High school students in Aotearoa are standing with their kaiako, writes student Jessica Licht.

And it’s time for the Government to listen to teachers when they say they need higher salaries, Jessica writes in this opinion piece, otherwise we will have no teachers left. 

Our radio stations play adverts proclaiming the financial incentives for New Zealand teachers to relocate to Australia. 

Why are we letting some of our most valuable people leave New Zealand to work as a teacher somewhere else, because we are unwilling to pay them what they are worth? 

Some may say it is because they live the “sweet life”. 

They work from 9am to 3pm, have weekends and school holidays off, so why are they asking for more? 

The answer is simple. 

The copious amount of work they put in behind the scenes often goes unnoticed. 

Teachers have to prepare lesson plans. 

They have to create, assign and mark assignments. 

They have to continuously upskill to keep up with the ever changing climate, whether that be learning more about technology, the changing NZQA curriculum, or even being able to run Hauora (wellbeing) sessions. 

However, all of that does not even begin to encompass the work that teachers do which prove they go above and beyond their call of duty, which they already aren’t paid enough for. 

Over the past five years at Hillcrest High School, I have had teachers who run tutorials before school, providing us with free breakfast with money that comes from their own pocket. 

I have had teachers reply to my emails instantly, no matter the time or day. 

I have had teachers drive to my parent’s work so that they could drop off a practice test they had marked for me as I had accidentally left it at school. 

I have had teachers who give up their evenings and weekends to support me and my teammates in our extra curricular activities. 

I have had teachers, both past and present, who email me happy birthday or to congratulate me on different achievements. 

These are the acts of kindness that surpass the bounds of their stereotypical job description. 

These are the hours that they put in which they should be paid for. 

Teachers in the modern day do so much more than just teach.

They form bonds with students that enable us to come to them with our issues, whether they be personal or academic, and offer us guidance and support. 

Our teachers are our role models, showing us the sort of upstanding citizens we should aspire to be. 

New Zealand prides itself on being a “team of five million” so why are we letting members of our team down? 

Teachers are the people who shape the leaders of tomorrow, who instill in us the behaviours which we should carry forward into the workforce. 

What message are we sending when we do not value these teachers enough to pay them what they deserve? 

How many students are we discouraging from becoming teachers because they know that they will be plagued with financial difficulties? 

Teaching should no longer be a ‘passion’ profession but rather a financially viable and desirable profession. 

Now is our opportunity to make a difference. 

We should not and cannot ignore the voices of both teachers and students who are campaigning for the same changes. 

When our youth are using their voice to ask, to plead, for help for their teachers, we know this has gone on far too long. 

Hillcrest and Cambridge High School students have spoken to news reporters, online petitions have been started and Wellington students have created an Instagram page and are actively protesting. 

We stand with our teachers, will you stand with us? 

Jessica Licht is a Head Student at Hillcrest High School and one of the students advocating for an improvement in teacher’s pay and a Waikato based member of ‘We Back our Kaiako’.  

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