Celebrating teachers

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A coalition of the unwilling, by Prof. Martin Thrupp

Speech to World Educators’ Day Rally, Garden Place, Hamilton, Saturday 29 October 2016 

Prof Martin ThruppKia ora koutou, thank you for being here this morning.

Today we celebrate and thank teachers, and we thank those who provide leadership and those who provide support at every level of our education system.

And we also thank all of you who help and support our educators here in Aotearoa as spouses and partners, family and friends, parents and children.

I think it can be a good job being a teacher or working in education, it can be satisfying and you can often make a difference. But working in education is rarely straightforward and it is very busy and sometimes exhausting.  

Teachers and schools get blamed for a lot, and most of it is unfair. I have written quite a few books and articles about this problem, it’s what I call the ‘politics of blame’.

I heard Mike Hosking say on TV during the week that the regions including the Waikato are surging ahead, we are ‘on fire at the moment…doing brillantly’ he said. Well that’s one view of it.

But actually this is also a region where many people are struggling. I’ve become involved in Poverty Action Waikato, they put out a report recently and it’s such a shocking read.

And I know that if it wasn’t for the very good caring and teaching work being done in the sector then many children and young people and their whanau would struggle even more.

Did you know that the latest round of PISA test results organised by the OECD will come out on 6th December? That’s the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) run by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It’s when the education systems of 72 countries and regional economies within large countries get ranked against each other.

I don’t know where New Zealand will come in the rankings this time. But I do know that if we do well the Government will happily take the credit! If we don’t do well then you teachers will get the blame!

Last time we did badly and Hekia Parata was asked if she would resign. And now she is going to resign. Maybe she knows something about the PISA results coming out in December that the rest of us don’t yet.

The Minister, Hurricane Hekia, that was what the Herald called her, she does have a forceful manner and she can also be very charming. But mostly I think she is on a hiding to nothing because this Government doesn’t want to put more money into public education than it absolutely has to.

The budget this year had overall education spending forecast to stay about the same through to 2020, that means it is falling as a share of GDP and on a per student basis.

Actually, this Government doesn’t want to put more spending into any social or public spending than it really has to which is mainly to meet its promises around superannuation. It’s why poor people in this country are no longer falling through the cracks, they are falling through gaping holes.

A lot of us are here because of concerns about education funding. The problems are complicated because it’s a mixture of under-funding and of spending good money on policies and interventions that are not helping.

But I think the NZEI and PPTA are right to think that the global budget idea is a case of ‘secret plans and clever tricks’. Because once you move away from national scales for pay and the operations grant, the Government can put an even stronger cap on educational spending.

It can wash its hands of class sizes, the casualisation of the workforce and the real needs within the system in terms of operational funding.

Then there is the social investment approach to funding. It is very much about trying an intervention, measuring it, and discarding it quite quickly if it doesn’t work in order to try something else.

Unfortunately education interventions rarely make so much difference or so quickly and there is a great likelihood of useful programmes being thrown away before they have really had a chance to work.

The social investment approach also puts great weight on the significance of specific indicators like having a parent in prison, it’s less about the general context of deprivation or poverty.

But while Hekia Parata says that socio-economic factors are often overstated in education I think they are more usually understated. It’s that politics of blame again.

What I’m most worried about in education is that we will look back on these Key Government years as the period where privatisation of our public education system really took off.

The period when public education was run down.

The period when public education got dismantled.

The period when we let down not just our generation but generations to come.

I can see a hollowing out of educational processes happening all over the sector whether we talk about professional learning and development, professional resources, educational research, teacher education, curriculum coverage, special education or support for leadership.

In fact where New Zealand education is not in decline it is often because educators are working against the grain of policy rather than being supported by it.

But I also believe that when people look back on this period in our nation’s history, teachers will come out of it quite well. This week I was looking again at the campaign against National Standards, it would have to be one of the most impressive campaigns against any education policy to be found internationally in recent years.

