National Standards, however, are not so hot. Don’t confuse the two. National Standards data is out of date before parents see it. It doesn’t tell them or anyone about how children are progressing. It has no reference to value-added at all.
What would be of more benefit than National Standards?
- More time and resources to do classroom testing and plan from it so it is immediate and current and is used for each child to move forward right now. Timely feedback is very important.
- More training on testing methods so all teachers understand what good testing and quality analysis look like.
In other words, we want any testing we do to be effective and useful, and help children progress.
Teachers Are Useless and Don’t Want To Improve
If you believe this, you don’t know many teachers. Some are brilliant, some are great, some are good, and a few could do with improving. Like any other profession, in fact. Rather than beating up on an entire profession, would it not be better to add to the opportunities for professional development, fund more Masters courses, allow for more mentoring and so on? Make sure teacher training courses are to a very high standard and are teaching trainees about different methods of pedagogy, know in detail about how children learn and the stages they generally pass through, know in detail about dyslexia, ADD, autism, Aspergers, behavioural problems, TESOL, and dealing with distressed children. Teachers do a great job and we want to do even better – bizarrely, we rather like learning, and funnily enough we want to do our very best for our kids.
Teachers Don’t Want Choice – Same Schools For Everyone
Actually, no. We all know there is room for choice and that it’s a good thing. We know that no one system fits all. Which is why, in New Zealand, we already have Special Character schools, Steiner Schools, home schooling, private schools, bilingual schools, correspondence school, Te kura kaupapa Maori, State integrated schools, special schools, Health Units, and teen parent units, single sex schools, day schools, and boarding schools.  I really can’t see why another choice is needed. Anything that charters are deemed to be doing fabulously can be justified and then rolled out into the school system we have.
…And They Don’t Even Want Experts, Just Because They Don’t Have a Teaching Qualification!
Yes we do. We already have them! We already allow for experts or teachers without formal teaching qualification to work in our schools under the Limited Authority to Teach. It’s not the case that we don’t want anyone at all without a teaching degree, more that we don’t want people with no teaching degree and no experience and no expertise, but cheap – which is what can happen.
For The Love Of All Things Holy, Please Don’t Let Things Change
… said no teacher ever.
There are lots of things we would love to change. Off the top of my head:
- What about employing more admin staff and assistants so that teachers can spend more time on the educational stuff and less time printing, putting displays up, putting readers back and getting the next lot, and so on.
- Have more teacher aides, and a system for them to get qualifications and training, so that special needs children have more support.
- We would love to change that fact that so many children come to school hungry.
- We would love to change the fact that many kids don’t even have decent stationery – and I am not just talking low decile schools here.
- We would love more brilliant resources like the Numeracy Project.
- We would love to have more art, music, Te Reo and sport specialists in school teaching kids or teaching us to teach kids.
- We would love to change the fact that we are losing our libraries and librarians.
- We would love there to be no school fees.
The list goes on. (Please feel free to add more. in the comments below.)
So What Is All The Harrumphing About, Then?
It’s not choice people are arguing against, it’s the addition of a choice that will either do nothing or little to help, or prove more detrimental than good.  Our children are not a commodity to be traded with, and nor is their education.
You may not agree with the fight against charter schools, but be sure of one thing – we want to improve things.
It’s not change we fear – it’s negative change.
Teachers, parents, children, and all interested parties, the only way to progress our system is for all of us to research, query and learn, and for us to share ideas and listen to each other. So read up, ask questions, look into what is already available in NZ, find out what is working elsewhere, talk to kids, ask questions of teachers and politicians, and help identify changes that really will help progress our children further and faster.
Let’s Work Together To Improve and Progress.
That’s surely what we all want?
References and further reading: