Time runs out for teach­ers

Jacki Boyle is at her desk by 6.30am to be ready for pupils

Whanganui Chronicle - - Front Page - Jesse King [email protected]­i­cle.co.nz

‘H ow long should I give you . . . five min­utes?” Tawhero School teacher Jacki Boyle asks 27 stu­dents sit­ting on red and black chairs.

They all have an an­swer, rang­ing from 10 min­utes to 24 hours, but Boyle puts her foot down. “You’ve got five min­utes, start­ing now.”

“Can we have six?” Asks a girl from the year 5 and 6 class. It is one of hun­dreds of ques­tions Boyle will be asked by her stu­dents this week, but the an­swer to this one is a sim­ple and prompt “No”.

The stu­dents sit at four groups of blue-topped desks with work­sheets in front of them and are re­quired to com­plete maths equa­tions in the al­lot­ted time.

“Do the easy ones first,” Boyle whis­pers to them as she walks around observing their ef­forts.

When she tells the keen work­ers that they only have two min­utes left, many of them gasp and be­gin scrib­bling faster.

It is one of many lessons that the chil­dren will par­take in at the school on Whanganui’s To­tara St, and it is one of many that Boyle plans ev­ery morn­ing.

Ev­ery day Boyle is eat­ing toast and drink­ing cof­fee at her desk by 6.30am while she plans lessons for the day and days to come.

She would be wor­ried if she didn’t start the day that early.

“It would mean that I’d have to stay at school un­til five or six at night plan­ning, but I can’t do that be­cause I’m drained by the end of the day,” Boyle says.

“The noise in a class­room is all day, ev­ery day. The chil­dren all want and need your at­ten­tion and it’s ac­tu­ally quite men­tally drain­ing. You don’t re­alise it un­til you go home.”

Al­most ev­ery day when she ar­rives home, she takes a 10-15 minute “nana nap”.

That doesn’t mean that she’s al­ways home shortly af­ter the 3 o’clock bell to sig­nal the end of the school day.

The stu­dents take off, but teach­ers are left with lessons to plan, mark­ing to do and meet­ings to at­tend, among other things.

“Okay, swap with some­one,” Boyle says and the stu­dents erupt into noisy chaos.

“All right, that’s it,” she raises her voice and the stu­dents im­me­di­ately be­gin to “shhhh” each other.

Boyle rat­tles off the an­swers and the stu­dents all mark each other’s work. Upon com­ple­tion and with­out in­struc­tion, they take the sheets of pa­per to their teacher.

That work is now re­quired to be pho­tographed as ev­i­dence by the New Zealand Teach­ers Coun­cil.

“We have a lot more pa­per­work to do now but also, on top of that, we have to have ev­i­dence of the work we’ve done,” she says.

“We use e-port­fo­lios to put things in. We have to re­mem­ber to take pho­tos of good work the kids have done. That’s just adding to a teacher’s work­load.”

Teacher work­loads are a big fo­cus of the on­go­ing strike be­tween pri­mary school ed­u­ca­tors and the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion.

A New Zealand Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tute Te Riu Roa sur­vey re­leased in Jan­uary stated that 43 per cent of teach­ers plan­ning to quit were do­ing so due to an in­creased work­load.

Those work­loads were ris­ing due to in­creased Gov­ern­ment re­quire­ments in as­sess­ing chil­dren and a larger num­ber of chil­dren at­tend­ing with high needs.

Many teach­ers are also hav­ing to deal with chil­dren who are lack­ing sus­te­nance, cloth­ing and care, such as liv­ing in poor hous­ing.

Other is­sues that re­sulted in strik­ing in­clude poor pay and lack of re­sourc­ing — caus­ing teach­ers to leave the pro­fes­sion and putting oth­ers off join­ing it.

“We don’t feel sup­ported. We don’t feel re­spected and it’s not a ca­reer path that peo­ple are go­ing to want to take if they’re treated so poorly,” Boyle says.

