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My First Week of School

Like every young kid I was nervous to show up to my first day of school.  Would I be able to find my friends in the playground?  Was I sure I knew where the bathrooms were?  Would I cry when I had to get in front of class?

First days of school are never that enjoyable for teacher or student, but I have to say this was one of my best.  My schedule is fairly light this term. I have one to two hours free most days because I’m a first year NZ teacher (7 year US teacher, but you get a lighter load your first year teaching in NZ).  The students were smaller than I was expecting.  I’d heard rumors that my new school was a tough one, but the people that perpetuated these stories have never taught in a S. Austin charter school.

The students have an extreme dress code.  Junior girls (age 13-15) wear private school knee length skirts (which Travis disapprovingly refers to as “pedo-skirts”) and collared shirts.  No jewelry, hair clips (unless they are black, gray, or green), only gold or silver stud earrings. Shoes must be black leather sandals.  The boys are much the same with shorts instead of skirts.  The senior girls (ages 16-18) have ankle length skirts, and boys wear green shirt jackets and a red tie.  The teachers on the other hand can wear jeans and a nice shirt.  I found this a strange double standard, but since jeans and a few nice shirts is all I have I will not complain.

The students were very friendly.  I can’t walk anywhere during class break without receiving a dozen or two greetings from my students.  This is a good feeling, but it makes getting from one building to another in a hurry difficult.   I was warned before I moved here that the normal passive-aggressiveness that passes as normal in most of American culture is not present in NZ.  This is very obvious when you talk to a NZ youth.  It caught me by surprise when putting students in assigned seats; if two students didn’t like each other they BOTH let me know immediately.  Quickly the class would confirm that the students hate each other and should not sit next to one another.  In an American school I would have told them, “Too bad.” and to stop complaining, but the Kiwi students weren’t complaining. They were just telling the hard, cold truth.  So I learned to make seating changes quickly and go on with the lesson.

Overall, the first two weeks of school went great.  I had a few lessons that didn’t quite make it. Sometimes it was my planning. Sometimes it was because a class was trying to push the limits, but I still feel this is the best start to a school year I have ever had.

It also helped that at the end of the two weeks I got my first paycheck.  Nothing mind-blowing since my pervious teaching experience hasn’t been assessed and counted towards my experience, but a paycheck none the less.


5 Responses

  1. Hello,

    I am from California and previously lived in New Zealand for six months while using a work holiday visa. Unfortunately I made the mistake of coming back to the states and got sucked into staying. I am wanting to return permanently and would like to become a teacher. Although I have been researching visa requirements, I am a bit lost as to the educational requirements. Does my bachelor degree equate to NZ’s secondary teaching qualification? Or do I need to take the teaching credential exam here in California first? Also, would it be difficult to find employment without any class time experience? I would be coming with minimal classroom experience just my passion, my degree, and a prayer. Any information that you have learned through the process would be greatly appreciated.

    God Bless,

    • JP,
      As long as your college transcript says something about teaching you will be able to jump through the hoops. I turned in four teaching certs. from different states I’m certified to teach in but no one seemed impressed. On my transcripts it says I have a BS in social science and had completed a secondary education teaching program, that’s all NZ looks at. If you looking at living here for awhile it would make sense for you to go the same route I did, skilled migrant residency permit. It’s not easy or all that cheep, but it will get you here and make it much easier for you to get a teaching position. Schools don’t like to hire people on working holiday visas if they have a chance to hire someone that will stick around for more then a year. You won’t even make it to the interview stage unless your CV states your in the process of applying for permanent residency. The process took 9 months start to finish for me. I moved to NZ with a visitors visa after I submitted my final application. It worked out great, because the process is supposed to weed out people that won’t make it in NZ. If your living and working (even if it’s minimum wage like my partner) most of the questions they ask you are redundant and it speeds up things a bit.
      I’m rambling now, but check my blog about step one and two of the immigration process. I give as clear idea of all the steps you need to get your teaching qualifications reviewed, and your NZ teachers registration as I could manage. If you decide to give the whole thing a try and are looking at sending your resume and CV let me know I will send you some I’ve gotten from Kiwi teachers.. They do them VERY differently here, anything short of three pages goes into the rubbish bin. I read one where a teacher listed playing the recorder in seventh grade and walking her dog as things she enjoyed doing. It’s a strange thing.
      Anyway, best wishes. Teaching in NZ is great. Less rules and worries, more teaching.

      Getting a job has a lot to do with what you want to teach, and where. It’s hard to get through the door here as a foreigner for the permanent jobs, but landing a long term sub job is a good place to start. School is four terms, year round with the school year ending mid Dec. and starting up early Feb. They are very lenient about sabbaticals and allow up to a year maternity leave. This means that schools always have 5-8 teachers hired just to fill in for people on leave (this is what I’m doing). It’s a pretty good gig. I’m treated like a real teacher, I get real teacher pay. The only disadvantage is there’s a chance they won’t have a job for me next term. But the more things you can teach the more valuable you are to your school. Teachers do not get a teaching cert. with a subject on it. Normally they just teach what their major was, and then if the school needs them to do something else they do it. Right now I’m teaching social studies and English for the second term in a row. I’m also teaching Travel and Tourism, I was told that I needed to have a degree in it to teach, but obviously the rules about who teaches what here are very relaxed.
      I would suggest you come out in June/July time, pick up a subbing job (they call it relief here). You get a 4K bonus if you land a job the first three months your out here, that counts subbing. I missed this by three weeks. I figured coming out in Oct. when the majority of schools start looking for next years teachers was the time to come, but the facts are that us foreigners get jobs after everyone else has jobs. So I didn’t get a job until a week before school started in Feb.
      There are a lot of private schools with religious affiliations in Auckland. They would not be a good fit for me, but

    • wow, I’m not sure what I did to mess up that email. Sorry, I must be more tired then I thought.

  2. Thank you for the response everyone. So does this mean I need to take a teaching credential here in the US? All I have is my BS in History with no prior teaching experience. I want to teach in NZ, but not really wanting to go back to school in the states. Do you think I would make it just on my BS in History for he skilled migrant program?


    • You will need some sort of teaching cert. Even the people that make your coffee have a cert. here. But if you want to study here you can get a one year teaching cert. http://www.education.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/gdip-teaching-secondary I’m not sure how you can work it so you don’t have to pay international prices, I know theirs a way around it. You might be able to get a job at a private school. But I’ve heard Auckland Uni (the major college here) regulates pretty well the amount of students they put out each year to match the projected number of jobs available. Therefore, schools don’t have to hire internationals if they don’t want to.

      Also, without a teaching cert. you can’t apply for the Skilled migrant residency. You would have to go the work to residency route. I’ve not heard much about this immigration path except that it is not widely used or understood.

      Hope that helps.


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