Friday, 12 June 2015

A big "Thank you" to Christchurch teachers!

Photo Credit: Dean Kozanic
                                                    Gerard Direen is principal of Linwood Avenue School. 
I can't recall the last time one of our political leaders said "well done" to Christchurch teachers.  Maybe they have, but it would be good to hear it again.
I was looking through a publication that arrives in the letterbox occasionally, about the Canterbury rebuild.  I looked for any mention of schools and the education sector.  I didn't find it.  Yet education plays a key role in the city's recovery and rebuild.
Schools provide opportunities and support for one of our most vulnerable and valuable resources. For over a year, through thousands of shakes, teachers supported children and families directly, providing some routine and normality when the ground wouldn't stop shaking.  And they rolled up their sleeves and got to work on managing change.
As some bright spark once noted, change is the new constant.  Those words roll off the tongue easily, but the implications are multi-layered and long lasting. 
Following February 2011, many schools faced unprecedented change.  Some relocated.  Some shared sites temporarily, while others are still sharing sites, awaiting decisions or rebuilds.  Some went through difficult merger and closure processes in 2012-13.  A large number of schools are planning for physical change to their site and buildings over the next five ears.  New schools are being planned.  New schools are being built.
Schools could not have anticipated the changing faces of their local school networks, nor highly mobile school communities.  They could not have been ready for the impact of families coping with housing pressures, relationship and employment changes at heightened levels.  The unprecedented levels of health needs, including extraordinary mental health referrals for children and adults, could not have been expected.  For instance, more children are attending counselling than ever before, and increasing numbers of 5 year olds are starting school with toileting and anxiety needs.
Many changes bring something new and better.  Some don't.  Yet they all demand energy, agility and collaborative action from school leaders and staff.  This takes place as thousands of children still move in and out of the school gate each school day, bringing that movable feast of human development that is a wonderful and varied thing.  Little additional time or resources have been available to schools to get their head around this extended period of change.
So, let's celebrate schools.  Let's celebrate them for being able to manage the ordinary – budgeting, class placements, managing roll growth, duty rosters, planning and reporting, health and safety compliance, parent meetings, school camps and trips – during this time.
Let's celebrate that they continue to address the complexity of NCEA goals, National Standards targets, a crowded curriculum, providing sport, cultural and various lunchtime activities.  Teachers are working in digital work places that see adults operating in new ways, and a rapidly evolving digital learning environment where children are increasingly using ICT devices to transform learning.
Let's celebrate the teamwork that schools rely on.  That team today includes parents, community groups, volunteers, social and government agencies that support schools and children everyday.  Like all teams, sometimes we drop the ball and sometimes we lose a game.  But what is achieved on most days is a magic thing, both for individuals and for our society.
Let's celebrate staff members' resilience.  In addition to making sense of unprecedented change, some staff will still be dealing with house rebuilds, insurance challenges and other personal matters, while at the same time giving their best to the dynamic, diverse learning pathways of children. Read the rest of the article here
School leaders also deserve recognition.  They're attending multiple meetings related to this post-disaster context, its education renewal programme and the issues that arise from it.
For example, meeting architects, property planners and furniture designers, attending seminars and workshops about new learning environments, responding to decile reviews, developing enrolment zone proposals, liaising with increasing numbers of health and social support agencies, meeting with government officials regarding Special Education provisions, consulting on various matters and making submissions to the Christchurch City Council long term planning process.
Through all this, teachers continue to provide an invaluable service to children and young people.  At some time in the coming days think about those who work alongside children in our city's schools.  Think about the recovery context they are working in, think about the multiple changes they are dealing with and think about the aspirations and expectations we all have for our education system.
If you're a political or government leader, ask yourself how well are you supporting this extraordinary context, and the people charged with helping to shape the human resource of our future.  They're not looking for knighthoods but they deserve our thanks.

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