Circles of Influence

6 September 2018

“When teachers do their job powerfully well, when they use technology and the platforms of their profession to influence social norms, they can both play the game and change the game for their students.” Our Chair of the Board, Bernardine Vester, discusses the influence that teachers can have.

Otara is becoming a topic of city conversation.  I loved the great journalism in this week’s piece on the Stuff website, Southside Rising.  Definitely worth viewing. 

For over ten years I worked in Otara, in an anonymous office that was part of the Manukau Institute of Technology campus, opposite the forbidding green fence that separates the institution off from the carpark and the people. Almost every day I would walk through the casual ambience of the Town Centre: the outdoor benches always peopled by observers, the mall animated by community and laughter.  Otara is one of those Auckland suburbs that is loved by those who live there and seemingly forgotten and ignored by everyone else—including the students and many staff on the tertiary campus right next door.  Actually, right there! 

This year, the Otara Music and Arts Centre (OMAC) celebrates its 30th Anniversary.  It’s a local institution, a significant scene in its own right.  I really liked the 30 Facebook video pieces that are part of the OMAC celebrations.  They describe vision translated into action and impact.  One was from former teacher Warren Lindberg.  His effect on young people in the suburb from its early days is still legendary. 

The influence of teachers, of course, is one of the things that exercise us at Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu.  There are 16 schools in this suburb.  All of them serve a community that has confronted social inequality—and such communities are our central interest.  Teachers working with young people here are vital to the success of learners. Top teachers also become influencers in their community and advocates for social equity in the wider world.


When teachers do their job powerfully well, when they use technology and the platforms of their profession to influence social norms, they can both play the game and change the game for their students.  The Teach First NZ Board really believes this.  This is why we have determined that, alongside a high-quality teacher development programme, one of our strategic priorities over the next three to five years is to support the development of an energetic, vibrant and powerful alumni network.  
As yet we have no fixed view on the shape and actions of such a network.  The board is very proud of the work our talented alumni do in the classroom, in the profession, and among their colleagues.  All the same, we believe that educators need support to front up to difficult conversations; to translate their feelings and experiences about social justice into actions; and to spread the word about the achievements and potential of their students into forums that matter.  The board looks forward to conversations with all of our stakeholders about how the organisation can support alumni powerfully and well in the interest of reducing educational inequality.