Thinking about emigrating and teaching high school students in New Zealand? Before you do take a look at an interview on Sunday with American teacher, Gregg Smith, the video may be found here on TVNZ.
Gregg Smith is an extremely talented ex-USA airforce officer who once worked at the Pentagon and whose life took a turn for the worse when he decided to emigrate to New Zealand to re-train as a teacher and teach at Dannevirke High School (see Streeview below) in the Hawkes Bay region, North Island.
During his time at the school he was subjected to a fercious hate campaign, falsely accused and bullied by students who were intent on sending him back to America. Unfortunately the bullying went on outside the classroom too, Mr Smith was heckled in the street and death threats were made against him.
“Alan Vester, chairman of the Secondary Principals’ Council and Edgewater College principal, told TV ONE’s Breakfast this morning that the claims about him being a paedophile were concerning. Vester said in most schools there would be a lot of back-up for a teacher in this kind of situation. He said Smith received some support from colleagues but the school should have acted to stop it. ” source
Since his ordeal in 2006 Gregg has decided to write a book about his experiences which was published at the end of last year.
Former teacher, engineer, computer analyst, Pentagon gopher, Air Force officer, United Nations inmate . . . What can I say in 3900 characters that would even begin to describe me? Just read the book! Things in my life had gone relatively well until I decided to go to New Zealand and train as a secondary school math and physics teacher. Nothing in my life could have prepared me for what greeted me in New Zealand schools: verbal abuse, sexual harassment, assault, indifferent students, violence, xenophobia, and an animosity toward education that I’d never imagined existed anywhere on earth. As one of my colleagues described it, “We’re just like Jesus Christ — we come here for no purpose but to do good and to help make their lives better and all they can think to do is to crucify us.”<\p> I’d think it unbelievable if I hadn’t lived through every nightmarish minute of it myself. The reality was actually worse — trust me
Through writing his book Gregg hopes to bring out into the open the many issues present within New Zealand’s high schools and bring them to a “higher ground” The book “Swimming in the cesspool – An American Teacher’s Nightmare Encounter with New Zealand Secondary Education” is described as
“This book is the true story of an immigrant teacher’s experiences with the New Zealand secondary education system. Beginning with a detailed history of the author’s life prior to training as a teacher, the book weaves a tale through the intricacies of applying to and attending teacher training in New Zealand, finding a job as a teacher, struggling to teach students aggressively opposed to learning, and dealing with the various bureaucratic organisations that surround New Zealand schools.
While much of the introductory material is light-hearted, the narrative evolves into a serious discussion of issues surrounding secondary education in New Zealand. The horrors confronting some teachers are described in full detail, with extensive documentation. The book brings the full impact of the problems home by giving the reader an intimate look at the effects of the abusive and destructive work environment that eventually lead to the author’s walking away from his teaching career in order to preserve his mental and emotional health.
This story is a must-read for anyone associated with education, particularly in New Zealand. It raises serious questions about the demands we place on teachers. Ultimately, it questions the purpose and effectiveness of the education system as a whole, while exposing systematic failures at all levels. This story makes compelling, if frightening, reading. You may never put your child in a public school again.”
How much of a problem is violence against teachers in New Zealand’s schools?
In March 2010 New Zealand newspaper the Dominion Post used the Official Information Act to obtain data on the number of school staff that received ACC funded treatment for injuries sustained following an attack at school and put that together with Ministry of Education figures for 2008, to reveal that at least 777 teachers were assaulted whilst at work during 2008/9 (that’s without the figures for non-treatment assaults during 2009):
The TVNZ interview is the subject of a heated debate on the forum at Expatexposed.com which has since been closed down. One poster describing a section of the video thus:
It destroyed my life … all I ever wanted to do was teach kids maths.”
Interviewer : Was being an American a factor?
Mr Smith says that he had multiple instances of his kids saying “we’re going to send that yankee Cnut back to America, it seemed to be a campaign they had, they seemed to take pleasure in the fact they were going to send me back to the United States.”
At some point two of his ex students say something very revealing.
