Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Up next
Listen live on

John MacDonald: I could never be a teacher

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 Mar 2024, 1:03PM
Photo / Getty
Photo / Getty

John MacDonald: I could never be a teacher

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 Mar 2024, 1:03PM

One thing I know with absolute certainty is that I could never be a schoolteacher. 

A few more people might be saying that today after the news that the behaviour of school kids in New Zealand has worsened over the past two years, making them among the worst-behaved in the OECD. 

And I hope that parents around the country are hearing this news and thinking about what they can do to sort out this mess. Because, as far as I’m concerned, it all starts with us - the people who bring these kids into the world.  

It’s not the schools’ fault. They just deal with what they’re given. Just like it shouldn’t be the schools who are left to come up with a solution to the problem being highlighted in this report out today from the Education Review Office - or ERO.  

They’re the crowd that go around schools, checking they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. 

Back in the day, they used to call them the School Inspectors. These days it’s a little bit more touchy feely. But, having been on a school board when ERO was on the way, they might not call themselves school inspectors anymore, but the schools still get a bit antsy about being under the microscope. 

Today, though, ERO is speaking out on behalf of the schools - telling us about the nonsense teachers and principals have to deal with on a daily basis. 

One stat in this report that caught my eye, is the 3-out-of-4 teachers who say they have students refusing to follow instructions every day. So, you imagine that - unless you’re a teacher, and you won’t have to imagine it. 

But you imagine turning up at work everyday, knowing that you’re going to have kids ignoring you or just outright refusing to do what you want them to do. It would drive me nuts and I’d probably end-up being hauled in front of the Teaching Council. Because I know I’d lose my rag. 

But that’s a daily thing for about 75% of teachers. Not to mention the violence, thieving, and vandalism going on. 

I was talking to the principal of a school the other week, and he was telling me that he has full-school assemblies every week or so. And what he has to do there, is stand up and give the kids some sort of motivational talk. 

He was telling me that he can really struggle with that sometimes. Because sometimes all he wants to do is get up in front of all the kids and say ‘for God’s sake, stop smashing up the toilets’.  

And that’s the reality. Vandalism, violence, disrespect. And the Education Review Office says things need to change and something has to be done about it. 

And if we think we can leave it to the Government and schools to sort out, then we’re dreaming.  

Because nothing is going to change if parents don’t up the ante as well. And what I’m talking about here are simple things like making sure kids get to school and into their classroom on time. In fact, ahead of time. 

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m terrible at being on time for things. But if you have a kid turn up at school late, they go into the classroom on the back foot, they start talking to other kids trying to find out what’s going on, and the behaviour of everybody in the classroom spirals downwards from there. 

Another thing is this easy-osey attitude that parents have to turning up at work since COVID. The old working-from-home thing has had massive repercussions around the world —not just here in New Zealand— with parents getting a bit slack about turning up when and where they should.  

And that’s coming through in parents’ attitudes about the need for their kids to even actually go to school five days a week, let alone turn up there on time. 

Then you think, well - what about the 75% of teachers who say they have kids refusing to do what they’re asked, every day? Parents can’t be blamed for that, can they? 

Well, yes, they can actually. Because, unfortunately, too many parents have given up. Which probably sounds harsher than I mean it to sound, because I know full well that some kids are just out of control. And, for some parents, there seems to be nothing they can do to get their kids under control. 

I’ve had parents call up and say they’re at their wits end. They’re good people these parents. But there are bad ones as well. 

These are the parents who were probably the bad eggs when they were at school, and who have had no clue from the outset. And these are the parents who will have very low expectations when it comes to how their kids behave. 

Problem is it’s their kids who are going to go, have kids of their own, and repeat the cycle over-and-over again. 

So, what do we do? 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you