Inglewood Primary School’s Rob Wheatley left a “seriously lucrative” sales career to retrain as a teacher at the age of 30 but there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing right now – even in the middle of a “totally disrupted” school year because of Covid-19.
Apart from loving his “rock star job”, Rob says there is a lot of hope on the horizon with the launch of the Wāwāhi Taha | Time for Tamariki campaign at the end of last term with its focus on starting to make the changes needed to ensure that tamariki get the education he wants to give them.
“I’m so passionate about being a teacher. I really love seeing these children learn and engage and grow. I think that teaching is the most important and most brilliant profession in the world.
“But there are some real long-standing issues that we face around teacher/student ratios and the ever-increasing work demands. We’re just not getting the time we need to really develop our tamariki – and that’s what I want to see change.”
Rob says one of the things that really spoke to him about Wāwāhi Taha | Time for Tamariki was how much its emphasis was on his students and finding space to be the best teacher he can be for them.
“Realistically as a kaiako now, you’re wearing so many hats. We need time. We need more support. We need more teacher aides and staff to support kids with specialised needs.
“We really need the recommendations of last year’s Pūaotanga report to be looked at seriously by the Government.”
One of the most difficult issues for him because of the increased work demands over the last few years means he has noticed his own health and wellbeing are now last in his order of priorities – something many of his colleagues are also saying.
“My family always comes first. Then my work and students and finally myself. That’s not healthy.
“But I do get help. I try to make sure that I’m open and honest about counselling services. I think all teachers should be doing it. We do a lot and we take it home. The kids are always on my mind. I’m always thinking about how I can teach them better.
“To do it really well and take care of yourself there’s not enough hours in the day.”
Like many others, his family has been impacted by Covid-19 over the last two years.
It meant he had to watch the Wāwāhi Taha | Time for Tamariki campaign launch video at home.
But he has been speaking with colleagues over the holidays and he says the enthusiasm to get started this term is starting to simmer nicely, with PUMs scheduled for this term and the ability to engage with local MPs and communities.
“There is a real feeling that this is the beginning of something. There is a feeling of excitement and anticipation. We know that we need to get things done.
“We also know that Wāwāhi Taha | Time for Tamariki is just the first step in a long process.
“Things aren’t going to happen immediately and the changes we all want to see in education are going to take time.
“But what I have noticed is that a lot of my colleagues are really passionate about making positive change for future generations.
“We know that by working together we can change things for the better, and it’s time we did it again.”