I went to a union meeting yesterday. I’m not working at the moment, but wanted to know more about what is being discussed and how teachers on the ground are feeling, so off I trundled. I must say, I was so taken aback by some of what I heard that I came home and fell asleep for most of the night, shocked into stupor.
The first shock was when we were asked to quickly list with others on our tables what is going on in education at the moment. As I didn’t know anyone and was there to listen more than speak, I waited. There was a pregnant pause, then one someone quietly said:
“Well, nothing’s going on in education at the moment, is it …. because it’s an election year and they want to stay safe.”
Stunned, I paused to see what others thought…
“There’s performance pay,” said one.
“No, she was misquoted,” someone replied.
… and still I stayed quiet. (It was killing me, but I needed to listen not talk).
And that was it.
There seemed to be more talk at other tables, so this may not be representative, but it still made me want to cry.
I just kept thinking, is this really all the knowledge, interest and passion this group of 7 teachers has between them about their own profession? Do they truly not know any more than that, or do they not care? How on earth do we get them to care?
If there had been a bar, I’d have turned to drink.
A better list (but not the whole list)
Luckily, when the rep went around the room asking what people had identified, the list was long and people sounded more outraged by it all. Not all, but many seemed frustrated.
Between them, this smallish group of about 60 teachers listed National Standards, charter schools, PaCT, charter schools, the killing off of the Teachers Council, performance pay, decile ratings, funding of schools, change principals and the $359 for new roles.
The teacher that had said nothing much was happening in education was nodding – she had known about all of those things at the back of her mind.
Hekia’s school propaganda tour 2014
The meeting went on. Performance pay was mentioned again. Two lots of teachers said they had asked Hekia Parata face-to-face when she had visited their schools in the past couple of weeks whether she was considering performance pay and Hekia had responded that she was misquoted and not to believe all they read.
This is when my cork popped. Performance pay, I pointed out, is something Hekia Parata has talked about since 2012 and they should perhaps not believe all they hear from the Minister either.
People looked a bit stunned. They had fronted up and asked the Minister first hand whether she was considering performance pay and they felt she had said no it wasn’t.
But, I asked, did she say it was OFF the table or merely say she was misquoted? And di they teachers realise she has been mooting performance pay since 2012?
The teachers were now confused as they had felt they had gotten an answer from the horse’s mouth and now it seemed maybe not. They asked the rep to ask the union to ask the Minister for clarification – is there to be performance pay or not?
No point, I mused inwardly. Because this is how she answers straightforward questions about performance pay (and anything else, in fact):
On the meeting went… and the horrors unveiled later are best saved for another post…
Meanwhile, concerned teachers and whanua reading this, you have colleagues, friends and family who believe nothing much is happening in education. Maybe you need to start some conversations to counter that belief, before it’s too late.
Further reading on Hekia’s performance pay stance: