Today, many schools throughout New Zealand will start online delivery of the curriculum. According to statistics from educationcounts.govt.nz, on July 1, 2019, there were 2534 schools in New Zealand, catering for more than 760,000 students.
Many of those students are secondary students, and you are starting Term Two alongside your teachers, but the term will start with a difference: you will be learning and teaching remotely.
There are some schools whose term continued until the Easter break, and those teachers, students and parents have spent two weeks learning from home. Their experiences can set the tone for the next few weeks of online learning, and there are takeaway messages for you all.
Firstly, for teachers: this is your time to show why you chose to be a teacher, to demonstrate the passion you have to unlock ideas and knowledge in young minds and to connect with our young people in the most positive of ways, in the most difficult of times.
Sure, it may be challenging, some days it may be exhausting, especially if you are also a parent with children at home, but you have the commitment and the resilience to take on the huge disruption to our world.
Be flexible, be patient, focus on the key elements of your subject matter, and adapt your teaching style; have realistic expectations of your students and above all, be kind to yourselves.
There will be occasions when technology quite simply does not work, or you do not strike the right note with your lessons, but take comfort in the certainty that you are doing your best.
If you are engaging with students, whether it be via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom, make sure you are there, and connected to the students for your timetabled classes.
You will get to know your students on a different level, you will gain insights that you never would have in our busy classrooms.
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You will see the modest, quiet students who are desperate to be recognised and acknowledged and now go the extra distance to achieve well; you will see students who find it so hard to believe in themselves that they freeze when you interact with them, or when they have to sit a test, but because you are communicating remotely, they can suddenly break through those barriers; you will see the students who have never stood out in class, but who excel when they collaborate and co-operate online; and you will see students who cannot access your lessons, because their bubble is in chaos, but you can give them support and a sense of purpose.
Lesson preparation will take longer. You will need more energy to deliver your lessons, and you will need to take breaks. In that way, you will be able to continue teaching with patience, kindness and the enthusiasm that brings your students back to you every day.
You need to know that, no matter the obstacles you face on a personal level during lockdown, you are making a difference to your young people.
For them, social interaction and a sense of community are the key; this enforced physical distancing is alien and unsettling, so your contribution is invaluable. It gives them structure and routine.
And for you, our students, your teachers have made sacrifices during your holidays and they have worked behind the scenes to find ways to deliver a robust programme to you.
We have so many heroes on the front line of our response to this global pandemic, and your teachers are there too, on the home front, for you and your family, and your future.
So listen to your teachers, turn up for class, show them respect and honour their commitment to you.
• Linda Vink is a teacher, administrator and community volunteer.