“he could have felt like an outsider because we are so tight-knit”.
“but then we are very friendly as well, and quite welcoming” Lol!
They say he didn’t have the same personality as us (not me, or her). Like the whole town possess one big homogenous personality, and any deviance from it is threatening to the group dynamic.
This was before they started the town-wide pedophile campaign to discredit him, and ruin his life…
One of his students wrote on the board, “G Smith is a pedophile”, then he was shouted at in the street “THERE GOES THE PEDOPHILE”. Then one of his colleagues warned him that there were rumours in the town he was a pedophile.
Those kids have the ethics and morals of swamp rats.
Unfucking believable. Any American still thinking of teaching in NZ?
Swimming in the Cesspool
by Gregg Smith
reviewed by Carol Davala
“I never expected to be ATTACKED for trying to make someone’s life richer by sharing my knowledge of mathematics with him, yet that’s exactly what I encountered in Dannevirke.”
Gregg Smith never failed at anything. He attended the US Air Force Academy, earned degrees in mathematics and engineering, lived and worked in seven different countries, and even conquered the art of clowning. But his textbook style work subtitled “An American Teacher’s Nightmare Encounter with New Zealand Secondary Education,” reveals the shocking tale of Smith’s mid-life career change, wherein ultimately the author’s ensuing teaching experience at Dannevirke High School could be classified as a catastrophic failure with a capital F.
Anyone who has attempted to bring order to a classroom of unruly students, can surely relate to Smith’s plight. The author’s candid story brings to mind the docu-drama “Dangerous Minds,” wherein an ex-marine struggles to connect with the inner city youth she’s been hired to teach. Unfortunately in Smith’s case there is no triumphant Hollywood ending. In vivid detail Smith recounts the verbal abuse, physical assaults, sexual harassment, and mob-like intimidation he suffered at the hands of students, parents, and the Dannevirke community. The incidents took such a major toll on his health and psyche, that after eighteen months he resigned.
Smith is understandably bitter about his experience. While his lengthy treatise includes documents, letters, recollections, and actual “greenies” (the forms he had to submit for disciplinary infractions), that back up his claims, the sheer volume of information speaks to his mounting frustrations. Amidst all the bureaucracy, red tape, and inconsistencies that go along with handling problematic students, Smith’s experience takes on a kind of “Alice in Wonderland” dimension, complete with the element of Mad Hatter madness. With personal anecdotes and witty sarcasm woven into his writing, he attempts to balance and rebut a harrowing situation gone way beyond his control.
Swimming in the Cesspool is Smith’s effort to make public the truth about his own personal experience at Dannevirke High School. As the saying goes “the truth will set you free.” Hopefully Smith’s truth will serve as an enlightening resource to help bring secondary education in New Zealand to a higher ground.”
- The NZ Human Rights Commission has identified significant human rights issues in relation to violence in New Zealand Schools.
- A pre-school in West Auckland was forced to give a teacher glowing references even though she was accused of abusing young children in her care. Because of the age of the children, and their reliability as witnesses, police decided to only give her a formal caution and not prosecute the woman. As part of her terms of severence the head teacher is not allowed to reveal anything about the woman’s abusive behaviour, both the name of the school and the teacher have been banned from pulication.
- Thinking about teaching in New Zealand? from our Migrant Tales series
- New Zealand Attraction” A discussion thread on Dave’s ESL Cafe
- Another Teacher Stabbed in NZ Classroom – Steve Hose stabbed at Te Puke High School in the Western Bay of Plenty
- Two More Teachers Assaulted In Tauranga – two teachers at Tauranga Girl’s College were assaulted by a female pupil within a 24 hour period
- NZ Teachers Need More Power to Protect Themselves
- Bullying to Blame For Te Puke Teacher Stabbing
- Kids in New Zealand – The Village Lets Them Down
- “Poor” NZ Among Lowest In OECD For Education Spending
- NZ Scores Second Worst in the World For Bullying in Schools
- Bullying Rife In NZ Hospitals
- Quarter Of Kiwis, Fifth Of NZ Police Officers Bullied At Work
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