The first year of school is coming to a close for our just-turned six-year-old daughter.

During this year, among many things, she has learned to read.

It happens so unbelievably quickly, you can barely believe the speed of it.

She is also asking questions I don't have answers to, leaping to places of curiosity I never expected so soon.


Her teacher, an amazing lady called Mrs Reid, has been instrumental in all of this.

Her enthusiasm, energy and patience for the kids in her class appears endless.

She works in her classroom before school and every day after school she remains, often at her desk, working.

Sometimes after school we play in the sun for an hour or two, but we always leave before Mrs Reid.

Photos of our kids having fun at school appear on the Seesaw app (used to communicate with families) late in the evenings and messages about upcoming trips, projects and reminders can appear early in the mornings.

She isn't just a teacher.

She and her colleagues organise all the fun things our girl has been able to do this year.

There have been trips out for cross country, to a local pa site, to the Art Gallery and for sports.


They have learned about the earth, volcanoes and earthquakes. They have learned about Maori legends. For matariki, they had a hangi on the school field for the entire school.

They made baskets at Easter and came home with a stash of chocolate eggs. I don't think the school paid for those.

There are weekly "discovery" days every Friday. Fluffy-making, fairy bread, pancakes, pikelets and toast. Science projects, sports and craft sessions.

She is a project manager and organiser.

She listens carefully as parents come in with concerns about their kids.

She is both social worker and guidance counsellor.

Sometimes kids are hurt, or scared, during their first days of school and need a cuddle.

She is a stand-in mum.

Sometimes parents are sad too.

She is a friend and confidante.

All year, the classroom has been colourfully adorned with the children's art, celebrating their efforts and leaving them proud.

She is creative director and decorator.

At parent-teacher interview time, I learned that every child is assessed and placed in reading and maths groups that teach and challenge them at their own level.

This tailored approach in a time of bigger class sizes and such wide-ranging student needs, is a far cry from the more generic approach I received at school in the 1980s.

Teachers have much more complex jobs than ever before. The net result being less time with each child.

Armed merely with her praise, the odd certificate, and a stash of rewards that are apparently the best thing ever (fruit-scented "smelly stickers" which are among many other things the kids have benefitted from that she will have paid for herself) Mrs Reid has made these kids excited about science, maths, reading and writing, giving them the best start to their education they could have asked for.

Mrs Reid is one example. She is just one of 50,000 teachers and support staff inspiring children across New Zealand from early childhood to intermediate education.

That does not include the secondary teachers and staff who, through their representative body the PPTA, are also battling for better pay and conditions.

Sure, not all teachers are as awesome as Mrs Reid. But there will be even less who are if we don't look after them.

The funding estimated by the New Zealand Educational Institute which represents teachers and called for this week's strike for better conditions and pay is more than $1 billion.

It's an expensive problem to fix because of course, if you fund primary teachers, then you have to fund secondary teachers, and early childhood educators, and so on.

But what will it cost us if we don't?