Author: Samantha Olley
“I have been a mum, an aunty, and a sister to some students. I have had to be a doctor, a seamstress, and a counsellor, as well as their teacher.
“I’ve even had to tell some students ‘I think you need to go to the police’. I have given them food out of my lunchbox for a whole year.”
Post Primary Teachers’ Association Bay of Plenty representative Alex Le Long talked about her life as a teacher when she and 150 colleagues from around New Zealand gathered in Rotorua for the association’s annual Issues and Organising Seminar.
“We sincerely hope the Government moves to seriously address the teacher supply and excessive workload issues,” he said.
He said teachers didn’t want to have to take industrial action, but could have no other option.
Le Long agreed.
“The current Government wants to help, that’s why we pushed to vote them in, but we need to find a way to work together to get the best out of the situation,” she said.
She has been teaching for eight years.
Le Long moved to Ōpōtiki for a new role this year, after finishing at Western Heights’ High School last year.
She is proud of her work and those she has taught, but says one of the biggest demands in her career is pastoral care – emotional support.
“We have immense love for our students, and we give them so much of our lives because some do not have any other role models. There have been times where I have felt unsafe, but it does feel like you are part of their family sometimes.”
Western Heights High School teacher and fellow association member, Glenn Cassidy, said the Government’s offers had not come close so far.
“Things are getting worse in our profession and there is not enough support coming in to address that. We all care about the future of education, and therefore, the future of our communities.”
He said members were working up to 60 hours a week, and sometimes half of that time was on pastoral care demands.
“We are not just teaching subjects, we are actually raising some of these kids.”