Work­load forces teacher out

Nelson Mail - - Front Page - Katy Jones

Burnout from a drain­ing class­room work­load is forc­ing a Nel­son teacher to leave for a smaller town so she can af­ford to cut down her hours.

Year 1/2 Tahu­nanui School teacher Heidi New­land said the high work­load had spurred her plan to leave for West­port.

‘‘My cur­rent job as a teacher is too emo­tion­ally drain­ing to do full­time un­til I’m 65,’’ she said.

The teacher of eight years spoke out as pri­mary school staff pre­pare to strike next Thurs­day for the sec­ond time in three months.

New­land said she was mov­ing with her fam­ily in 2020 so she could stay in a job she loved but af­ford to work fewer hours.

She had be­come burnt out try­ing to meet the ‘‘huge range of di­verse be­hav­iour and learn­ing needs’’ in her class, which con­sisted of chil­dren who had been at school from six months to 21⁄2 years.

Her plight was backed by par­ent Anna Kara, whose son Cruz is in New­land’s class and has highly com­plex needs.

Kara said teach­ers didn’t get paid ‘‘any­where near enough’’ for what they had to deal with ‘‘day in, day out’’.

‘‘Their work­load is mas­sive, and then you get some­one like Cruz on top.’’

Teach­ers had been be­tween a rock and a hard place when try­ing to deal her son, Kara said. ‘‘He needed to be re­strained when he was melt­ing down and hurt­ing other stu­dents, but they weren’t even al­lowed to do that.’’

New­land said the 7-year-old didn’t have teacher aide sup­port in the af­ter­noons, while sup­port ap­plied for at the start of the year (for a dif­fer­ent stu­dent with higher needs) had only just ar­rived.

Tahu­nanui School prin­ci­pal Bar­bara Bowen said teach­ers were snowed un­der with un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions, and some­thing had to give.

She said a re­quire­ment for teach­ers to meet the in­di­vid­ual needs of ev­ery child in their class was now un­achiev­able at many schools, be­cause the range of needs had be­come so wide.

Bul­ly­ing, nu­tri­tion, val­ues, well­be­ing and mind­ful­ness were just some of the is­sues teach­ers had to ad­dress with pupils ev­ery day, as schools han­dled more

‘‘The di­ver­sity of [chil­dren’s] needs is huge.’’

Bar­bara Bowen, Tahu­nanui School prin­ci­pal

chil­dren with spe­cial needs and be­havioural chal­lenges, Bowen said.

Teach­ers were strug­gling to fit reg­u­lar cur­ricu­lum sub­jects into the school day, Bowen said. Mean­while, schools were be­ing over­whelmed by as­sump­tions from par­ents that their in­di­vid­ual as­pi­ra­tions for their chil­dren could be catered for.

‘‘The re­al­ity is that the di­ver­sity of needs is huge. While teach­ing to the in­di­vid­ual needs of ev­ery child in the school 20 years ago might have been doable, it’s not now. Peo­ple’s per­cep­tions of those in­di­vid­ual needs and how to meet them are so wide.’’

Teach­ers were in­creas­ingly be­ing taken away from their classes for ex­tra train­ing, and be­cause of mount­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in ar­eas like in­ter­school col­lab­o­ra­tion, but qual­ity re­lief teach­ers were get­ting harder to find, Bowen said.

Ex­pec­ta­tions started to be­come un­re­al­is­tic around a decade ago, but teach­ers were too bogged down to raise their heads.

The change of govern­ment was a chance to de­cide ‘‘what teach­ing is’’ and make sure money was put in the right place. ‘‘We don’t need any more ini­tia­tives or govern­ment man­agers.’’

More de­tail was needed on a govern­ment an­nounce­ment on Sun­day of 600 new sup­port roles for chil­dren with spe­cial needs across the coun­try, the school’s spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs co­or­di­na­tor (senco), Kay Nor­gate, said.

‘‘It’s a step in the right di­rec­tion,

but whether it’s far enough, I doubt it,’’ said Nor­gate, who jug­gles her senco role with teacher, team leader and deputy prin­ci­pal.

Zoe Stevens was among par­ents who spoke to teach­ers at a ‘‘com­mu­nity ac­tion’’ morn­ing at the school on Wed­nes­day, to re­spond to ques­tions from fam­i­lies about the planned strike ac­tion.

‘‘I think the teach­ers have ev­ery right [to strike],’’ she said.

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