Weekly Reflection: A kick in the guts
This week I had a number of learning wins and was in the process of writing a gushing Weekly Reflection but then I saw the budget news.
As of next year, intermediate schools will no longer be funded to teach technology.
Technology teaching is a bit part of my school and so to suddenly read via press release that funding yanked away without notice and consultation was a kick in the guts.
The worst thing is not knowing exactly what the results of the funding changes are outside of positions likely being lost. The Ministry of Education seems to have gone to ground until September which leaves even teachers like me with permanent contracts wondering what the next school year holds.
As I looked around the staffroom on Friday I had a sudden horrible realisation. For me to stay teaching at my school next year likely means that another teacher needs to go. It feels like the educational equivalent of the Hunger Games complete with a government which sets the scene through reducing staffing entitlements to schools then walks away to witness the carnage from a safe distance.
Over the next year, teachers with permanent contracts may very well find themselves suddenly competing with colleagues for reduced amounts of positions, special programmes that have been around for generations are suddenly forced to compete with regular classrooms for staffing. Is this what the Minister meant by enhancing student performance by ‘competitive collaboration?’
Already I’m quietly thinking about what I’m going to do next year should my position be disestablished in 2013. Although I would be devastated to have my career cut short at my school in my first year of teaching due to the funding changes, I also need to make sure I’ve got a Plan B. The thing that grates me is that I should be focused on delivering my programmes yet I suspect I am no different to many Year7/8 teachers up and down New Zealand wondering what the 2013 school year brings.
But mostly I’m gutted for the kids.
I know that specialist technology classes, which have been around for decades, are something that my students look forward to each week. This is not necessarily because I’m bad teacher (TM) but because the kids get the chance to build and bake with specialist teachers in classrooms fit for purpose.
Staying on next year is going to result in upheavals. Having experienced large classes in Asia, I’m worried that some of my classroom programmes will not run effectively in larger classes. I know that the quality of my feedback will drop as I get less time to spend with each child. I also worry about the problems – learning or otherwise – I’ll miss because my teaching energies will be spread too thin. Yes I’ll make it work, because that’s what’s teachers do.
I wish I could say we didn’t see this coming.
But really the writing was on the wall when National Standards were implemented. When only certain areas of the curriculum are deemed worthy enough to ‘hold schools accountable’ for then the non-accountable areas are easily viewed as less important and therefore less worthy of funding. Yet even first year teachers like me know that we risk alienating large groups of students from literacy and numeracy when we don’t support the so-called soft subjects. Yes I could teach those subject if asked, but I couldn’t do hard materials the justice that teachers who know how to operate hard machinery could.
Hopefully tomorrow I will find a way out of the funk I’ve been in all weekend. Because the only thing I can really control right now is my reaction. I choose to give my students the best intermediate experience possible but I also refuse to stay silent about the effect these funding changes will have on my students.