And you might say it didn’t work but it many ways it did work, it raised questions about the National Standards and stopped them from being used to do some of the political work that was hoped for.

But it’s still a challenge we all have, recognising the neo-liberal framing up of our outlook and not losing our capacity to think and to care.  If you get a chance go to Finland, I’ve just been there and it’s a real eye-opener about how things could be different – and better.

But even Finland has some global neo-liberal pressures coming on it through that OECD. Last year Helsinki, the capital of Finland, hosted the OECD’s first Global Education Industry Summit.

The aim was to establish a dialogue between ministers of education and the global education industry. And really it is about privatisation, about public education being opened up to the private sector more and more.

Hekia Parata went to that conference last year and she went to the second summit in Israel this year. And when Hekia did her speech in Israel she talked about building a coalition of the willing back here in New Zealand.

You can see where I am going with this.

When it comes to the privatisation of education, I want New Zealand educators to form a coalition of the unwilling. I want you to be unenthusiastic, hesitant, dragging of your feet and generally difficult. I want you to show only token interest and to be the last cab off the rank and not the first one.

Because it was Helen Kelly’s big farewell ceremony in Wellington yesterday and we are not all going to be as brave and as strong and as outspoken as Helen was. But what we can do is join together, PPTA, NZEI and our many friends and supporters who care about public education and form a coalition of the unwilling.

Martin Thrupp 

NZ Mood of the Nation Review: Education

New Zealanders are generally confident and happy with their teachers and schools, confirms the annual Mood of the Nation Review.

well-done-starTeachers came 4th in the occupational respect ratings,with doctors, nurses and the police in the top 3 spots.

NZEI report that “[p]ublic confidence in primary schools increased by 4 percent in 2015, with 69 percent of those surveyed expressing a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence.” Only GPs topped that rating.

This is excellent, and shows again that Kiwis feel teachers and schools are doing a great job.

However, it’s not all good news:

Asked to look ahead 10 years, New Zealanders were not as positive as in 2014…

The biggest fall was for education which had been trending upwards. The number expecting education to improve over a ten year time frame fell from 43% to 35%.

People are concerned that education is going to go downhill. They are not confident that the policies in place are moving education in the right direction. Why not, I wonder.

It might pay for academics, teachers unions and the Education Ministry to investigate this further and find out what is concerning parents.

Right now, we have people’s confidence – together we must ensure we keep it.



Teachers need to be thanked more than criticised

by Martin Thrupp

This week I went with my son to his parent-teacher interviews. As a Year 13 student, one of the oldest at the school now, he didn’t really want me there anymore. But I insisted because it wasn’t all about him.

thank you teachersI was mainly there to thank the teachers at his state secondary school and I sought out the principal and thanked that person too. This school has taught two of my children, very different sorts of kids, and done it well. Sincerely thanking the teachers was the least I could do.

I hear the frustrations of Anela Pritchard, the Year 10 student who wrote a hard-hitting speech about teachers and then posted it on Facebook. But many of her points can be related back to the policy environment that teachers are having to grapple with.

Teachers are certainly ‘paid to teach’ and like many professionals they have mortgages to pay. But this doesn’t really capture their motives or commitments. In fact getting an education is not at all like buying groceries. There’s a relationship that has to be invested in by all concerned. Nor are the gains made always immediately obvious.

Many recent criticisms of teachers and schools seem intended to undermine the education system. They are often related to the privatisation agenda that has become obvious under this Government.

Look at the way Minister of Education Hekia Parata chose to launch a recent report criticising the teaching of school mathematics. It was published by the right-wing think-tank ‘The New Zealand Initiative’. On the other hand she quickly dismissed my research on the National Standards on the grounds it had been funded by the NZEI. Any contradiction here Minister?

There have also been complaints that the NZEI and PPTA have hijacked the Government’s ‘Investing in Educational Success’ reform. This implies that teachers are being misled by their unions. But the distinction doesn’t hold up. Most teachers are union members and those I meet at union events tend to be much like the people I meet in schools wherever I go.

