Of the stories sent in, I have given some priority to this one, that of a teacher being bullied by a senior person from a Professional Learning and Development company. Teachers are backing this up with their own accounts in which it has been obvious PLD people have spoken to the education review office or the ministry about teachers who have challenging views on education; or they have undertaken to tick teachers off themselves with the implied threat of the backing of the bureaucracies. Teachers have said they felt inhibited in discussion and under pressure to pad data (if the PLD prescription is necessarily right, any teacher who doesn’t improve results is obviously getting it wrong).
I am a teacher in small rural school in the central North Island.
I have now been unemployed for a month. For 30 years I have taught at a local primary school and always been involved with our school community. I have always kept uppermost in my mind that each child has their own special potential – and that my job is to help them discover and grow this – whether it is music, rugby, science, carving, as well as all the other more formal parts of the curriculum.
This year at school, we received professional learning support from a big company. Two women came and talked to us about modern learning environments. They invited comment and I shared with them that we had many students who were the third generation who’d had trouble reading. I was trying to show them the bigger picture of our community and to talk about how we might be able to involve families in our literacy and learning programmes.
The two women were very challenging. They kept saying to me, ‘You have to examine the data.’ But what they really meant was looking at the maths and reading tests. Our room is full of data – photos, paintings, weaving, tukutuku stories, sporting, music, speech awards, as well as the data they were referring to.
The women were obviously not happy with me. We will be reporting you to others, they said. When they came back next time, they brought another woman with them. She was very aggressive and started by saying exactly the same thing. ‘Now you need to examine the data’ as though it was some kind of mantra. I tried to explain again that that in itself would not be sufficient as many of our children had not had the same opportunities as others and there was a constant need to build their confidence and gain their trust. Then I mentioned the three generation thing again …
This really unleashed something! The new woman poked her finger at me and said very loudly ‘Three generations! And what do you think is the common factor here?’ Without waiting for any reply, she continued – with more finger pointing – ‘You!’
Not poverty, not the fact that these families sometimes give their children marijuana as a reward for being ‘good’, not family violence, ill-health, a lack of breakfast and a mum in jail …
My face was burning up and I couldn’t speak. I thought I was going to pass out – it was like being punched in the face. Not able to stay in the room, I ran out and got into my car. I have no idea how I drove home that night.
The next day I resigned. I feel as though everything I have ever believed in has been ripped out of me, everything I have ever valued about education gone. My doctor has prescribed anti-depressants.”
Kelvin, I know that you have asked people to share their stories. It seems that bullying is rife, thanks to a culture of bullying from the minister down through ministry advisers, the education review office and, increasingly, Professional Learning and Development personnel.
And all ending up in our classrooms.