Mr Hose was said to be a well-liked teacher; he was rated 3.8 out of a possible five on the controversial ratemyteachers.com website.
I was supposed to have a meeting at 2.00pm today, but on the way I noticed a large group of students hanging about outside after the bell for the start of last spell. Feeling like a lone police officer approaching a pack of boy racers at 1.00am I strolled over and asked the students what they were doing. Some of them tried out a variety of smart remarks, and I tried to move them on. They ignored me. I barked at them. They ignored me, and then began to make fun of me. Being made fun of by smarmy teenagers can be quite testing, but I am quite good at ignoring it these days. Another teacher came up, gave a cursory growl and then wandered off. By the time I decided to go and get some help the crowd of students had, if anything, gotten bigger.
While I was looking for help another teacher had evidently stumbled across my pack of students because they ran into the staff room and told us to get outside because there was a fight. I dutifully trundled back out to discover that things had escalated in my absence and even more students were milling around, circling the embers of a scuffle. I suppose there were six or seven teachers there by this point and perhaps 20-25 students. The most striking thing about this incident which just dragged on and on and on was that the students completely ignored all of us teachers. The warring groups continued to antagonise each other, the spectators calling out taunts and insults would not move on, or be dispersed, and more and more students seemed to gather. One of the protaganists had to physically shoved away from the scene all the while screaming at the teacher in a highly affronted way: “You can’t touch me!” Never mind that she was trying to beat someone up.
My sense of futility at the end of this was overwhelming.
I went to my meeting twenty minutes late with it all still going on. In fact the end of the meeting was interrupted by the girl who had been protesting her rights storming into our building and throwing furniture around. I went out of the meeting to make sure she wasn’t attacking our office staff, and quietly picked up the tables she had thrown over while she glowed in a red hot rage in the corner of the room, her hands balled in impotent fists (“breathe, breathe” the office lady calmly advised her).
It was without surprise that I heard on the news on the way home that a teacher had been stabbed by a thirteen year old. I am pleased that Mr. Hose is ok and wants to go back to work, and I thank NZPA for giving us his ratemyteacher score (3.8 out of 5). If he had managed a 4.2 he probably would have got off with a karate chop to the throat.
The meeting I was delayed getting to was to set up a special literacy programme to help Year 10 students who are way behind in the their reading and writing. It has taken me three weeks to try and get the thing going, and all of the teachers at the meeting have given up their time to make it happen. It represents a lot of effort on their part to take on this project for the twenty odd kids who are struggling at the bottom of the heap, and the returns will be hard earned. Whatever. It’s worth a crack. Somehow these kids haven’t really “got” reading yet, and at age fourteen this is really their last shot before NCEA. Most teachers actually do give a damn, and I am always irked by angry comments on blogs and on the radio that suggest teachers are asking for trouble in some way. Talk about a demoralising job. If the community fails to support us then we really are screwed as a profession. As it is we are barely holding the line with some parents.
On the other hand, sometimes I don’t think we do ourselves any favours. When I came home today I read this via the DimPost: an editorial in the Dominion Post entitled Teachers Need to Get Real.
There has long been a suspicion that reality stops at the door to the teachers’ staffroom. The Post Primary Teachers Association’s ludicrous claim for a 4 per cent pay rise for secondary school teachers lends credence to the theory.
The odd thing about this editorial is that while I actually agreed with its initial point, I disagreed with everything else in it. While we were having our PPTA meeting sometime last year and people were putting forward all the things they wanted for the next pay claim (the one the Dom Post is referring to), I actually thought: “we shouldn’t ask for a pay rise because the economy is stuffed”. To be perfectly frank I hate belonging to groups that decide things in meetings by a show of hands. It is has always been proof to me of how the democratic process can leave you feel unrepresented.
Anyway, after a strong start, the editorial rapidly skates out over thin ice:
The present pay structure does not allow schools to differentiate between the performance of good, indifferent and bad teachers. They are all paid on the basis of their years of service and the responsibilities they hold.
If teacher unions are as serious as they say they are about wanting to keep good teachers in schools, they should work with the Education Ministry to devise a formula that allows schools to pay great teachers what they are worth and send a message to poor teachers that they should review their career options.
Paid on the basis of how experienced they are and what responsibilities they hold? What a crazy system.
I love the line “devise a formula that allows schools to pay great teachers” in the next paragraph. It makes it sound so easy. Maybe we should use ratemyteacher.
How would you decide who the great teachers are? On student results? That sounds like a recipe for disaster; shifting our education system towards a teaching-to-the-test system. Or perhaps you have teachers evaluate each other and turn staffrooms into nasty political battle grounds. Or maybe we should make it a popularity contest with students and parents? What would it be like to teach in a school where the teachers were all paid different rates for the same job? Apparently this would be a way of giving crap teachers a big hint that they should leave. Sounds like a good system in a country where people are lining up outside the door to get a job in your profession. Teaching in New Zealand? Not so much.
It might just be that, in teaching, it really is best to pay based on experience and responsibilities.
The Dom Post editorial has one final insight to offer us on teachers,
[Some] are worth their weight in gold. It would be almost impossible to overpay them. However, there are others who go through the motions for a weekly pay cheque and a third group who are simply not up to the job.
Much like the offices of the Dom Post I imagine.
Or any workplace.
Bloody humans. If only they could all be perfect.