Unprecedented times for teachers

Teachers are doing amazing work, steering students through increasingly turbulent Omicron-ravaged waters calmly, sensitively and professionally, writes Melanie Webber.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of talking about COVID. Unfortunately, much like so many things in life, not wanting to talk about it doesn’t make it disappear, and at the time of writing, Omicron is racing through our schools.

Teachers meanwhile are doing what we always do – screwing our courage to the sticking place and getting on with it.

 When I look back to the first lockdown in 2020, when everyone was at home and those of us whose students had devices quickly adapted to the online classroom, that was, in many ways, a breeze compared with the start of term this year.

While we know instinctively that having students back at school is absolutely the best thing for them academically, socially and emotionally, it really feels like teachers have joined the front line of the battle against COVID. I know that both teaching while wearing a mask and trying to make your students wear their masks has been extremely challenging and exhausting, let alone managing the constant switches between online, hybrid and face to face learning, often with illness in our own homes.

Keeping calm and carrying on

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about teachers is our determination and ability to make things work, no matter how seemingly insurmountable the barriers are. Throughout this pandemic, many of us have looked at what was happening across the ditch and felt fortunate we were here rather than there.

However, they have been luckier than us in one aspect – Omicron peaked during the summer break. Here, schools are managing the peak of the pandemic during arguably the busiest time of the school year – a crucial time for forming relationships with students, creating and putting routines in place and laying the foundations for a productive and constructive year of teaching and learning. Omicron has made this incredibly difficult and I commend each of you for how you are steering your students through these turbulent seas so calmly, sensitively and professionally. 

 I’d also like to acknowledge the tremendous amount of work that is going on at PPTA Te Wehengarua National Office as staff constantly advocate with the Ministry of Education, peak education bodies, politicians and agencies to ensure that teachers and students are kept as safe as possible throughout the pandemic.

 I wish you lots of strength and resolve and hope that as you read this we will be descending Mount Omicron and returning to some sense of normality. But who knows? 

Realising our vision for education

Just as the cycle of the school year must continue despite Omicron, so too must our preparations for this year’s collective negotiations. Over the past few years we have worked with you to create a vision for secondary teaching. We want teachers to be highly paid, trained to a high standard, continuously supported, culturally responsive and properly resourced for both curriculum delivery and pastoral care. 

Thanks must go to our intrepid branch chairs who, despite the constantly swirling change, managed to hold paid union meetings to help develop our claim. This will be heading back to you for sign off in April.

We are serious that teaching and learning must be more than just surviving the school year – for both teachers and students. We will work together to achieve the conditions that ensure that every student is able to achieve the best possible education without sacrificing ourselves on the altar of public education.

Welcome, Matua Vince

Finally, and most excitingly, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Vincent Hapi to the presidential team. He is our first Māori Vice President following the constitutional change that created this position at our annual general meeting last year, and I am delighted to see our organisation take another step along the pathway to make real our te tiriti obligations.

Ko te pae tawhiti whāia kia tata. Ko te pae tata, whakamaua kia tīna

(The potential for tomorrow is determined by what we do today)

Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2023 09:11