HONESTLY, let's do away with school holidays. Isn't it strange that we have created a school system that puts so much stress on our children that we feel they must take breaks from it regularly?
Why don't we question that? We just go along with this idea that school is supposed to be something that kids don't like, that it needs to be unpleasant, that it must start and end at certain times and fit within certain weeks in the calendar year.
But we know that learning doesn't happen that way. Our babies learn to roll over, crawl and walk at their own pace — often at times that are highly inconvenient to us. My daughter learned to roll over right after I had laid her near the edge of the bed. My son learned to walk just before a 12-hour flight to America. But for some reason, when kids turn 5, we decide that their learning needs to become structured, routine, and stressful in order to work.
An article in The Guardian this week said one in five teachers in the UK was planning to leave the profession in the next two years with 40 per cent planning to leave the profession within five years.
Must be some tough schools and bad working conditions if 40 per cent of teachers won't stay just five years. They better shape up.
A recent survey here in New Zealand showed that nearly half of all new secondary teachers quit teaching within the first five years. Half! Dang.
Primary teachers don't fare much better. In fact, we started this school year with a shortage of about 250 teachers. That's 250 classrooms needing to be covered by relievers, principals, and often just merged and combined with other classes.
Teachers who are sticking with it are showing higher and higher levels of stress and anxiety. Thirty-seven per cent of teachers who took a recent wellbeing survey had their results red-flagged for showing serious signs of distress, and an email was sent to them suggesting they seek professional help.
And these are the adults!
If this is how our adults feel, imagine how the kids feel. And they don't have the choice of opting out after five years. Our kids are in it for 13 years, give or take.
Today we are smack in the middle of school holidays, and these particular school holidays coincide with a large number of public holidays. A ridiculous number of them, really.
We have enough days off, for both parents and children, that at this very moment many of us are looking at the week ahead thinking, "Wow. No school until next Monday? That's a lot of parent-kid bonding time".
The fact that this super-long parent-kid love fest coincides nicely with the upcoming teachers' strike is a fortunate coincidence. I think it's going to work out well for the teachers. Because right about now — day eight of school holidays — we parents are really starting to appreciate teachers and all they do.
Give those teachers what they want. They deserve it. So yes, NZEI "Kua tae te wā", the time has come. It's time for us to appreciate teachers and the many vital roles they fill in the lives of our children. It's time for us to think about class sizes and appropriate learning and social support for our children in-need.
But more than this, it's time for us to really think about education in a holistic way.
Kua tae te wā to think about building a system of education that is supportive and welcoming to both learners and teachers. A system where our kids don't need a reprieve every 10 weeks to refill their bucket, but have their bucket filled every day by positive and joyful learning experiences and environments. I support NZEI's demands for our teachers and children, but also encourage them to think bigger.
Why are we simply looking to improve a broken system? Let's move beyond thinking about teacher retention and school-leavers and dream of a day when schools are places where both children and teachers want to be.