Teachers under the pump, struggling to be educators they aspire to be

Despite up-skilling, an Auckland teacher says she struggles to be the teacher she aspires to be under mounting stress and challenges in the industry.

Primary and secondary teachers unions last week announced a strike at the end of this month which will be the biggest industrial action taken in New Zealand.

Teachers have been fighting the Government for years for better pay and working conditions, and Gladstone Primary School's Kahli Olivera says they are exhausted and fed up.

She has been teaching for 20 years and in that time has a mounting work load, longer hours, more students in classrooms and teachers continuously up-skilling but with little pay increases to reflect their new skills.

Ms Olivera told TVNZ1's Breakfast today that she had been paid more for the leadership roles she has taken on, but had no extra time in the day to carry out the new work.

"We just don't have enough time in the day to do our job like we all aspire to do and that's our problem.

"We as teachers, as a profession, we work hard. We think of those little people in our heads at seven o'clock in the morning and then 4am when we wake up and go "oh that's a really good idea for that reading group, lets do that", but it doesn't stop. This is our problem."

Ms Olivera says there is an aging workforce of teachers who cannot up-skill and take on any more than they already have.

"We just need more money, we need the Government to actually just open those purse strings," she said.

In a typical work day, the carpark is full by 7.15am, with teachers in the classroom by 8.15am, then they don't leave again until 4.15pm.

In that time, Ms Olivera teaches 31 students in her classroom who have a range of different needs, including an English second language student and one with autism.

"This is what happens - experienced teachers, we have to take the load of beginning teachers because you can't put children like that in a beginning teachers classroom.

"We needed more skills, I needed to be able to cater for those children."

To do so, Ms Olivera recently finished a Post Graduate Diploma specialising in autism, but had not received any more pay for the qualification.

"My professional knowledge and skills has grown amazingly and I wouldn't not do it in the world, but we just need more money," she said.

Speaking on TVNZ1's Q+A on May 14, Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin acknnowleged the work New Zealand teachers do but says the Government can't afford the pay increases teachers want.

"Their workloads are real, the number of students in their classrooms that need learning support are real, the administration burden that they have had is very real," Ms Martin said.

"But right now, this Government can only afford $1.2 billion to put into teacher salaries.

"Unfortunately the teachers don't believe us. So we are at an impasse."

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Auckland teacher Kahli Olivera tells TVNZ1’s Breakfast about the struggles she faces in the education system. Source: Breakfast