“It’s scary when you go to union meet­ings. We are in cri­sis. Teach­ers are leav­ing in droves, they’ve had enough and they don’t want to do it any more.”

One stu­dent is ab­sent, but the 27 take up a lot of space when they sit down cross-legged on the car­pet.

They’re play­ing a num­ber game in which Boyle writes down a fivedigit num­ber and the stu­dents have to guess what it is with proper pro­nun­ci­a­tion.

“10,647” one stu­dent guesses. A num­ber in the cor­rect place gets cir­cled, a num­ber that fea­tures in the fig­ure, but is in the wrong place gets a dot and a num­ber that doesn’t fea­ture at all gets a cross.

Stu­dents put their hands up in the air pa­tiently wait­ing to be cho­sen to have their turn, but one boy at­tempts to sneak be­hind Boyle’s back to read the num­ber.

Boyle tells him he his not al­lowed a guess, the stu­dents work out the fig­ure of 12,345 and are split into groups to learn about time.

Each group ro­tates af­ter about 10 min­utes. Boyle reads them a time and they are tasked with ac­cu­rately dis­play­ing it on a clock.

An­other group is play­ing learn­ing-based games on Chrome­books while the fi­nal one has that old school ap­proach of writ­ing on work­sheets.

Prin­ci­pal of Tawhero School Chris Dibben says teach­ers are act­ing as par­ents to them for six hours a day.

“You’re not only a teacher, but you’ve got to be a re­la­tion­ship ex­pert.

“You’ve got to get along with the kids, know where they come from and un­der­stand that.

“You’ve got to know all the in­tri­ca­cies in­volved with the fam­ily and what makes the kids click and what doesn’t to en­gage them in their learn­ing.”

To ease the work­load of teach­ing staff and pro­vide them more time to spend with each stu­dent, Tawhero School is em­ploy­ing a new teacher next year.

It is called a bulk-funded teacher po­si­tion which they are pay­ing for us­ing board of trustees money.

It means Tawhero School is go­ing above and be­yond the nor­mal al­lo­ca­tion of funds for teach­ers de­ter­mined by the Min­istry, in an ef­fort to cut their class­room sizes.

Dibben es­ti­mates that se­nior class sizes will be re­duced to 20 stu­dents per teacher and junior classes will drop to 15.

Boyle says an ex­tra teacher will make a mas­sive dif­fer­ence.

“The time we can spend with each child will go up mas­sively.

“It’s out­ra­geous that schools have to bud­get for them­selves. It should be com­ing from the Gov­ern­ment. Classes should be smaller and we should have time to do all our pa­per­work.”

Boyle has been teach­ing at Tawhero School since 2002 af­ter fin­ish­ing her train­ing at Massey Univer­sity in Palmer­ston North in 2001.

She met Dibben when he was the deputy prin­ci­pal at Keith Street School and she was re­liev­ing there fol­low­ing her train­ing.

Now, Boyle is the deputy prin­ci­pal at Tawhero School.

“Sup­port is al­ways avail­able here. We move peo­ple around and we all work to­gether be­cause it’s a re­ally good school,” she says.

“A lot of schools don’t have that op­tion be­cause they’ve got a teacher aide for two hours and that’s it.”

Dur­ing a long Christ­mas break, many teach­ers will spend time learn­ing about new stu­dents, eval­u­at­ing and plan­ning as­sess­ments.

De­spite the ex­tra hours worked, the large class sizes and the on­go­ing strike ac­tion, Boyle loves her job.

“Yes, the Min­istry needs to help us out. Sup­port­ing us would be bet­ter than pil­ing up the pa­per­work,” Boyle says.

“But I’m pas­sion­ate about teach­ing and I love the chil­dren.”

PHO­TOS / STU­ART MUNRO

Jacki Boyle called a time out to her stu­dents and it was up to them to move the hands of their clocks to the right po­si­tions.

“The chil­dren all want and need your at­ten­tion and it’s ac­tu­ally quite men­tally drain­ing.”

The chil­dren are kept busy in Jacki Boyle’s class.

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