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I’m worried. I’m terrified. I’m striking for our future.

I’ve never gone on strike before.

It’s a really big decision for me to make. My decision is totally based on personal experience: what I see and what I hear. I’m terrified because at my age (let’s be honest, mid 40s), I’m a young a teacher. Mid-50s is the average age of secondary teachers in NZ; so who, I ask, is going to teach our year 1 & 2s when they reach secondary?


There aren’t going to be many left.

The next ten years will see 45% of the current teaching population retire and within another 5 years, many, many more will leave. Retention is literally not happening. People are over-worked, over-whelmed and escaping to different occupations.

21 years ago, when I first started, it mattered to actually teach. It mattered to ensure everyone behaved and learners learnt. Most importantly, there were 2/3 special needs learners in each year level that took some focus. Now I spend sooo much time dealing with the 2/3 learners in each of my four classes who require 100% of my attention 100% of my time. What about the other 28 learners?

What about the time I spend coaching confidence, feeding assurance and worrying about mental stability, strength and of course their choices in life? Sounds silly, but going home and fretting about whether or not that learner has made it through the night due personal circumstances is terrifying but not uncommon.

Worrying about their home life or their mental stability is a common norm. And let’s face it, in little old NZ you don’t get help unless you’re half an inch off the bottom of the cliff; you’ve already well fallen.

I often go through my desk looking for cash to give learners for food. They literally come in hungry. Often. Ironically, after the tender-loving care (and I can not be as blunt/honest as I’d like), there’s the level of accountability to account for… I am expected to have my learners achieve. But how can one do that with learners who don’t turn up to class? Yet it looks bad on us, as teachers. We are not doing our job. Heart breaking.

Fact: learners learn via osmosis. If they turn up, they have a far higher chance of success, whether or not they are academic.

Fact: learners we never see fail 99% of the time.

I worry.

I tell my learners that my job is to set them up so they can achieve their dreams.

I tell my learners that I am here to enable them to succeed to the best of their ability, not the ability of their neighbours, but theirs.

Without teachers, there won’t be lawyers in the future, nor mechanics, nor nurses, nor much at all.

So I strike for our future; the future of the profession and the futures of the kids who will lead our country’s future.

This op-ed was supplied by a teacher who wished to remain anonymous. 

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