I graduated today. This should have been a happy occasion, a celebration of slogging out a tough course. But instead the mood was a mood of despondency among many of the those who graduated today. Many didn’t show up.
There are no teaching jobs.
Horror stories quickly start to emerge. Hundreds applicants applying for a single position. Graduates with straight As posting off dozens of CVs to not get a single call for an interview. I’m defintely more of the exception rather than rule as a member of the class of 2011 who started the 2012 with a full-time permanent position.
However I worked hard to secure it.
My mother, who is also a teacher, looked on slightly bemused last year as I filled out lenghty application forms built e-portfolios mumbling how much things had changed since her day when teacher trainees were pretty much guaranteed a job at graduation. Of course back in the 1970s there was also country service which Dad had to write a letter to get my Mum exempted.
But the surprising thing about the employment market as it stands in 2012 is that even students studying in the provincial areas are having the same problem.
No teaching jobs.
I understand that we don’t want just anyone in our classrooms.
It should be hard to find a teaching position. I like that it is hard. To be deemed worthy enough to be responsible for a class of learners should be viewed by society as an accomplishment.
But it should not be this hard.
I’m hazarding a guess that maybe around 40% of the students at best have actual teaching jobs from my course and at least half of those teachers are fixed-term contracts. Given that the government plans to increase class sizes in the next fiscal year, teachers on fixed-term contracts (many of whom are first and second year teachers) have a strong likelihood of finding themselves unemployed at the end of the school year just as the next batch of students start graduating.
And that’s just students from the 2011 Graduate Diploma from University on the Hill.
There are also the three year BEds who don’t have permanent teaching jobs and there will be similar refrains heard from the 17 institutions up and down the country.
No teaching jobs.
Some teachers are going the relieving route but New Zealand is now in the process of losing these teachers overseas, to early childhood and to other professions. I can’t help but rage at the massive waste of resources, not only in terms of the time and money of the students, but also in government money that we are training so many teachers for jobs that simply don’t exist.
The joke will be on us in a few years wondering why the people we are investing thousands of dollars in don’t stay in New Zealand to teach or are not teaching at all. One of the reasons?
No teaching jobs.
What I don’t understand is how this situation was allowed to happen.
The number of teacher education providers and courses has exploded in the last decade or two, particularly at the primary level. I know that last year had the lowest number of teaching positions advertised and that during a recession teaching is a safe port in the storm. But my gut feeling is that the employment market for teachers shouldn’t be nearly this imbalanced.
Most of the teacher education providers in this country are state institutions and 85% of New Zealand students attend a state school. It shouldn’t be that hard for some policy wonk in the Ministry of Education to wor out that we have a massive mismatch between the number of graduating teachers our system is churning out and the number of positions actually up for grabs.
The parting piece of job-hunting advice my course-mates and I were given was to hang tight as the bulge of older teachers start to retire in the next 5-10 years and a bulge of students start to hit. But with student loans to repay and that small matter of eating and paying rent, graduating teachers don’t have the luxury of waiting out the tight employment market in the hope that might get a job in a few years once older teachers start retiring.
Which is why I don’t understand why the government is putting another $60 million into recruitment and teacher education. There is no shortage of graduating teachers. We have a glut. And that glut should translate into higher-quality teachers according to the world of market economics.
But there is one small problem with this theory.
At the moment teachers have protections which prevent them from being unfairly dismissed. Which explains the sudden myopic focus on teacher quality.
In the context of cutting education spending the superhero teacher line that keeps getting bandied about actually has little to do with quality teaching. Instead it is a way to manufacture a crisis in education to justify forcing older, more
experienced expensive teachers out of the New Zealand system in favour of bright young things cheaper teachers with little or no teacher education. If schools are forced to ‘compete’ for teaching talent through paying higher salaries for expertise and experience, one guess which schools will find themselves with more bargaining power.
I’m not saying that experienced teachers are inherently better teachers and that New Zealand’s teacher education is perfect. But as a first-year teacher I also know the importance of having great mentors and people you can turn to for advice not only for teaching but also for resolving incidents of bullying, managing relationships with our students’ parents and also coping with tough emotional issues that our students bring with them to class. But I have the luxury of an actual teaching position when I know for many of the course mates professional oversight is just not an issue.
They just want to enter the teaching profession.
Nevertheless, I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who is concerned that over the coming years we are going to watch the destruction of all that is good about the New Zealand schooling system as teachers and schools squabble for an ever declining poll of resources. It is easy to see New Zealand going down the American path where jobs, bonuses and student progression are based on shonky ‘data’ that has little do with student learning and more to do with abstract economic models dreamed up by people who have no experience in the classroom.
Instead of jubilation there was a mood of quiet resignation from many of the members of the teaching community who graduated today. Far too many of my fellow graduates just spent a year of their life and $7,000 learning to teach only to see it put to waste.
But we are only one pixel of a wider picture of educational deform.