This is the day we acknowledge the huge contribution of our teachers to our lives and communities. A teacher who helps students liberate their imagination and capacity is a lifelong gift. Yes, we can all remember teachers who acted as if they would rather have been in the army or spoke in incomprehensible codes but they are not the majority.
Today I want to particularly celebrate the teachers of Aoraki/Christchurch for their phenomenal and sustained support for the children of that city. More than 10,000 aftershocks later teachers are still reassuring and supporting children with post-traumatic stress and working in complex and unstable conditions. Those unstable conditions include the Government’s “Renewal” Plan.
Everyone acknowledges the superb leadership of the local schools in the immediate aftermath of the big shakes. However we also need to think about the role teachers continue to play supporting communities and their children to carry on what for some are still disturbing conditions around the basics. After several visits to Christchurch in the last week I am reminded that we now have two countries, one that has survived a huge disaster and the rest of us. That survival has relied on the kindness of strangers, the courage of friends and the leadership of community organisations including schools.
I have visited 5 schools that are proposed for closer or merger and what struck me was the passion of teachers for maintaining a quality learning environment and safe place for kids even as their own lives were rocked by the shocks. The problem some are now having is how to plan for next year and how to keep the confidence of families and staff members when a school has been proposed for closure or merger.
The smaller schools (150 or less students) are being told small is not beautiful by the Ministry of Education. They are being asked to trust dodgy data and debatable demographics and justify their continuing existence. I have been really impressed with the commitment of these and other schools to articulate their values and their support for properly negotiated change. This is not a vote for the past and there is genuine willingness to work more collaboratively and practically. They have already experienced the necessity for this. However they dispute the need for supersizing and mergers for the sake of an ideology. Charters schools are not seen as solution by many but the Kura kaupapa and bilingual units are keen to continue their innovation and leadership on Te Reo Māori medium learning and tikanga. Teachers are flat-out with 4th term obligations and Ministry imposed reporting deadlines on their schools survival deadlines.
On World Teachers I congratulate these teachers for their work, care and commitment to our children. We all benefit from their efforts.