Imagine a teacher aide in every classroom across Aotearoa…. I can. I know that having a Teacher Aide in every classroom would benefit our children and give teachers the support they need in the classroom.
Having been teaching for over 15 years now I tautoko all those that have taken up this vocation. I can only speak of my own personal experience in regard to the hours worked to meet the needs of my tamariki and colleagues. Work life balance is a struggle, and having worked in the corporate world before teaching, I know this happens in other career choices as well. So the question becomes how best to manage work life balance, especially when a role involves the needs of children and their families.
In my current role as acting principal, I am asked if I am making sure that I have time for me. I always find this challenging to answer because I don’t have children of my own. I can come to work early, leave late as I answer to no one. Is that work/life balance, probably not for some, but it is what I do, to get things done. When I take my work home it impacts on no one else but me. But in those moments when I’m asked, I think of my peers with children, and wonder how on earth they get it all done and maintain strong connected relationships with their whanau. I have memories of my mum getting up early and going to bed late to keep on top of life as a mother and a teacher.
Another important factor to acknowledge in primary education is the increase of neuro diverse students arriving at school, and of course children who are living in, or working through real trauma. These tamariki need time and love to flourish, but we cannot ignore that they do add an emotional, physical and monetary strain on the system. I want to be clear, I do believe all children have a right to education and inclusion. These children deserve support, and their needs require more input. In a mainstream classroom a teacher will share their love and knowledge with 28+ other tamariki. Students with learning needs often require a 1:1 connection and support to access learning at their level to get the most out of being in a mainstream environment. In NZ teachers are often spread too thin with classes of over 29+ tamariki. Surely having a Teacher Aide in each class would benefit not only the children in the class, but it would also relieve some pressure off the teacher.
I agree with what Kahli Oliveira shared in regard to the need for a Teacher Aide in every classroom, this is a strength based approach for our tamariki. Let’s face it, class numbers of 29+ will continue, it is what it is. However, to make numbers like this work when there are students who have specific learning needs that must be met, it requires a learning environment where they receive consistent and equitable learning opportunities, and teachers need the support to make it happen.
And to my fellow teachers, reach out to your whanau and people who can offer you care and support. Remember, when things get tough, always put YOUR families first, there is only one of you, so take care of yourself.
The next move will be made by the Government / Ministry of Education – actions speak louder than words.
New research shows primary school teachers and principals are overworked and undervalued. Overworked and undervalued, that’s how teachers across the country are feeling. Half of all primary school teachers work more than 50 hours every week while one in five principals work upward of 60 hour weeks, according to new research. Gladstone Primary Teacher Kahli Oliveira and Principal of Rowandale Primary Karl Vasau spoke to us about personal experience with burnout and what teachers and principals need, to have better work life balance.