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Education, Education policies, Education Unions, Effecting Change, GERM (Global Education Reform Movement), New Zealand, NZEI, PPTA, Teachers' Own Words

“I love teaching, but…” Asking are the unions doing enough to fight poor reforms?

A teacher writes:

I love teaching, I love the spark in the eyes of the learners, I love to challenge myself and the kids to achieve the best they can.

I try supporting my colleagues as best as I can, I try hard to be the Teacher I wanted my kids to have. I am not perfect, but I extend myself, I learn, I try to take on board new ideas and new ways forward. I try hard to have an open mind.

I work in a supportive environment, with kind and wonderful people. I am not unhappy in my job.

I am saying that before I write the following because I want to make it clear I am not negative about education. I think there are amazing people out there, I think there is some, new and amazing stuff going on and I want to be a part of it, but…

This week I was at a union meeting again, and again I left angry and disappointed.

Not for myself, but for our students.

The real issues, are being swept under the mat.

The agreement we were presented with was toothless, there were some small steps, actually tiny steps.

The Rep was keen to point out the gains-the small victories, I feel the negotiating team no doubt had a hard job getting any sort of agreement in the current climate. The issue though is increasingly that we are presented with information and told to accept it, that there is no alternative.

ID-10067205.jpgBeing told that we would be ‘hauled back’ (words of the rep) to more meetings if we didn’t agree to the settlement – sounded like a threat. As did ‘we will lose the back pay if it is not passed immediately’.

To be honest, if their was an alternative-such as fighting for the rights of students, I would gladly give up the pay.

Being told the one day in 2017, was a bargaining chip for further improvements in terms of release time, will be no good to the increasing number of teachers suffering from physical symptoms of stress now. There is not another day in 2018. This is a stepping stone we were told to help further negotiation in the next round. I have a feeling, many of my colleagues in the room may have left the profession by then.

Where is the union’s responsibility to protect its members from undue stress and workload?

So when do we fight the real issues, the reduction of the Teachers in Early Childhood, measuring kids in core subjects before they have truly settled into school, setting unrealistic targets, manipulating funding to make it look like an increase, when in real terms it is a reduction.

Increasing the paper workload due to the nature of the changes and expectations, but not giving teachers time to do this.

Teachers who are so exhausted and stressed they are breaking down. How many high quality teachers will we lose as they burn out? How many have lost the passion they had?

I would gladly forgo pay increases to secure release time benefits for our Teachers and Senior Staff to protect their health.

I would again give back pay increases, to see clear provision of professional development that schools can afford in areas that they need, or that enhance expertise in areas beyond the ‘core’.
I would give back the small ‘gains’ we secured to see my colleagues able to cope again.

Sorry for the rant.

We need the Union to stand up for us and our students and be prepared to help us get the parents on side. It looks as if our union has lost its teeth.

Unions are so important; they need to represent and present, galvanise support and be prepared to go the distance.

The whole point of paid union meetings being in school time was to acknowledge that Teachers needed time to discuss issues in an open forum.

We now have these in our non contact time as a norm. We do not want to disrupt our pupils and their families, but our time is very precious too and it is time we use to support the learning of the students.

A meeting should be about discussion and a level presentation of the alternative to accepting the agreement, and a chance to validate how we are feeling.

I resent being stood over as I consider my vote and being asked for it before I was ready; there was an assumption that there was nothing to consider.

Teachers are too tired to fight, they can barely meet the demands of their jobs. In 10 years of teaching in New Zealand and after 27 years in the profession I love, I am seeing more newly qualified Teachers become disillusioned after a few years, and excellent high quality teachers considering their future in the profession.

Teacher Burnout is a huge issue. The union needs to study it, help us present evidence, and to assist the fight to stop it.

Sorry for the rant. Frustrated.”

What are your thoughts?

~ Dianne

Notes: Original post shared with the author’s permission;¬†Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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


One thought on ““I love teaching, but…” Asking are the unions doing enough to fight poor reforms?

  1. After around 7 years on the National Exec of NZEI I often found that our executive were often quite keen to initiate action to drive things forward, but the union isn’t led from the top. We always had to get a mandate from our membership for any industrial action. This was our strength when we stood strong because the Government knew that if we said industrial action was a possibility then we did have a mandate and it was a real threat. It was also a weakness if the membership did not fully support strong industrial action. I helped lead some meetings where there were small numbers of vocal teachers wanting action, but the majority were reluctant.

    When our National President was part of Hekia’s Advisory Group, she wanted decisions to be agreed to by our leadership without consulting our membership, but we made it clear that was not how we did things as a professional and industrial organisation. Withdrawing from these groups when our views were not being listened to was also a powerful message when supported by the membership.

    To suggest our union isn’t strong enough must reflect on the whole profession and our members. We must also remember the early implementation of National Standards when the Government threatened to sack principals and boards who defied the law. It put schools and boards in an impossible situation where a sacking was indeed possible, and then who would protect our children from the worst elements of the policy? Most schools backed down in the interests of their kids.

    The difficulty is that this Government and its Ministers are actually quite ruthless about what they do and do not actually care that much about kids. Teachers when pushed will generally act in the best interests of the children at the time and it has often meant swallowing a dead rat or two along the way, are weakness is that we care.

    We must also remember that in terms of the neo-liberal GERM invasion, New Zealand has got off far more lightly than most. National Standards isn’t quite National Testing, we still only have a handful of Charter Schools and we successfully fought the policy to increase class sizes.

    This Government never gives up and now it looks like a different form of bulk funding is being proposed…many countries already have this as their ‘normal’.

    We possibly could have done better as a union but I actually think we have been very smart, we have minimised the damage and kept our communities on side (we are well above politicians as a most trusted profession). I think every effort from now on should be around changing the Government in 2017, that will be by far the easiest way of reversing the damage and putting public education on the right track again.


    Posted by Dave Kennedy | June 27, 2016, 8:39 pm

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