Weekly Reflection: A kick in the guts

This week I had a number of learning wins and was in the process of writing a gushing Weekly Reflection but then  I saw the budget news.

As of next year, intermediate schools will no longer be funded to teach technology.

Technology teaching is a bit part of my school and so to suddenly read via press release that funding yanked away without notice and consultation was a kick in the guts.

The worst thing is not knowing exactly what the  results of the funding changes are outside of positions likely being lost.  The Ministry of Education seems to have gone to ground until September which leaves even teachers like me with permanent  contracts wondering what the next school year holds.

As I looked around the staffroom on Friday I had a sudden horrible realisation. For me to stay teaching at my school next year likely means that another teacher needs to go. It feels like the educational equivalent of the Hunger Games complete with a government which sets the scene through reducing staffing entitlements to schools then walks away to witness the carnage from a safe distance.

Over the next year, teachers with permanent contracts may very well find themselves suddenly competing with colleagues  for reduced amounts of positions, special programmes that have been around for generations are suddenly forced to compete with regular classrooms for staffing. Is this what the Minister meant by enhancing student performance by ‘competitive collaboration?’

Already I’m quietly thinking about what I’m going to do next year should my position be disestablished in 2013.  Although I would be devastated to have my career cut short at my school in my first year of teaching  due to the funding changes, I also need to make sure I’ve got a Plan B. The thing that grates me is that I should be focused on delivering my programmes yet  I suspect I am no different to many Year7/8 teachers up and down New Zealand wondering what the 2013 school year brings.

But mostly I’m gutted for the kids.

I know that specialist technology classes, which have been around for decades, are something that my students look forward to each week. This is not necessarily because I’m bad teacher (TM) but because the kids get the chance to build and bake with specialist teachers in classrooms fit for purpose.

Staying on next year is going to result in upheavals. Having experienced large classes in Asia, I’m worried that some of my classroom programmes will not run effectively in larger classes. I know that the quality of my feedback will drop as I get less time to spend with each child. I also worry about the problems – learning or otherwise – I’ll miss because my teaching energies will be spread too thin. Yes I’ll make it work, because that’s what’s teachers do.

I wish I could say we didn’t see this coming.

But really the writing was on the wall when National Standards were implemented. When only certain areas of the curriculum are deemed worthy enough to ‘hold schools accountable’ for then the non-accountable areas are easily viewed as less important and therefore less worthy of funding. Yet even first year teachers like me know that we risk alienating large groups of students from literacy and numeracy when we don’t support the so-called soft subjects. Yes I could teach those subject if asked, but I couldn’t do hard materials the justice that teachers who know how to operate hard machinery could.

Hopefully tomorrow I will find a way out of the funk I’ve been in all weekend. Because the only thing I can really control right now is my reaction. I choose to give my students the best intermediate experience possible but I also refuse to stay silent about the effect these funding changes will have on my students.

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5 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection: A kick in the guts

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  1. I was in an Intermediate school a few weeks ago with an amazing new technology suite – what a terrible waste! I hate the lack of consultation with the people who are in front of kids every single day of the week. Everyone thinks they are an expert on education because its an experience they’ve all had. they haven’t got the slightest clue of the day to day reality! I am very saddened to say that this year I am glad that I am almost at the end of my career. Teaching was a beautiful profession to be involved in 😦

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  2. I’m so sorry to hear about the staff changes during budget cuts. I remember teaching in US public schools – it seemed like we were faced with cuts every year.

    You might consider teaching in International schools. Recruiting tends to start in November for school starting in August. That said, there are always pregnancy leaves and such.

    My first hope is that you keep your current position. If that is not possible, good luck in the job search.

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  3. I think your post hits the nail on the head in regards to how many teachers will be feeling in staffrooms around NZ, and in particular technology staff.

    I teach in a small rural school. We have three small multi-leveled classes. Room One has 17/18 NEs to Year 2s. Room Two has 18 Year 3-5s. My class, Room Three, has 11 Year 5-8s and is a digital class. Our principal ‘walks’, but he actually releases our Junior teacher to do Reading Recovery and takes groups in our middle room who have special needs. Technically, he should be in my room, and I should be releasing him… but the BOT bumps me up to full time so that each class has their own teacher and the numbers are small.

    At the end of this week is June changeover (when all the farmers and their workers who move onto new jobs move) and we will lose 7 students from our roll. So far we know of 5 incoming students, including a NE who was planned for, but we are nervous.

    I see that the class sizes going up won’t be good for our school. It doesn’t take into account that we have a multi-leveled class catering for our NE/Y1s. It doesn’t take into account that all our classes are multi-leveled at all.

    It could mean that we lose the ability to provide reading recovery, support for special needs groups, and the end of our digital class. It may mean my principal has to take on my class and bump me down to glorified principal release at 0.5 or 0.6.

    Either way, I too am worried for my job. And I love this job. I worry about the increasing number of teachers who will not only be competing for jobs about NZ, but also on the international schools market because they realise that there are not enough jobs in NZ for them.

    But most of all I worry about the kids who struggle now and how much more they will struggle in large classes. I worry for the kids who are already missing out on extra help because there is not enough to go round and how this will increase. I worry for their parents who will be frustrated. And I worry for the remaining teachers who will be increasingly stressed out by having larger class sizes and worrying about all their students who miss out and their parents who are frustrated.

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