Pay equity stories: Maryann’s story
“I love my job. I love seeing the children I work with achieve their goals and develop and grow. My goal is to see Support Staff and particularly TAs paid a fair wage for the work they do.”
I have been a Teacher Aide for 13 years. I work in a full primary school in Lower Hutt.
I usually arrive at school at 8.30 in the morning, although I get paid from 9am. It is a chance to have a quick word to the teachers or the Deputy Principal about how the day may look.
At 9am I work with a child with very high behavioural needs. He has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to family violence. He started school earlier this year and has a Teacher Aide with him for the time he is at school which is currently 4 hours a day, up from the one and a half hours he started on. I have spent a lot of time building a relationship with him so he is able to trust me and know I will keep him safe at school. It’s a work in progress. At the moment there is very little academic learning happening as he just learns to be in a classroom. I am always looking out for signs he is stressed or anxious. He is learning how to interact with adults and other children and part of my job is to socialise him so he is able to build healthy relationships with other children.
After morning tea I work with an 11 year old with a brain injury which has left him with a very poor working memory so he is unable to read or write. I have spent a lot of time building his self-esteem as he is very aware of his disability. I work with his teachers, ACC providers and a psychologist to deliver a curriculum that meets his needs. I am teaching him to read a digital clock and follow a timetable so he can be as independent as possible. I am working with an agency called Talk Link that is looking at technical solutions to his problems. We are about to trial a Smart Watch to see if it would help him gain more independence and allow him to access the internet for information rather than relying on another person to do it for him.
At lunchtime, I spend half an hour in the playground watching the children with behavioural problems and pre-empting issues (hopefully) keeping them safe and showing them how to play with others. I build their social skills, so they are able to join in games and take turns with equipment.
After lunch I run a programme for small groups of children. I have been trained in the Feuerstein method. This programme enables people to analyse, organise and improve their thinking skills. It teaches not just what to think, but how to think, by identifying cognitive functions and strategies for using them. We target children who are not progressing as well as they should.
I really enjoy this programme, we see many benefits from it and the children flourish as they become more confident. I do a lot of planning and gathering resources for the programme in my own time as there is no paid planning time for teacher aides.
Some days are harder than others, some days I get sworn at, have things thrown at me and have been bitten and hit a few times, as have many teacher aides dealing with multiple behaviours.
So as you will now be aware, I do not mix paint, staple things together or clean the whiteboards!
I earn $20.44 an hour and I’m not paid through the school holidays although I am paid for statutory holidays and for five weeks holiday a year.
For me pay equity means I will have value within the school system because our society judges people on what they earn, not the value of the job they do. I will be paid fairly for the skills I have and continue to develop. I have a teacher aide certificate for which I earn 19 cents an hour extra. The Feuerstein training I have done has no monetary amount added; it is not recognised on the pay framework.
Pay equity would mean I could give my youngest child more money – she is a student and money is tight. I would also like to be able to save money to visit my other children who live overseas. Currently my husband saves his income which allows us to do this, but it is demoralising and very sexist to rely on his income especially as I work as hard as he does.
Pay equity would mean Support Staff would be seen as professionals within the school system. Schools can no longer function without Support Staff so it is time to recognise the work we do and pay us what we deserve, it is 2017 and time people got over seeing jobs as women’s work. It is just work.
I love my job. I love seeing the children I work with achieve their goals and develop and grow. My goal is to see Support Staff and particularly TAs paid a fair wage for the work they do.