COVID cancels conference
For the first time in the 70-year history of PPTA Te Wehengarua, our annual conference, scheduled for the first week of the October break, was cancelled and replaced with an online Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Given Auckland was still in lockdown and the high levels of uncertainty in other parts of the country, PPTA Executive decided to cancel the conference and hold an online AGM which would consider only constitutional conference papers. The event saw the main meeting room / library at PPTA National Office in Wellington transformed into a real live broadcasting set, complete with lights, cameras, computers and plenty of Zoom action, while the Communications staff office became the hair and make-up room for the people who usually sit at the top table at annual conference.
Michael Stevenson, PPTA Te Wehengarua General Secretary, says COVID-19 required the Association to be inventive around the conference, just as it had with the ‘double bubble’ Wellington /Christchurch annual conference last year. “I think the online AGM went as well as it could have. But it’s something you do because of the circumstances. Nothing beats a proper face-to-face PPTA conference.
“It was challenging to bring the techies into the PPTA world. They are used to doing Zoom AGMs in this day and age, but the PPTA world is a peculiar one. Delegates know the standing orders and expect this to be replicated in the Zoom AGM. Reconciling PPTA’s constitutional requirements and standing orders, with Zoom and Slido (a meeting app that enables people to participate and vote) was challenging.”
“We could have held a pre-AGM briefing for regional chairs (or a regional representative) to go through what to expect on the day, do a trial Slido vote and try signalling to speak. However, teachers can all do with one less Zoom these days.”
Luke Nickholds, Southland regional secretary, thought the event was a good effort given the circumstances. “The meeting was run smoothly and we were still able to deal with important and historic PPTA mahi.
“It was a little sad not meeting kanohi ki te kanohi since that meant missing out on all the side conversations over morning teas and such which are where some of the best PPTA ideas start. I'm just itching to see all my PPTA whānau next year.”
Waikato regional chair Francis van Buren-Schele said the event did what needed to be done. “We were there and able to communicate. People were able to share their views, but the fact that the whole region could not be together made it difficult to be able to actually have a good korero about the issues other regions raised.
“I really missed getting together and being able to see everybody, and networking.”
Disappointment turns to excitement
Wellington regional establishing teachers coordinator, Natalie Jump, says she was disappointed to hear the conference was cancelled but when it came to the actual day of the AGM she was quite excited. “This was my first AGM attending as a delegate and I was READY. I made my own conference pack while I was waiting for the AGM to start, and just settled in with a nice cooked breakfast and a cuppa. It was a strangely comforting feeling to know that everyone else was also sitting at their screen having a cuppa and doing the same thing. Our regional committee had a group chat off to the side so it was good to be able to discuss as the papers were being presented.”
Natalie said it was easy to see and understand those who were speaking and presenting and it was very easy to follow what was happening.
“I'm really impressed by our collective ability to deal with tough circumstances and adapt as and when needed. It was really great to still be able to go ahead with our AGM, even in a reduced scope and different format. As with most things over the past few years, we're learning as we go and I feel like this experience will definitely positively influence how we run our AGMs and conferences in the future.”