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Breaking Point: Sink or Swim?

by Rebecca Thomas





Underfunded, overworked, and yet soldiering on - these are the unsung heroes of our education system. Darting between admin blocks, staff rooms, and classrooms, they are the magical human beings who somehow juggle blocked-up toilets and curriculum reviews, ice-packs, parent meetings, drain refurbishments and paint orders, all while keeping the core business of learning afloat. 


Sound familiar?


Two particular small rural schools I have the pleasure of knowing, two teaching principals, have had their fair share of dramas this year and it’s only week 8! These have included fatalities, tangi, ERO, trauma teams, staffing, absent caretakers, financing, roll drop, closed roads, brand new BOTs…and that is the part of the ice berg I am willing to share to prevent these schools from being identifiable.


Other than an A and E job or a firefighter I don’t know any other job where this type of relentless drowning is the 'norm'.


Despite these mental beatings these two stoic humans continue to turn up for work every morning determined to enable their students to have the equitable learning chances (admittedly they live in the school houses on site, so there is little escape).


Every time I have seen them this term, we shake our heads and say, ‘If you wrote it down nobody would believe me.’ So today I began to do just that.


It’s fair to say to keep these two school’s identities private I have had to retract most of the things I did write down.


All term I have been willing help their way - surely their luck must change?


A host of adults have crossed their thresholds – from the Ministry to leadership teams, Kāhui Ako to PLD providers – all doing their best in the moment. But their support is fleeting, momentary, often creating more meetings and paperwork that distance these teaching principals from their core purpose: the students.


Desperate for there to be some constant meaningful support, my wish has been granted this week. I've found a charitable organisation whose sole purpose is to bring equity and sustained assistance - just what my two leaders need. But I dare not name this organisation either, for fear they'll be inundated with requests from the countless other schools facing similar plights, as I know for well that these two true narratives are not alone in their need for nurture and care.


To all underfunded, understaffed schools out there, take heart - you are not alone! Never be afraid to speak out about your needs, and never give up hope. Search your local communities for good people, organisations, and resources that can offer you that assistance - they do exist - the support you need may be closer than you think.


And to those educators facing similar uphill battles - you have my utmost admiration for staying in the ring.



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