Weeding, wifi and working at home

by Gemma Bayly, Year 12 student, Kaipara College

Gemma, weeding with her siblings during lockdown

We found out that school would close last period on a Monday. That day, empty seats were already dotted around classrooms and teachers were replaced with relievers. In my English class, Jacinda Ardern’s muffled voice echoed out of a laptop, halting the usual chatter of the classroom. Everyone listened intently as Jacinda announced the lockdown. Still, we held our breaths for the announcement that mattered to us most.

“Schools will be closed from tomorrow.”

Excited voices once again erupted through the silence of the class. No more work was done that day. When the bell rang for the end of the day, school closed for the foreseeable future.

We’d been expecting it, just not so suddenly. The school had been preparing to close for a few weeks. Google Classrooms had been set up and we’d been given passwords to online learning sites. Students were asked about the internet and devices at home.

Two days later, the lockdown began. The first two weeks were school holidays, but there was work to do at home. Dad set my younger brother, sister and I the unappealing task of weeding our entire plant nursery.  When we finished two weeks and thousands of weeds later, we had to start all over again!

Now, another round of weeding later, the school term has re-opened. Our lounge transformed overnight into a mess of books, paper and laptops. Our wifi, which is normally fine, has slowed considerably. When I need to do a class video call, everyone has to be careful about how much wifi they use. When two of us have meetings at once, the videos jerk and lag.

Sometimes, I wish I had a teacher to explain things properly, and classmates to discuss problems with. I miss seeing a range of people. Some of the work I am given takes a lot longer without a teacher’s guidance and science experiments are just not the same on YouTube.

Sometimes, I love doing schoolwork at home. The school doesn’t mind when we do our work, as long as we do it.  I do all my work in the mornings and leave the afternoons to do what I want (or weeding). We have no new assessments, which removes some of the stress of school. There are none of the interruptions of a classroom, but much less excitement.

The school’s new mentoring system has come at a good time. Each teacher is a mentor to around 16 students, with the job of looking after their wellbeing. I have a weekly video call with my mentoring class where we talk about the lockdown and schoolwork. Mr McCracken has also sent out vlogs to the students saying “Keep calm and carry on, senior students. We’ve got this!” We know we don’t have to worry about our NCEA credits. Instead, we have been told to focus on spending time with our families. As said in this whakataukî: ‘He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tângata, he tângata, he tângata. What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.’

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