Teaching council elections - time for your voice to be heard
After a successful campaign to return democracy to the teachers' council, now is your chance to exercise that right.
Nominations are now open for the for the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand elections next March. This is the chance for teachers to have a say in who represents them on their professional body.
Teachers deserve to be represented by people who understand them
Di Wills was PPTA’s nominated appointee on the then New Zealand Teachers Council in the five years leading up to National government disestablishing its elected teacher representative positions.
She too urges members to vote in the elections. "You need to make the effort and the time because teachers deserve to have someone who understands them, represent them," she said.
When Di was on the council it had nominees from PPTA, NZEI and NZSTA and elected representatives from the ECE, primary and secondary sectors.
Experience outside the classroom can help
A branch chair from early on in her teaching career and member of the association's executive for 10 years, she was approached by PPTA to be the association's nominee on the council.
"I was happy to do it because I thought it would be interesting," she said.
Di had also previously worked for the Education Review Office (ERO) which she found valuable experience for the role and something she believed would benefit potential candidates.
"If you are interested in looking at some of the issues that impact on the whole education system outside of your classroom then have a go at it, and if you have experience in education outside of your experience in the classroom, even better."
A combination of people very much in touch with teachers
During her time on the council Di was impressed with the combination of people who were on it with her. "It was a combination of people who were very much in touch with teachers' issues and with the reality of what a difficult job teaching can be," she said.
One of the biggest challenges, and most important tasks, of the council was its disciplinary function, Di said.
"Sometimes it was heart wrenching, it really was. I was proud that teachers got a good hearing from people who knew about the issues of the job, but at the same time everybody was in the same place when it came to not allowing somebody who should not be in the profession to carry on teaching.
"The biggest challenge was not to be too kind because the students' interests always have to come first, they really do. It's all about the kids and the situation they are in."
Tackling low voter turnout
Di was also proud of her role in reworking the standards for Initial Teacher Education providers. "It was time and it was a good thing. The professional standards and code of ethics had been written before I arrived, but that was something I was proud to be able to do."
Being on the council when the decision was made by government to disestablish its democratically elected positions is one of the reasons why Di encourages members to vote.
"One of the sad things was the fact that (when the decision was made) the percentage of people who were eligible to vote that did vote was very low. I can understand that. People don't have time, they feel like they don't know the candidates, but you need to take the time to read the candidate outlines. If you don't vote it undermines the credibility of having those people on the council."
The low voter turnout was one of the reasons a distrustful government gave for removing the elected positions, she said.
We need to build support and trust
"There was a feeling that people couldn't represent their colleagues on the job without being biased. It was part of a lack of trust in the profession on behalf of the government. There was an assumption on behalf of the people who talked to the council when they were doing the investigation (on it's make up and role) that if you were there representing a group then you would make decisions in the interests of that group. That was not true in any of the decisions I was party to. It was always about the students.
"We need to build that support and trust, so I really encourage people to vote," she said.
Tips from the Teaching Council
- Think about who you might want to nominate – due to time pressures most of the nomination period occurs during term break.
- Make sure the Teaching Council has your current email address so you can vote electronically (update your details at educationcouncil.org.nz)
- Make sure your practising certificate is valid through February and March or you have a LAT so you’re eligible to vote
- You can find up to date information at educationcouncil.org.nz (search for 'teaching council board elections')