Kia ora e te whanau
It is with heavy hearts that we share with you the very sad passing of Fiona Glover, mother of our Quinn Morrison in year 7 and teacher at Pukerau school. It was only a couple of weeks ago that we chatted on the phone, and I know many of you who knew her will have similar recent memories of spending time with her or seeing her at her school. Our prayers are with John, Quinn and the two younger boys at Gore Main school. A tragedy such as this brings many schools and communities together and I know we all grieve in unison. May she rest in peace.
We also mourn the unexpected passing of Joan Burrows this week, sister in law of Julie Burrows and dear grandmother to our Phoenix Marshall in year 10. May she rest in peace.
Having 7 days Covid sick leave has given me a lot of time for reflection on what is important in schools and what isn’t, what needs to be done and what can wait or be deleted, what so many of us are going through in our community whether it be personally or through our workplaces. I always tell others that “life is too short” and “you only live once” and so I have spent some time thinking about what I am grateful for both personally and in my work.
Firstly, I am grateful for the humbling and privileged position I hold in this school. I will always strive to do right by our students and our community with the Holy Spirit guiding my way. However, I will not remain in this position if I do not feel most of the students, staff and parents have the faith in me needed to lead. My door is always open, and I would prefer to lean in and hear if there is unhappiness or disappointment in the decisions that are being made in the day to day running of the school. If you hear from others that they are also unhappy then please encourage them to come and have that conversation. We do not know if there are problems if you do not tell us. We will not be defensive, we will listen and do our best to work together to achieve solutions. You should always feel safe enough to be honest in a Catholic school.
Secondly, I am grateful to my senior leadership team and administrative support team for running the school in my absence. Their commitment and expertise ensured that tough decisions could still be made, important meetings could still take place, events continued to be planned and run. I am in no ways indispensable and appreciate that the leaders around me are capable, kind and compassionate. You have made my life easier this past week.
Thirdly, I am grateful to our students for carrying on and preparing for some exciting events coming up like Tournament week, senior examinations, speech competitions and sports break ups. I have received some hilarious and heart-warming emails from many of you over the last few days, anything from asking me to get new blinds for a classroom to saying how they didn’t like seeing my door shut every day. It has made me feel loved, appreciated and not forgotten about!
Lastly, I am grateful to our teachers and support staff. Over half have already experienced Covid and after their 7 days or more had to return to busy classrooms and piled up workloads, communications, and emails to catch up on and students to settle back into routines. Having experienced “brain fog” myself over the last few days, going to do something or write something down and then it completely leaving my thoughts has been a new experience and one that is hard to manage when you have 25 students all vying for your attention at once. I cannot stress enough the toll that nearly three years of Covid has taken on the teaching profession. We are working under increased demands with limited resources. It is like working with a 100 browser tabs open in your brain! Part of this overload is associated with not knowing what lies ahead and how to prepare students for an uncertain future. All schools in New Zealand are about to embark on some serious curriculum changes and all High Schools are going to have to grapple with changes to NCEA that will have huge implications for how we handle high stakes national assessment. This is why the government have given us extra teacher only days this year, one of which is today. The time given to work through these changes is extremely valuable to our professional development to ensure your students get the best deal in the future.
Teachers across New Zealand nearing retirement age are in the 1000’s and there are not 1000’s of young replacements coming through to replace them. At a recent teacher graduates day in Dunedin, there were more principal’s there looking to recruit them than there were students. In all industries that you all work in you will know that it is hard to find good staff who want to work above and beyond at the expense of their free time. This is no different in education, but in education all staff must work above and beyond, and they do. I am proud to say that we have amazingly committed staff who genuinely care about the wellbeing and achievement of our students. If we lose them due to stress and burnout, there are few replacements waiting in the wings. Our teachers have shown themselves to be resilient and adaptive through this pandemic but there is always a toll to be paid in our personal, emotional, spiritual, and physical lives. I can promise you that teachers and teacher aides do not do this job for the money or the holidays - this job is a vocation. Sadly, it is a vocation that is becoming harder to live up to.
What can be done:
I would like to congratulate the First XV Rugby team on their momentous win over Southland Boys High in the U18 Development grade final on Saturday. I asked you last week to turn out in support and you did, I heard and saw on video that many of you came, as did many of our past pupils and families along with our teachers and other community members. How exciting to be bagpiped in and have our up-and-coming year 7 & 8 players run alongside their “big brothers.” I am so proud of the way our boys have conducted themselves on and off the field and as I have consistently been saying, playing for and wearing the St Peter’s College crest every week shows leadership and pride in our school and this would be lost if we ever had to combine with other schools. I would like to sincerely thank the coaches, Ben Sanson and Ben Millar for their dedication and commitment to the boy’s week in and week out. A huge thanks also goes out to our manager, Eugene O’Neill who was always there to help out and encourage. To the parents and supporters there at the games, thank you. And last but not least, words cannot express how much Mrs Julie Watkins puts into Rugby at St Peter’s College, not just during the season but every week of the school year, planning, organising, ordering uniforms and supplies and being on call 24/7 to the parents and players to make every game a successful one. It was her determination supported by our Rugby Committee members this year that ensured every boy and girl who wanted to play rugby this year, got to play, and with over 130 players in our school from a roll of 440, that is an amazing feat.
I would like to thank you all for the support in keeping mask wearing at school compulsory. I have been very proud of the way students have leant into the sometimes discomfort of this to ensure the health and safety of all around them. We never know who around us is immuno-compromised or who is living with at risk family members at home. Not all schools were able to achieve mask wearing for as long as we have, and I know that this came down to us all truly living our Catholic values by putting others before ourselves. With cases now declining with only 12 student positive cases this term and with winter starting to lift and therefore hopefully winter illnesses abating we will move to masks being highly recommended as opposed to compulsory as of Monday the 29th of August. If students or staff are displaying mild cold symptoms, we will ask that masks please continue to be worn until no longer infectious.
Charity Fulfils the Law