I once had a history teacher who would get so engrossed in a subject he would stray from the curriculum to canvass a more interesting topic.

He was animated in the classroom, raising his voice or waving his arms to accentuate a point. He encouraged debate in the class, organised regular field trips to build on what had been discussed and used humour to lighten the mood.

From memory, everyone in the class passed the end-of-year exam.

Another teacher, a few classrooms away, would write his lesson on the blackboard at the start of each lesson. He would wheel around abruptly, point to what he had written so as to indicate it should be copied and then sit behind his desk in absolute silence for the entire lesson.


Looking back, he had far more in common with many of his students than he would have cared to admit. He found school just as torturous as they did.

Teaching is like any job. Some individuals, driven perhaps by an altruistic need to pass on knowledge, strive for excellence while others are content to go through the motions.

This is why I support the Government's plan to create highly paid jobs for the best-performing teachers and principals.

About 6000 teachers will be appointed to expert and lead-teacher roles requiring them to share good ideas across clusters of schools under the plan.

The policy will cost an extra $359million over four years, with the full-year cost rising to more than $150million a year by the end of that period.

It has divided opinion.

Groups representing secondary and primary principals, school trustees, and secondary teachers say the new roles have great potential and would change the way schools work, from competing to sharing best practice.

Others are warning the plan will do little to raise student achievement because it does not address factors that affect students' results, such as societal issues and poverty.

According to a report on National Radio, visiting US education expert David Berliner says outside influences account for about 60 per cent of children's performance, and school factors 20 per cent.

He says it is difficult for principals who have improved one struggling school to repeat their success somewhere else.

In response, Prime Minister John Key says that schemes such as breakfast in schools are helping address underlying causes of poor performance, and education is the best way by far to deal with social problems.

I agree.

Sure, more needs to be done to deal with the wider issues that affect a child's education but the scheme the Government has proposed will reward teaching staff who go that little bit extra for their students.

Organisations that do not reward individuals who strive for excellence on a daily basis are, by default, encouraging mediocrity. The private sector often uses financial rewards to recognise workers who excel at their work.

The same should apply to teachers whose results can be measured by the success of their students.