Opinion Editorial by Dr Sarah Alexander.
May 22, 2022.
An early childhood centre teacher whose conduct should have been handled in-house by their employer was ordered to pay $2,106.18 in a judgement handed down by the Teaching Council’s disciplinary tribunal.
The teacher commenced employment at an early childhood centre on 6 July 2020. Four incidents of concern relating to the teacher’s handling of children occurred between 6 July and 24 July. The teacher was not spoken to by the centre manager about the incidents until 24 July.
The teacher holds a Provisional Practising Certificate, requiring the employer to provide a programme of induction and mentoring. The Centre elected to dismiss the teacher rather than managing the incidents in-house and providing the teacher with professional guidance and support.
The Disciplinary Tribunal found the incidents were at the low end of seriousness. The Tribunal believed there were other more appropriate ways in which the teacher could have achieved the outcomes wanted in respect of each of the three children involved. For example, in relation to the child who was running across the room, the teacher could have dealt with that by drawing the child aside and speaking to him rather than pulling on his sweatshirt to stop him.
The teacher said in their defence “in response to the report where it states that I am using unnecessary force when handling the children. I pride myself on being a professional teacher in the work environment and I understand that I am required to be gentle with the children in my care. This report is based on others making assumptions from their observations. They did not feel the need to come to me and talk about what they had seen.”
The Teaching Council exists for teachers. Why then did the Teaching Council’s disciplinary tribunal not make recommendations to help to make sure that something similar does not happen to children and to another teacher at the same centre or at any other early childhood centre?
Also, was the Teaching Council disciplinary tribunal aware that every centre has a legal obligation to ensure there is a Person Responsible present at all times and who provides supervision of staff? If it was aware of this, then why did it did not comment on this in its report or include a recommendation to the Ministry of Education on strengthening the regulation?
This case could put off any person, male or female, from becoming a teacher. It could put off newly trained teachers from becoming registered teachers and paying Teaching Council fees to have a practising certificate, opting instead to work as unregistered teachers.
The investment that goes into training teachers should not be lost in this way. We can’t afford to lose qualified teachers who want to teach and enjoy teaching.