I love my job, don’t get me wrong. Absolutely, but you become so devoted to it, through this unspoken pressure of holding the future of so many young people’s lives in your hands.
There are so many teachers who are devoted to their jobs. People assume that we start at 9 am and finish at 3 pm. Some days we might, but this happens rarely. Being a teacher required you to give so many people your undivided attention and time. Time for one-on-one’s with your students about their progress, parent meetings, departmental meetings, teacher on teacher meetings to discuss a common student, school assemblies, after school rehearsals/training, professional development, pastoral meetings and on top of all that you have to teach several classes with 25+ students and enable enough time to touch base with each one within a 50 min session.
Some people will argue “but you chose to do it” or “you get all of those holidays”. I can tell you right now, those holidays are essential to teachers mental health. Imagine looking after and teaching over 60 teenagers in one day. Some parents can’t even handle one teenager at home. Plus, we are planning and marking throughout the holidays. Us choosing to do the job comes out of compassion and love but we have heard you. Now some of us are now thinking “what if I choose not to do it?”
One of my friends left teaching in 2017 and got a job in recruitment with a starting salary of $60,000 NZD a year. Secondary teachers only start on $55,000 NZD a year. Our Primary school counterparts start off on $46,000 NZD a year. Apparently, the average salary in Auckland is $58,000 NZD a year. WTF.
The teacher shortage in New Zealand is evidence that we are feeling unappreciated. NZEI have already taken action by striking in November. I do not want to imagine the amount of work a primary school teacher puts in. Creating resources and dealing with highly dependent children who can barely write their name or tie their shoe laces. PPTA are following suit. Find out more here.
Let me break down a typical day of a Secondary Teacher:
7.45 AM – Arrive in the staff parking lot which is on the other side of where my office is. Lug my laptop and resources to my office (I would have taken them home to do work). Dump them quickly and rush over to the auditorium for Professional Development.
7.50 AM– Professional Development starts and runs almost up to the first bell. All the teachers are expected to help put all the tables and chairs away before we leave. I rush through it so I can get to my classroom before my students do.
8.50 AM– Arrive at my classroom with my laptop and resources. Relieved that no students have arrived yet. Quickly get into the classroom before any of them see me and write the “Do Now” task on the board (which are generally 5 questions linked to the previous lesson). The “Do Now” task gives me 5 mins when the students arrive to get the rest of my instructions and learning intentions on the board. If the technology decides to work that day, I will connect my laptop successfully and bring up a PowerPoint that I had prepared the day before. Let the students in. They are seniors and we have a two hour period today.
10.40 AM– Bell rings for tutor time. Some students try and hang around the classroom. I usher them out. Race to my next classroom to meet with my tutor group. Let them inside. This time they beat me because I was on the other side of the school. Head straight to the board and write up a list of students I will have one-on-one academic counselling with. I have 30 mins so put up three names. I have chat with each student, follow up on absences, record their goals and progress in an excel sheet. One student tells be about how she went to three funerals in the last two weeks. I try my best to comfort her but also get my job done at the same time.
11.10AM– Bell rings for interval. The students leave and I take an extra 5 mins completing my notes because it is rude to just take notes like a therapist during academic counselling. I pack up my laptop, my pencil case and head to my office to grab a nut bar. Head off to my next room to set up the board and resources. Dump my things in that room and run to the staff room for the last 5 mins of my 30 min break. I try to use the bathroom and burn my mouth with a hot coffee that I end up throwing in the sink. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
11.40 AM-BELL RINGS. Off I go to class. Knowing that everything is set up, I am calm. This time, I am able to meet my students at the door and welcome them inside. They already know to get their books out and start the “Do Now” task. I start the lesson smoothly and we move through the content.
12.40 PM– Bell rings. Room is clean, students are ready for their next class and I am calm because I have a non-contact this period. Off the students go to their next classroom. Pack up my things and head to my office. Look at my “To Do” list and start chipping away at making some resources and following up on pastoral. The printer is out of paper again so I grab my keys and head over to the office. On my way to the office, I run into students who are truanting. A smart teacher would walk the other way but I just think to myself “Oh man, not again”. I spend 15 mins ushering students to classrooms. Personally dropping them to the door and waiting for the teacher to acknowledge them. Re-route to the office to get some paper. On the way back to the office, I find MORE students truanting. I usher them back to their classroom. Finally, I get back to my office and load the printer. Print out my resources. In the meantime, I know I have lunchtime duty so I smash another nut bar.
1.40 PM– Bell rings. LUNCHTIME. Jokes, no lunch for me. Put on my hazard vest and head to my duty area. I consistently prowl the area to let the students know who is the boss. You might have hand ball champions but I am the Queen of the block. Let them know that I am watching them. This reduces the level of bullying and fights in my area. Plus, have some decent conversations with a couple of students.
2.10 PM– Bell rings. I open up all the doors to allow good student flow, start getting students to stop playing hand ball and pick up their school bags. Sometimes, I have to intercept the balls and evil laugh while they beg for it back. I always give them back the ball under the condition that they grab their bags and head to class. They agree. My area is moving so I rush back to my office, get my laptop and head to period 5. Last period of the day with my seniors. They all walk in sluggish. I keep it a laid back lesson where students are continuing work. Chairs up, windows closed.
3.10 PM– BELL RINGS. Students leave the classroom. I spend 5 mins just completing any admin. Pack up and head to my office. Grab some tuna and rice and head to my departmental meeting.
4.30 PM– Departmental meeting is finished. We were given homework. I add it to my “To Do” list with a deadline date next to it. Head back to my office and start chipping away at that list. I prep all my PowerPoints for tomorrows lessons, tuck my printed resources into my laptop bag, fill out my teacher planner of all my lessons for the next few days. Then I look at my “To Do” list at how many things got done. I create tomorrows “To Do” list with anything I didn’t achieve.
6 PM– It starts getting dark outside. I pack up my laptop just incase I have to work some more. I find the last teacher so that we can walk to the car park together. Safety first. Jump in my car and head to the supermarket to buy dinner and more nut bars.
Next day- REPEAT THE CHAOS
So I urge you to think twice when you see teachers complaining on the news. We need the best teachers we can offer. Fair salary and better working conditions would be a great start to stop teachers leaving the profession and encourage new ones to enter. Stressed out teachers are not good for our young people. We believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…