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Stop The Teacher Bashing

Stop The Teacher Bashing And Give New Teachers A Chance says Frances Nelson – the President of the country’s largest education sector union – NZEI.

It’s time to stop the teacher bashing which has become a popular sport in the media recently and smooth the somewhat hysterical debate around teacher quality and the standard of beginning teachers.

New Zealand has a world class education system with students consistently performing at the top end of the OECD in literacy and numeracy. That cannot happen without an effective and committed teaching profession.

NZEI says teachers do not teach to be mediocre and strive to get the best educational outcomes they can for children.

Last year, the Department of Labour included primary school teachers amongst the top ten vacancies for high skill jobs. We know there are serious issues around teacher supply. In that context, what purpose is served by undermining those who want to teach and have trained to do so?

Experience and quality do not grow on trees and quality teaching is not exclusively about being experienced. The only way to become experienced is to have time developing into the role of a teacher.

Quality teaching is also something which must be developed. It must be tailored to meet the diverse needs of all children. One thing is clear, we all keep growing our skills regardless of how long we’ve been teaching – that’s what “life-long learning” is all about.

There is a lot happening within the education sector at all levels to support and mentor our newest members and contribute to their professional growth. The profession has picked up the issues identified in the Initial Teacher Education Review and is already working to strengthen what we do from training providers through the system and into schools. The work in this area is being done jointly by all the “stakeholders” including NZEI, the New Zealand Teachers Council, the Ministry of Education and other professional groups such as the universities providing teacher training courses. There is a huge commitment to improving teaching and learning at all levels of the system. We all recognise the part we have to play if we are to provide the very best education possible for our young people.

It is hard to begin a career as a teacher while the media spotlight is undermining you simply because you are inexperienced. Unquestionably, there will always be some new teachers who struggle to adjust to the role, but the vast majority does a very fine job and develops strong skills over time – which is exactly what we expect to happen.

Parents can be assured that teachers and schools recognise the challenges faced by new teachers and carefully manage the process for them. And to our newest teachers, you also need to be assured that you are a welcome addition to our schools and your colleagues happily take up the challenge of inducting you into the profession over the next few years.

Frances Nelson
President NZEI Te Riu Roa


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