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Class Sizes, Resignations, Special Education, Teachers' Own Words

Why I left the classroom and won’t go back (yet), by Sarah Aiono

I left the classroom after deciding I simply couldn’t be the teacher I wanted to be.

In front of 32 Year 2 students (5 and 6 year olds) in a school in South Auckland I became more and more frustrated at the lack of time I had to connect with my students on an individual basis. Despite the enormous hours I was putting in, I was not satisfied in any way with the quality of my instruction I was able to deliver.

H20140713-084836-31716449.jpgekia and her gang will argue that it is quality of teacher instruction not quantity of students in the room that lifts student achievement. As a quality teacher (or so I’ve been told) I am incredibly offended by this moot.

My last classroom consisted of 32 Year 2 students from some of the most challenging socio-economic backgrounds. Over 3/4 of my class arrived in front of me operating at a pre-emergent literacy and numeracy level (operating below 5 years of age).

As a quality teacher, my programme adapted swiftly and often to meet the needs of my students. I taught to their level and at the time (fortunately) I did not have today’s pressure of meeting a national standard of achievement. I used my data gathered to address learning gaps and to respond to student interest all the while meeting the national curriculum objectives.

I worked on weekends, holidays and late nights in order to be very prepared, thus freeing me up to spend time building relationships with my students.

I had children with significant learning and behaviour needs, supported by RTLB.

I had children regularly involved with counselling services. I had children reintegrating from withdrawn programmes and residential schools.

I made sandwiches for my kids who regularly didn’t have lunch. (This became more covert when the Principal banned staff from doing this).

I also worked as an associate teacher, guiding a provisionally registered teacher in her first year of service.

I ran before-school alphabet groups and basic word revision.

In summary, I worked my butt off.

And yet I felt a sense of dissatisfaction at my ability to reach those children in my class that needed even just a little more of my time. I found there were days in my classroom where it felt like I was directing traffic. I had to work hard consciously to connect with every child every day. If I didn’t, I could easily have passed over an ‘invisible’ child in the day.

There could have been children in my class, who, apart from roll call, could have not had a single individual conversation with their teacher that day.

And yet Hekia says the amount of students in a classroom has no bearing on lifting achievement.

Cle20140713-084815-31695665.jpgarly I was misguided and misinformed. I was obviously not of the quality Hekia wants in her classrooms, as I couldn’t ‘fix’ all the issues before me.

While I chipped away at learning levels, lifting my students from pre-emergent through to 6 months below, I settled for providing my students with a fun and safe environment from 9am to 3pm. For many of these students that took precedent.

My level of dissatisfaction grew to the point where I decided I couldn’t work in these classrooms any longer. For me to work in a smaller classroom setting, I would need to look up the decile rankings and even into the private providers to achieve this.

But this was not attractive in the sense that I enjoyed working with children in the lower decile schools. So I left the classroom altogether.

For me to be the quality teacher I wanted to be I needed the quantity of students in front of me to be less. It really was that simple. Fewer students gave me the ability to do my job even better.

So I left the classroom.

Every year I feel the pull back. I long to have ‘my kids’ again. To enjoy being in front of children, exploring, investigating and imparting knowledge as a year-long journey.

And every year I decide I simply could not teach the way I would enjoy in the current education environment. I would rage against a system instead of working happily within it.

Perhaps next year?

~ by Sarah Aiono, first published on her blog, Cheeky Kids.

Sarah Aiono holds a B.Ed (Dip Tchg), PGd.Dip.Ed (Dist) and a Master of Education and has worked for over ten years with children exhibiting challenging behaviour. She is an Accredited Incredible Years Facilitator and Peer Coach. She is currently employed as a Resource Teacher of Learning and Behaviour and is a Company Director for Little Ninjas Ltd, a service for parents and teachers in understanding children who work outside the ‘square’. 

About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Why I left the classroom and won’t go back (yet), by Sarah Aiono

  1. Very insightful! Thanks for sharing

    Like

    Posted by deawehbenson | October 22, 2014, 2:03 pm
  2. Thanks for writing my story. I have also left the profession in a full time capacity.

    Like

    Posted by sandyverygood | October 22, 2014, 8:38 pm
  3. I was an NZ teacher. I now work at QSI International, Phuket. The 5 & 6 blend class has 11 students, and a teacher aide with them all morning. That is the biggest elementary class. I teacher from 5 years right through to 16. My biggest class has 16 students. We have behavior issues,of course. We have a lot of ESOL students, four of my classes are intensive English. Their English for the most part is better than that of many NZ kids entering school. So many problems and issues in NZ, so very very hard to teach there. I am glad to see your story posted and am sharing it.

    Like

    Posted by Penelope | October 23, 2014, 8:42 pm

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