Teachers on strike in Auckland in August 2018 (Photo: Dan Cook/RNZ)

Five things parents can do to support the teachers

The biggest education strike in New Zealand history, including primary and secondary school teachers, and principals, will take place on May 29. But what can parents do to help? Emily Writes has some advice.

On Sunday it was announced that teachers in primary and secondary schools would strike for more funding, lower class ratios, support for children with additional needs and a pay jolt to address the teacher shortage. I have long supported the teachers in their efforts and I’ll continue to do so.

One of the reasons why I voted for, and encouraged others to vote for the Labour Party or the Green Party was because they both campaigned on a promise to support New Zealand’s children – this includes education.

I’ve watched in horror over the last few weeks as Education Minister Chris Hipkins has made juvenile, pouty comments about teachers not respecting him enough (and therefore I suppose making them unworthy of a fair deal?). I’ve been amazed by the lack of action by the government and the vulgar spin painting teachers as greedy or laughably “the top income earners in the country”. It’s like they think we’re idiots. Chris honey, our kids were born yesterday – we weren’t!

Parents around New Zealand contacted me after the strike announcement to ask how we can support teachers. Everywhere I look, parents want to mobilise and they want to make sure the government knows that they back the teachers.

So I decided to make a list of five easy things we can do to encourage the government to address New Zealand’s education crisis and show solidarity for our wonderful teachers.

Talk to a teacher

Ask your child’s teacher how you can support them with their strike action. Thank them for their work and let them know that you appreciate that this was a really hard decision for them to make. Teachers are exhausted. They’re being beaten up by the government after being beaten up by the previous government and they’re demoralised. They need our support.

Go to a rally

Grab the fam and get to a local rally on 29 May. The rallies will hopefully be huge. They need to be big enough to show the government how important our children are to us. I took my kids to the last strike back in August and they had a great time – they’re always lovely events and they give us a chance to teach our children how democracy works.

Join a group and organise!

Almost immediately after the strike announcement parents started setting up Facebook groups to talk about supporting the teachers. This is an excellent thing to do. Start a local group or join a bigger group. Make signs together, write to MPs together, write thank you letters to your teachers or make posters. Involve the kids! Your kids are never too young to make themselves heard and to see their parents and loved ones fighting for their future.

Strike back at the BS

The government seems to be on a misinformation campaign – correct the BS wherever you see it. Teachers are not being offered a 10k pay raise in a year. Though let’s be clear they should be – teaching is an incredibly difficult role which requires a lot of emotional maturity as well as skill and expertise. I have all of the side-eyes in the world for people, mostly men, who think teaching isn’t a skilled profession given it’s mostly women who are in this profession. Talk to a teacher before you swallow comments by Chris Hipkins that teachers are rolling in cash like Scrooge McDuck. Tell your friends, tell your whānau, tell everyone you know that the truth is that what teachers are asking for isn’t unreasonable. We really do need smaller classrooms, we need more support for children with additional needs, and teachers need more time to plan their lessons. That isn’t a crazed and wild request! It makes perfect sense.

Talk! Talk! Talk!

Contact your board of trustees and ask them if they support the strike action. Before you vote in board elections, ask the candidates what they’re doing to help with teacher and principal workloads. What are they publicly doing to support striking teachers? Email your local MP. Contact Chris Hipkins and tell him to listen to the people who voted for his party and stop being a damn walnut (kids might be reading so I can’t say what I’d like to say to him). If you’re a Labour or Greens voter, remind Labour and the Greens they made election promises and if we wanted National in government we would have voted for National. If for some unknown reason you voted for Winston Peters – I don’t know. Put down your sherry and think about your great grandchildren and their future.

Getting political isn’t a natural state for a lot of us. I get that. But this issue is beyond politics. Yes, National did this. They fucked our education system. But what’s done is done and we have to fix it – there’s no other option. We just HAVE to fix it. Yes, seeing National MPs putting out press releases saying they’re astonished Labour MPs won’t fix the problems they made is pretty excruciating (a bit like when a child shits in the bath then gets angry that there’s shit in the bath) but we can’t get drawn into all that muck. It’s a diversion. This is beyond political allegiances – this is about our kids and their right to an education. It’s about our wonderful teachers who have been dumped on for so long it’s no wonder so many have given up on the profession.

A recent poll surveyed a bunch of New Zealanders and found 89% wanted money to be spent on fixing problems in education, rather than in other areas.

The survey found 83% agreed that primary and secondary teachers needed a pay rise, about 80% agreed teachers were bogged down in administration that was getting in the way of teaching, and more than 70% said class sizes should be reduced.

There’s massive support for fixing this problem. And what teachers have asked for is fair and reasonable. We just need the government to listen. This is our chance to really make our education system world-class.

We can do it. We just need to do it together. Everyone together.


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