Although it would be nice to think that the public would defend their teachers, many don’t have the time or inclination to dig deeper than the rhetoric of policy. It can be easy to criticise teachers – we have all had some – but teachers can’t be expected to address all of society’s problems.

There is a very real risk that too much public criticism will end up killing off the goodwill and commitment within the system and of those thinking of going teaching. If teacher supply becomes a problem we will soon see the sting go out of the comments!

Without the mainly good work being done daily in our public education system, many more New Zealand children and families would face educational and social difficulties. There are always improvements that can be made but we will achieve much more with honey than with vinegar.

I thought the teachers at my son’s school looked tired. This winter term has been a long one. I hope all teachers and their students have a good holiday.

~ Martin Thrupp is Professor of Education at the University of Waikato

Teaching – why do I bother?

Over the past few months, many people have asked me why I would even consider going back to teaching next year. Quite a few friends have suggested I should get into politics instead, some have sent me details about jobs in social media, and one or two have asked whether I might want to expand the tutoring I do. Repeatedly, I am reminded by them that teaching is “full on” and that I’ll be “done in” – best do something else, they kindly suggest.

What I have to explain is that although they are right, I love my job.

I am a teacher.

While at home raising my own child, I am a teacher.

Doing the shopping, I’m a teacher.

In the library, I’m a teacher.

At dinner parties, I’m a teacher.

Watching the news, reading the papers, on Facebook or Twitter, I’m first and foremost a teacher.

It is everything that I am and all I want to be.

The politics is important, of course. Keeping an eye on government policy, attending select committee meetings, meeting with experts, discussing ideas with others, running SOSNZ, sharing information – all of that matters a great deal.

And yes, in teaching, the hours of paperwork, the planning, the endless policy changes, the meetings, the scant professional development on offer – all of that can be frustrating.

But I’ll take it on the chin, because nothing compares to teaching.

Being able to help a child find their skills, grow in confidence, appreciate others’ talents, set their own goals, share their knowledge, and grow as a person is an honour above all others and is just magical.  That moment when a child realises they can do the very thing they thought was beyond them – that look – that triumph – what reward could top that?  Being there for the child who is feeling down or sick or a little lost, and being a caring and reliable adult for them, is a privilege. Working with parents, together, with the child at the centre is great.

And once I’m in my classroom, all that matter are the students. We are a family, a team. And boy, do we have fun! I learn, they learn – we go on magical journeys.

Just writing this, I am grinning.

So next time someone asks me why I bother teaching, I will tell them: Because it is all that I am, and I love it.

~ Dianne

Teacher Proud

uLearn: Navigating our own course, by Roz S-P

ulearnThe buffet is emptied, the dropped feathers from the gala dinner have been swept up and the delegates have left uLearn14 which, if you have anything to do with education on social media, will have swamped your feeds over the last few days.

It’s a riotous mixture of TED-esque keynotes from experts flown in from around the world, traders offering the latest gadgets most schools can only dream of, and workshops where teachers share what’s happening in their classrooms, schools, and communities. It’s exhausting, inspiring and infuriating.

The overwhelming realisation from the conference is just how dedicated to teaching the delegates were. Roughly 1700 of us, mainly from the primary sector, giving up three days of hard-earned holiday time to travel hundreds of miles to talk shop almost solidly. One delegate I spoke to had crowdfunded her ticket (which were not cheap I can tell you) so that she could come.

All the talk was of how to change how we teach so that all our students can learn better. Twitter was absolutely astounding during the keynotes, as hundreds of professionals listened to the speaker whilst hotly debating the presentation in real time. It was a glorious example of what I imagine most parents like to think their kids’ teachers are. Computer literate, innovative, questioning, keen to improve on what they do, driven by the need for kids to learn, not for boxes to be ticked.

As a high school teacher I was blown away by what’s happening in the primary sector. It’s easy to become seduced into thinking that the “real” or “hard” learning is happening at the top end, when in actual fact the work done with kids as young as five is groundbreaking. The challenge even went out to us from @chrisclaynz at MindLab, that even though we have NCEA, why are we teaching year 9 and 10 as though they have exams? There was a lot for me to take away, a lot to think about and work on.

