Na­dine Hig­gins

MPs need a les­son on teacher salaries

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

Ev­ery year when I’m mourn­ing my sum­mer hol­i­day com­ing to an end, I feel a lit­tle jeal­ous of my friends who are teach­ers. When I head back off to work, they still have many happy weeks of hol­i­day stretch­ing out in front of them.

Then I re­mem­ber they must try to stuff knowl­edge into the brains of snarky, hor­monal teenagers for a liv­ing. They’re charged with mould­ing in­tel­li­gent, use­ful mem­bers of so­ci­ety and they’re drown­ing in pa­per­work try­ing to prove they’re do­ing that job. When­ever they bring up the pal­try pay, peo­ple sim­ply say, ‘‘but your hol­i­days!’’ in re­sponse.

Yet dur­ing th­ese school ‘‘hol­i­days’’, my teacher friends are far too busy to catch up. They’re mark­ing as­sign­ments, edit­ing the school news­pa­per, lead­ing a ge­og­ra­phy trip, oh and at­tend­ing the PPTA con­fer­ence fight­ing for bet­ter pay and con­sid­er­ing strike ac­tion to get it.

A good friend of mine is one of those pas­sion­ate, x-fac­tor teach­ers. You know, the kind you re­mem­ber once you leave school, who ‘‘got’’ you, who made learn­ing fun. You can see it when stu­dents call out ‘‘Mr McQuil­lan!’’ and want to talk to him in the street.

Daniel is nine years into his teach­ing ca­reer and the only way he can earn any more is if he spends less time be­ing a great teacher and more time do­ing things which take him out of the class­room.

That makes no sense to me.

It’s not just about money, of course. Re­cently, he says, ‘‘I’ve been feel­ing like I can’t wait for the kids to leave, so I can get my work done, which is lu­di­crous. Data re­port­ing is not why I be­came a teacher’’.

He’d just like a bit more time to ac­tu­ally teach the kids, rather than just as­sess them to death.

As the world has got more com­plex, we’ve been ask­ing more from the peo­ple charged with equip­ping our kids to face it, but valu­ing them less. Then we won­der why 40 per cent leave within their first five years and there’s a short­age of teach­ers.

Bryan Bruce’s doc­u­men­tary Who Owns New Zealand Now? had lots of star­tling fig­ures in it, but none more star­tling to me than this one.

In 1979 the teacher pay scale topped out at $17,360, while a back­bench MP earned roughly the same at $18,000.

In 2017 the top of the teacher pay scale is $78,000, while a back­bench MP now earns $163,961 (be­fore perks). For those of you who didn’t pay at­ten­tion to your maths teacher, an MP now earns more than dou­ble that of an ex­pe­ri­enced teacher.

Funny, no one ever seems to worry about MPs’ hol­i­days – but what ex­actly does a back­bench list MP do when the House is not sit­ting? (or, right now for that mat­ter, when we have a care­taker gov­ern­ment?).

There’s a les­son in those num­bers. Per­haps politi­cians could spend their down­time learn­ing it be­fore school goes back.

Teach­ers are charged with mould­ing in­tel­li­gent, use­ful mem­bers of so­ci­ety and they're drown­ing in pa­per­work try­ing to prove they're do­ing that job.

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