I think that the National Party strategists (read Treasury) live in a time warp. They base their view of what it is like in the classroom on their own experiences from thirty years or more ago. They think that the classes they attended, which were often 30 plus students were easy for the teacher to handle. In a sense they were correct, but that is not how it is for today’s teachers.
As a teacher from that era, I know that things were different then. We complained when our classes reached 38 and we fought hard to improve the conditions in our schools. Over time, we succeeded.
What has also changed is the massive increase in ‘problem children’ coming through our school gates. In many schools, a great deal of teacher time is taken in ‘classroom management.’ How often have you heard from your teacher friends, that if it wasn’t for about 4-6 kids in a class, I could actually teach.’
Teachers teach, but they also have to manage the issues that students bring with them from home. If there are no books in the home, if students are hungry, hung-over, high and a myriad of other labels, then think what it is like, even with small numbers.
Even schools who have counsellors, youth workers, social workers and hard-working teacher aides, struggle to ‘educate’ their charges. What I have described is not limited to Decile one schools. The issues I have listed can be found throughout our schools.
Did we have these problems back in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s? Yes we did, but the number of students exhibiting one or more of these issues have grown exponentially. Are we better resourced to handle this? Up to a point, yes, but the capacity to deal with today’s social problems is dependent on a forward thinking Government. You can decide if we have such a supportive Government.
I am angry that schools are seen as the agents to handle these problems and that the teacher at the ‘chalk-face’ (Mmmm what is the new descriptor here?) is the main linchpin in the ‘new reality.’ We have a Government who would rather give money to private schools, to enable them to have smaller class sizes and to send their own children to enjoy the obvious benefits. For the rest of us----just chuck us the crumbs!