It amazes me that there is so much out there for teachers at all levels. The Virtual Learning Network, Pond, Mindlab, to name just three. Ways for teachers to share, connect, collaborate. There was a well-attended workshop on how to sneakily fit in professional development into your spare time, which should speak volumes for the dedication of our teachers. It truly feels like we’re in the midst of a silent revolution in education.

It’s infuriating to me though, that despite all the innovative ideas that I saw, all the challenges to change up how we teach and encourage learning, that the people who needed to really see that weren’t in the room. The ministers who think that teachers are entrenched in how they’ve always done things and care more for “long holidays and high pay” (ha!) than creating a better learning environment weren’t listening to the hot debate on twitter over whether Universal Design for Learning represents a breakthrough in teaching or if it’s just the NZC and differentiation in a new hat, or the discussions about how to shoehorn 30 kids into an IT lab that has 10 working computers.

The people who cling to the notion that the only way to assess understanding is three hours of sitting in silence, handwriting a regurgitation of facts, weren’t there to hear about how social media is linking classrooms around the world, about teachers using crowdsourcing to buy 3D printers and teaching programming and stuff that you just can’t package up into Achieved, Merit, Excellence. The teachers weren’t all bright young things in high-decile, well-resourced schools, or parachuting in from charter schools or TeachFirst, they represented a cross section of every type of teacher and school that exists in our country and we are hungry to develop, to improve, to do better for our kids.

It would be wonderful if that dedication was recognised, instead of ignored in the face of more national standards and suggestions that we are letting our kids down (thanks, Hekia!). uLearn gave us a glimpse of what education would look like if teachers were at the helm, not banished below decks. Imagine what we could do if we could chart our own course.

~ by Roz S-P.  Follow Roz on Twitter here.


Thank you, teachers, thank you

Celebrating great teachers on World Teachers’ Day and every day.

Teacher - Ms Dixon

Thank you, teachers 20141003_185905

Teacher - Mr Dreaver Teacher - Mr Caine

Teacher - Hulme Metcalfe

Teacher - Miss Williams Teacher - Mr Nock

Teacher - Mrs WyattTeacher - Donna Teacher - Mr Simpson

 Teacher - Marama 4

Teacher - Marama 3

Teacher - Carman

A call for World Teachers’ Day thank you selfies

Here at SOSNZ we love to celebrate teachers every day, but if UNESCO are going to give us a special day worldwide then we’re all for that, too!

To celebrate the great teachers in New Zealand and worldwide, SOSNZ is encouraging people to take and send in “Thank You #teacher” selfies like these:


20141003_124820   20141003_124903

 Teacher - Mr Ross

Please send your selfies to me (Dianne) at or message them to me on the Facebook page.

I will add your selfies to the World Teacher Day album on Facebook and share some on here and Twitter on Sunday.

For people who want a basic poster to write on, I’ve done a basic pdf to print off and use, which is here World Teachers’ Day Thank you proforma

Let’s tell teachers everywhere that we appreciate all they do.

Here’s a bit about the Day, from UNESCO’s web page:

“World Teachers’ Day held annually on 5 October is a UNESCO initiative, a day devoted to appreciating, assessing, and improving the educators of the world. The real point is to provide a time to look at and address issues pertaining to teachers. Strangely one of the most central, vital professionals to society does not receive the respect it deserves in some parts of the world.”

“Everyone can help by celebrating the profession, by generating awareness about teacher issues, by ensuring that teacher respect is part of the natural order of things. Take the opportunity of the day to discuss, compare, learn, argue, share and improve.”

“Partners all over the world celebrate and organize events for WTD, you can contact UNESCO ( to find out who may be organizing an event near you or organize your own local event next World Teachers’ Day 5 October.”

Now go take that selfie and send it in!

~ Dianne

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