1 November 2018
There is a shortage of teachers in New Zealand – no argument with its existence, some disagreement with its scale.
I propose that we tackle the teacher shortage not by solely relying on producing more teachers either by migration or increasing the capacity of programmes that train teachers but by clearing the decks of all the stuff that teachers do which require various degrees of skill but not the skills of a teacher. I used to think it was a shame that the best teachers could get up the ladder mostly by increasingly leaving the activities requiring the skills of a great teacher and picking up on the skills of the manager / administrator. But I now believe that there is much that can be done in a school by people other than a skilled and excellent teacher.
Here is a list of just such activities (in no order of importance):
- Checking attendance;
- Supervision of children in the playground during breaks;
- Organisation and coaching of sports activities;
- Helping students to develop their music skills;
- General administrative activity;
- Managing the availability of teaching equipment (i.e. see that they were available when teachers requied them.);
- Acting as teacher aides in schools;
- Working in the school gardens with teams of students;
- Supervising and genberally helping with supplementary instruction;
- Looking after the predestrian crossing in the morning and afternoon (a) la Aussie);
- Preparing and supervising school meals (see last post);
- Helping with communications to parents and caregivers;
- Helping planning of school trips
There is a host of tasks that allied staff thus employed (perhaps on a casual / part-time basis) would be able to do if only there was funding. There would need to be some training available and those checks that that are made on people working with young children. Most of the list above is made up of a mix of the large and time-consuming and the small but very important.
I am not suggesting that teachers be replaced by such community help. I am suggesting that the school would benefit from the infusion of community people who would be grateful for the work and the remuneration that went with it. Schools would need additional different management capacity and capability to have such a programme.
Teachers would be more able then to focus on their “real job” which is to lead learning in their classrooms, to add value to the lives of young people, keep them on track, and along the way develop the requisite sets of literacy, numeracy, digital and social skills. I hear teachers complain frequently that it is the duties such as those above that tear them away from teaching.
A couple of other points. As the community ages there is developing a group of older people who are fit, of sound mind, and have abilities and skills which are much more use to school students than simply being the grandparents that pick the children up. New Zealand might be first to develop the set of educational, second “micro-careers” that could underpin these suggestions.
There is so much more we could be doing other than complaining about the non-teaching demands placed on teachers, an issue which cannot be solved simply by providing more teachers. Innovative ideas that tackle the kernel of the complaints that teachers have must be allowed to surface in the discussion.