Emily Writes: An open invitation to Mike Hosking

Mike Hosking argues that kindy teachers don’t deserve to be paid like high school teachers. But does he have any idea what an early childhood educator actually does?

So, it seems a bit redundant to write a piece about Mike Hosking’s latest “Mike’s Minute” or whatever it is he actually does. It’s all just grist for the mill I guess. But his latest whatever it is popped up on my Facebook feed and when I saw how many friends were commenting on it, I thought I’d hear him out.

He asked the following question: “Is it fair to suggest the teacher responsible for teaching Level 3 Calculus be paid the same amount as the teacher painting pictures with a three-year-old?”

Now, any parent who actually parents will know that early childhood education is no walk in the park and the question is absurd. And “painting pictures with a three-year-old” is not only not easy, but also it’s nowhere near all that a teacher does.

But men talking about things they don’t understand isn’t exactly new so why bother writing this column? Well, dear reader: It’s because I sincerely want to show Mike what kindy teachers do.

So I have an invitation to make to him: please Mike, jump in your penis extension car and come on down to my son’s kindy. You and I can spend the day together and you can attempt to do what my son’s early childhood teachers do ALL DAY.

You’ll be welcomed, despite how you talk about women who teach – because I know the teachers at my child’s kindy really want adults like yourself to understand how important it is that we have quality early childhood education in New Zealand.

Come along and share with us a little more about what you think early childhood teaching is. The teachers can talk to you about brain development – that’s what early childhood teachers study for three to six years before they teach (not including Post-Graduate qualifications).

I know you’ll want to hear about how from birth to the age of three children’s brains are producing more than a million neural connections each second. And that this development is one of the most complex intersections happening within the bodies of our little ones, a puzzle of activity influenced by a myriad of factors from a child’s relationships, their environment in and outside of their home, and every experience they have. You can actually hear about the absolutely crucial role played by teachers and parents in collaboration to build a child’s brain so that they feel secure and loved enough to learn how to live confidently in this complex world we’re in.

I mean, you must understand that all of that is far more complex than “calculus”. It’s important you understand it, because you can’t base your argument on a myth. And if you think “painting a picture” is the sum of an ECE teacher’s life’s work, then you’re basing your view on incorrect information.

I genuinely want to understand why you so confidently have a ranking system for difficulty in teaching, given that you have never, as far as I know, taught three-year-olds or 16-year-olds. It seems like you genuinely don’t know the impact the first three years of life have on children and how that then informs the lives of the 16-year-olds learning calculus.

Parents who are really involved in their children’s lives know just how difficult supporting them in handling their emotions is – let alone doing this for 30 or more children in one centre. This is just the very basis that early childhood learning builds upon. It’s not even the sum of the work.

You claim being an ECE teacher isn’t “complex work” and that calculus with a classroom of young adults is “way harder, more detailed, and requiring far greater skills”.  This is based on your unique understanding of….I’m not sure. Because what is more complex than not just supporting but growing the social, emotional, intellectual, language, and motor development of children?

ECE teachers are on the frontline of supporting children with so many differing needs. Some come from homes where there isn’t secure attachment, some have food and housing insecurities, some have high health needs, some are coping with the loss of whānau, or adjusting to life in New Zealand, some have severe disabilities. Is that less complex than calculus? Really?

Where does this false comparison come from? Why do you need to compare teachers in this way? Can’t you just acknowledge that both are vital jobs and both are difficult but most of all incredibly important and therefore we need pay equity? You seem like someone who cares a great deal about money – perhaps I could frame it in monetary terms for you. These children having access to quality early education means their parents can work and be wonderful little capitalist units, and then these children will be emotionally well-rounded means of production as well. That means more money for New Zealand. Good thing, right?

You said this topic isn’t emotive (and dare I say it, if you’d had access to quality early childhood education, you’d have a higher emotional intelligence than you currently do) but it absolutely is. Because ECE teachers support whole villages. They don’t just support children. They support their parents as well, they create a community of people, all working together for the benefit of a child.

Here I am being emotive but access to public health care for children with special needs or disabilities is absolutely dire in many parts of the country. Where I live we have one speech therapist and the waiting list was about eight months for my child to be seen. Eight months is a long time in the life of a child. Early intervention is almost nonexistent. Thankfully, his kindy filled this huge gap. They helped us with learning sign language, and supported us in using a picture exchange programme to help to communicate with our child. They have supported us when we have had deaths in the family, have supported me and many other mothers who have struggled with post-natal depression and sleep deprivation; they’re a wrap-around service.

So I guess I don’t just want to say: Come on over and see how wrong you are. I also want to say: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that you’re so blind to the amazing work that early childhood teachers do. I’m sorry that you think that all of this incredible work, shaping young minds, supporting whānau across our country, building villages – I’m sorry you don’t see it. I’m sorry, because it’s the most heart-warming, incredible thing. The work that our ECE teachers do, under paid, undervalued as it is – they keep doing it. I wish you could see it.

I’m sorry you don’t know these women and men who do this work. It’d enrich your life if you did. So come over – come see what ECE teachers really do. Recognising you’re wrong might be harder than calculus, but it’s a great lesson to learn, Mike.

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