Pulling together to get through
Ahakoa whati te manga, e takoto ana anō te kōhiwi.
Although the branch is broken off, the trunk remains
“Misfortunes will not undermine an individual or group if the foundations are strong”
(Elder, H., 2020:36)
Kia ora koutou te whānau ō Te Wehengarua,
Ko Kathleen West ahau nō Kiririroa. I came to the Field Officer role from the classroom. I began the pandemic online teaching across three different time zones around the world. Online drama teaching is no small feat!
Now I work in branches in Central Plateau, Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions.
All of those who know me, know how I love to talk, however, that affinity does not translate into putting words onto paper for the critical lens of thousands of my peers, whose eyes, we know, subconsciously check grammar as they read.
Acknowledging members’ incredible resilience
At a regional zui recently I heard the stories of our whānau who have spent the last two years in the epi-centre of COVID-19/ngāngāra in NZ, and the whole next level of their endurance in teaching was humbling to say the least, so I put my hand up to write this article.
Unfortunately I don’t come bearing answers, I just want to acknowledge, personally, on behalf of my regions and our Association, the incredible resilience, compassion and collectivism of teachers around Aotearoa.
You have navigated the quicksand of MoE advice for managing COVID-19 in our schools, the expectations for the changes to NCEA, the launch of Te Hurihanganui, the loss of unvaccinated colleagues and successfully running paid union meetings in branches!
Thank you to our branch chairs, (and those who have stepped up in their absence) who have been supporting members with a raft of issues such as vaccination mandates, hybrid learning expectations, workload, use of non-contacts for relief cover, mask mandates, health & safety plans, and not the least of which, our reactions to situations in school when coupled with exhaustion and heightened anxiety. ‘Being kind’ can be a big ask when you’re struggling to cope.
Drawing on the strength of collectivism
This is why the whakatauakī from Dr Hinemoa Elder’s book Aroha resonated with me. Now more than ever, we need to seek the strength of the collective in our branches. When we are under the pump we need to collaborate, have more eyes, minds and hands working together.
Branch chairs can’t be expected to shoulder being the sole disseminator of information or support for fellow members. Other members can help by, for example, reading the daily MoE bulletin and being able to assimilate it and the ramifications for the next day at school with the branch. Instead of leaving it up to the branch chair, other members could collectively work with school leaders to ensure they understand their responsibilities as employers as they too scramble to meet the changing expectations and challenges for schools.
Top tips from this Field Officer
“Breathe. Breathe before you speak. Breathe before you hit send. Breathe!”
And don’t stop reaching out to your Field Officer – you are who we are here for.