I've been following the various media reports on class sizes and performance pay for teachers with considerable interest. This afternoon I was sent a link to an article in the National Business Review - the article itself was quite... interesting (surely the number of teachers in this country hasn't increased from 10-11,000 to 52,500 over the last decade? Why didn't the reporter question that statement?), but it's something in the comments thread that I'd like to address here. 'Anonymous' remarked that
Police should get a lot more pay than teachers. They put their lives on the line every day , they have to deal with some of the worst members of our society on a daily basis , they work 8 fullon hours each day and usually 10 hours(with no extra pay) unlike teachers who have plenty of free time , they work shift work which is very disruptive to family life and they only get the 20 days holiday each year that most workers get . Compared to those in the police,school teachers have the good life believe me.....
I agree, members of our police force do all of this & earn every cent of their salaries. But I can't agree with the implication that teachers, & the job teachers do, are somehow less valuable to society. Just how much value do we place, should we place, on those people society expects to prepare our young people for the increasingly complex demands of the world beyond school?
We need to remember, too, that in some cases teachers' lives are also on the line.
And I must strongly disagree with the statement that teachers get 'plenty of free time'. I've worked with an awful lot of dedicated, highly skilled teachers over the years since I moved back to university from my own secondary school classroom, and both my experiences & theirs belie that 'free time' statement. Teachers spend around 5 hours a day actually in the classroom, with up to 30+ students at a time (with the possibility of more, under the changes recently flagged by the Ministry). Typically there are meetings before & after school, & grounds duty on a rostered basis - and let's not forget that a teacher doesn't 'just' teach in a particular subject area but spends time on things like pastoral care as well.
The extra-curricular activities that add so much richness to students' school experiences wouldn't be possible if teachers didn't offer their services in lunch breaks, after school, in weekends & holidays: something for which they don't get extra pay, either, and which - from personal experience - can also be very disruptive to family life. (The NZ International Biology Olympiad teams, for example, owe their considerable success to the fact that classroom teachers give up evenings, weekends & holidays to coach, assess & mentor them.) And then there's the marking, lesson-planning, report-writing, keeping up with all the other paperwork, parent-teacher interviews, all of which chews into the evenings & weekends, & those on-the-face-of-it generous 'holidays' as well.
Free time on a daily basis? I don't think so.