Cameron Stewart, 30, is in his third year as a teacher. The former musician is a social sciences teacher at Wellington Girls' College, a decile 10 school in the capital. He is among 50,000 teachers expected to walk out on strike next week in protest of their pay and conditions. A particular issue is the increasing workload teachers have to juggle on top of their lessons. Here, he tells Herald education reporter Simon Collins about a typical day at school for him.
WEDNESDAY MAY 15, 2019:
: Arrive at school. I intend to be planning lessons for later in the week, but instead I'm answering emails from staff and students. There are specific concerns about students in my form class as well as students who sent me work to read last night after I went to bed. I am also preparing for a new extra-curricular group I'm running at lunchtime.
8.30am: Meeting about an assessment. Talking through how we should look at marking things, discussing specific assignments, coming to agreements about what constitutes each grade.
9.30am: Year 12 Social Studies. Discussing solutions for addiction crises in the United States. Talking about the political implications for each of these solutions, where the funding would come from, and whether the will exists in the US Government to make changes. It's quite high-level stuff, and I have students who have learning difficulties and for whom English isn't their first language. I do my best to simplify the content while maintaining the depth of discussion. Students are generally pretty interested in this, and we have great discussions.
10.15am: Year 10 Social Studies. A co-taught class with 60 students and two teachers. This can lead to some really interesting and inventive teaching, but sometimes we just need to teach to the whole group at once. I'm mostly on crowd control for this class – students asking questions about work, whether they can go to the toilet, getting students to be quiet, keeping an eye on our high-needs students. We're talking about the human rights of clothing workers overseas. How does this affect our decisions as consumers? What things can we do to ensure we're making ethical decisions? What vested interests to companies have to prove they're making products ethically?
11am: Interval. Answering emails, making an agenda for a meeting next week. I make a coffee which I forget to drink, and eat a biscuit.
• A day in the life of a teacher: 'I woke at 4.30am with teaching on my mind'
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11.20am: Go to a classroom over the other side of the school for Year 9 Music. Individual piano time. Once the students have come to class, I talk to them about ensuring they're using this time productively. They get their books, pick their keyboards, and get themselves set up to learn. A few students have issues getting their keyboards to work, these take about 10 minutes to sort out. We are exceptionally lucky to have a full class set of books and instruments. There are a couple of students who are continually distracting others. I confiscate a couple of phones for the period. There are some students who have a lot of trouble engaging with the work, so I set them smaller tasks that they can achieve. I also write out a piece of music for lunchtime.
Meeting. I'm new to teaching music in a classroom setting, so I have regular meetings with the Music Head of Department to check in on how I'm going. We look for resources I can use in my Year 9 and 10 classes. We discuss the school focus on wellness, and also implications of the NCEA Review on our students and the subject. We cut the meeting short at 12.45pm so I can have some lunch, and she can prepare for the rest of her day. She is almost always the last person to leave each day, running groups until 5pm or 6pm most evenings.
12.45pm: I go back to my office on the other side of the school, have lunch (leftover macaroni cheese), and print off marks for an assessment I'm handing back today. The students handed this in before the end of last term but I haven't had an opportunity to mark the whole lot yet.
1pm: Lunch. Today is the first meeting of our school jazz band. I've got four songs ready for them to play. Working with extracurricular music groups is the main reason I teach; I was a musician before I taught so it's great to be able to use my other skills to help them develop as musicians. There is a student leader but they're new to running a group, so it's more hands on for me than it would normally be. Our music buildings aren't big enough for the number of students involved in the programme, so it's a struggle to find a suitable room, even for an "official" school group.
1.50pm: Year 11 Social Studies. We're looking at case studies of social actions about mental wellbeing. We talk about the services available to students at schools and universities, the political implications of this movement, and the perspectives of people involved. We discuss other general issues. This is a class who get very into discussions and we often get off track, but there is great learning to come from this.
Year 10 History. I am handing back marks from an assessment that I hadn't finished marking until last night. We have a discussion about what went well, and what went less well. There are a couple of students who are quite disappointed with their mark, so we have individual discussions about how this happened. A new assessment is introduced. They are doing presentations on different American abolitionists from the 1850s. I hope to develop their research skills, being able to discuss different perspectives on people and how reactions to them and their achievements change over time.
3.20pm: Classes end. I catch up on the emails I have missed, and get to the work I had intended to do first thing in the morning. I am preparing work for another Year 10 Social Studies class on a very challenging topic, so I need to think about how I can approach this subject with sensitivity but without watering down the material. I know this class will be able to cope with the material, but others wouldn't. I would have to completely rewrite this should I choose to do this topic with another group.
5.15pm: Going home. I have a few errands I need to do - groceries, petrol, etc. I'm home by 6pm, I cook dinner, and watch an episode of my show with my partner.
7pm: More work. While my partner is at her sports training, I do some more work. I have to complete this unit and then do some marking of an assessment. I have two sets of work that need to be handed back next week and I'm a bit behind on marking these. These assessments are relatively straightforward to mark, but because they're reports, they need to be read in their entirety and judged holistically. I have done about six or seven assessments by the time I finish up.
9.30pm: I turn off my work computer at this time, but I have emails on my phone so I'm checking these as they come through until about 10. Usually I would ignore them, but there are some important questions about an upcoming music trip.