“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 education debates, and it’s an ill-informed, simplistic and sometimes downright rude accusation.
Let’s look at some of the claims.
“Teachers hate change.”
Let’s just think about that. Our students change all year round, and change with a BAM! at the start of each new school year. The curriculum was changed not so long ago. The Numeracy Project was brought in. Things change in education all the time – it goes with the job and teachers are used to that.
And there are lots more things teachers 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.
- They would love to change that fact that so many children come to school hungry.
- They would love to have more art, music, Te Reo and sport specialists in school teaching kids or training teachers to better teach kids.
- They would love to change the fact that they are losing their libraries and librarians.
- They would love there to be no school fees.
The list goes on.
No, teachers don’t fear change – they fear ill-thought-out, misguided change…
“Teachers think testing is the work of the devil”
Nope, not even close. Testing can be tremendously useful. National Standards, however, are not so hot.
Don’t confuse the two.
National Standards data collection is an administrative exercise using tests that teachers already do. It adds a layer of work that is unecessary for teachers and a labelling of students that can be downright harmful. Is it for parents? Not likely, since it is out of date before parents see it. Its only use is political.
What would be of more benefit than National Standards?
More professional development on testing methods to improve teachers’ testing skills, analysing and post-test-planning. And more time and resources so that all of that can be done often and in a timely fashion. Timely feedback is of huge importance.
They don’t want to prevent testing – they simply want the testing they do to be effective rather than political.
“Teachers don’t want to improve.”
Don’t be silly, of course they do. They actually like learning. It’s kind of essential in the job. Not to mention, a teacher’s job is easier, more enjoyable and more satisfying the more they learn.
Different teachers need different levels of professional development. Like any other profession, in fact. So, rather than beating up on an entire profession, would it not be better to improve access to better quality training rather than the often average or useless stuff now on offer, fund more Masters courses, allow for more mentoring and so on?
Why not ensure all teachers know at least the basics about dyslexia, ADD, autism, Aspergers, behavioural problems, non-English speaking students, and dealing with distressed and abused children.
Instead of the almost daily bashing, why not do something productive to bring about more positive change?
“Teachers don’t want choice.”
Actually, no. Teachers know there is room for choice and that it’s a good thing. They know that no one system fits all. Which is why, in New Zealand, we already have Special Character 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.
No, it’s not choice teachers fear – it’s poor choices.
For example, overall, after 20 years, US charter schools are now just about on a par with public schools. So money has been diverted, schools pitted against each other, many public schools closed, and for what? To take two decades for charters to improve enough to now match public schools? Was all that disruption really worth it jusy to reach the status quo.
Forgive me if I don’t see that as an excellent plan.
“Teachers don’t want anyone in schools unless they have a teaching qualification.”
Yes they do. They already have them!
The system is already in place to allow for teachers without formal teaching qualification to work in our schools under the Limited Authority to Teach (LAT) where the applicant shows they have expertise in the area in which they will teach. I know first-hand one rather fabulous art teacher working under this very scheme, and there are many others.
In addition to LAT, schools up and down the country have speakers in, experts taking workshops, and so on. In just a couple of weeks’ relief teaching in one school I saw an awesome presentation about protecting our sea life and a published cartoonist who ran rippingly inspiring art workshops for every child in the school. And the Dream Team has been welcomed by schools throughout New Zealand just this month.
Embracing experts is one of the things schools do brilliantly. But that is not the same as allowing some schools to have classroom teachers with no experience, no qualifications, and no provent expertise.
A change for the better
Isn’t it time to stop making sweeping judgements about a whole profession?
Improvement is the goal. And the only way to get that is for all of us to share ideas and listen to each other.
Read up, ask questions, look into what is already available in NZ, find out what is working (or not) here and elsewhere, talk to kids, talk to teachers, question politicians, then mull it all over and help identify changes that really will help make positive change.
That’s surely, in the end, what we all want?
Adapted from an article I first published in October 2012.