Kate Hawkesby: Have we really fixed the teacher shortage?

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 23 January 2019, 8:17a.m.
Teaching is not just a numbers game, as it was reduced to last year, it’s also about performance and suitability. And that’s before we get to cultural contexts.  Photo / 123RF

When do the school holidays end? Asking for a friend. OK, me. 

If I hear “Mum! Mum! Mum!” yelled in my direction one more time...I’ll tell you what’s lacking these holidays.. non-contact time. Teachers get it, preschool teachers get it, parents should get it too. 

Is it the heat that’s making it particularly bad? Is it the sheer length of time and number of long hot days that makes it so hard? Is it the fact we are all back at work and we’re tired and the kids are still lolling around like life is one big picnic? 

Speaking of which, the amount of food they can eat in a day is eye-watering isn’t it? 

I’m sure kids eat more on school holidays than any other time of year.  I’m on the brink of installing a bell system whereby I only allow them to eat when the bell rings. 

Regulated morning tea and lunch breaks like school. 

I’ve always admired the teachers but I find myself now pining for them.

I note we now have more of them to do the job too, after the government's overseas recruitment drive appears to have worked a treat. 

More than 7300 overseas teachers are keen to work in New Zealand, of which almost 1000 have already been screened and are ready for interviews. 

Which is good news given the predictions were a shortage of 850 teachers this year. 

As far as ticking boxes goes, that’s a big one ticked for the government. But will it work? 

Does it really offer a long term solution?

There will be the usual brigade of myopic misery merchants saying we shouldn’t be employing foreigners when we don’t even look after our own teachers well enough. 

But actually, do they have a point? I think so. 

If you get beyond the parochialism of this argument, does adding a readymade workforce of international recruits really ease our teacher shortage? Yes, it plugs gaps and fills classrooms, but there’s also an argument the money spent on marketing for, and recruiting these teachers, may have been better spent raising teacher pay and looking after the ones we already have – or those who were disillusioned and leaving. 

Teaching is not just a numbers game, as it was reduced to last year, it’s also about performance and suitability. And that’s before we get to cultural contexts. 

As parents, we’ve seen a myriad of teaching abilities across the various schools we’ve had our five kids at, we also know the huge difference a good teacher can make to a child’s life, from a bad one.

So yes, New Zealand’s plugged the teacher gaps and got bums on seats, but could it long term be something that actually bites us in the bum?

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