Highlights and challenges: This week I feel the need to start off by recording the quite incredible natural events and their repercussions (both to the school and the community in general) because it was rather out of the ordinary. In fact, this weeks particular point of interest was a bit of a dramatic turn of events and apparently, a 1 in 500 year event- a flash flood no less!! I came to NZ expecting to escape the rain but unfortunately, no such luck. It started pouring down on Tuesday morning (at around 7.35am…how do I know the exact time you ask? Well because at 7.34am I was on my bike enjoying a peaceful ride to school but by 7.36am, I was no longer enjoying it nor particularly peaceful) and the rain didn’t stop until around 1.30 early Thursday morning. Two consecutive wet weather days resulted in a definite negative shift of behavior in the classroom- children were struggling to concentrate and a number of uncharacteristic niggles and fights broke out as all of the 27 pupils and the 2 teachers of room 7 went a bit stir crazy. So when I woke up on Thursday morning to clear blue skies, I couldn’t help but think we were at the end of the tunnel and finally back to normal. But alas, no. Whakatane has a great river flowing through the town and out to the sea. Our house is situated right on the banks of this river and it wasn’t until I was taken outside to see the new view that I realised quite how damaging that amount of rain fall can be. Where I normally look out onto a calm river with beautiful fields and houses beyond it, this morning all we could see was a sea of dirty, muddy water with great big trees and other giant bits of debris coursing down towards the bridge- currently the only thing connecting rural houses/businesses to Whakatane town center as the other bridge is closed for rebuilding. Despite this great devastation, we were beyond grateful to discover that the the water still had around a meter before it breached our side and started overflowing onto our property. At this point, the initial concern was that the rising water levels and increasing debris would result in the closure of the bridge, consequently stranding people on the wrong side. However, as the day went on, we got the news that more areas of the river had burst its banks and water was gushing into peoples homes. In fact, the whole town of Edgecumbe, a small town around 20km outside Whakatane, had been evacuated leaving people to grab a few bags and flee their homes, unsure of the damage they were leaving behind. At this news, the school was promptly closed and parents quickly came to collect their children. I too was sent home early to make sure I got over the bridge before the high tide (another cause for concern as the river normally increases by a few meters at this time of day) and told to pack an evacuation bag and to wait for further instructions on whether it was safe to stay in the house overnight. It was all a bit manic and crazy but amazingly, the water started to go down by around 4pm and we were able to stay safe and dry in our house. Of course, the 2000 people of Edgecumbe weren’t as fortunate and we’re still waiting to hear from an update as to how friends and family are doing.
See local news report for more stories/pictures: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/91262924/bay-of-plenty-township-of-edgecumbe-evacuated-forcing-600-residents-to-leave
Overview: By the time Friday came, life began to go on as normal as the excitement of all the rain and getting off school early began to die down. Amazingly, only a few children in the class were badly affected by the floods and they and their families are receiving help and support from the school by any means possible. However in unrelated news, because my class teacher was attending a funeral on Friday afternoon, I was required to take the class by myself from after lunch. I was actually really excited about this opportunity and looked forward to seeing how the children would respond to me being their ‘proper teacher’ for a little while. They behaved beautifully and we had a wonderful time making fairy bread and playing on the seniors outdoor play park for golden time. Fairy bread was a new thing for me but by the look of horror on the kids faces when I had to ask what it actually is, I imagine it’s a relatively common snack around these parts (it’s basically when you butter a piece of bread and COVER it in hundreds of thousands and all sorts of other sprinkles…I must admit I opted out of this particular cultural experience). I was really grateful for the opportunity to have full responsibility, even if it was only for a little while and it has encouraged me to ask to for similar opportunities over my final two weeks at the school. Having the children on my own reminded me of why I want to be a teacher- I love being responsible for so many children, I love having the freedom to decide how we spend our time and I love how much fun kids are! Of course it was a bit of a challenge too- even in the few hours I had them by myself we had a few bumps, tears and upsets over tiny and avoidable things. However when I compare the experience to my first time having full responsibility during my first placement, I can’t help but reflect on how much more relaxed it was this time around. I wasn’t at all worried that I couldn’t handle it, I wasn’t concerned about behaviour management and I wasn’t worried I was going to make a big mistake. This must partly be down to the relaxed and supportive environment of the school but I also like to think that it shows real development of my practice. The more time I spend furthering my practical skills and ability, the more confident and excited I become to completing my study and becoming a fully qualified practitioner. I am of course acutely aware of the development and growing that still has to come before this stage but I can confidently say, I look forward to these challenges and to the improvements they will bring!
Audit of professional skills and ability:
This week has clearly required me to develop my capacity to work with and manage change. It was incredibly important that the children felt safe and calm throughout the whole experience and that despite the decision to close the school early, they were to behave as normal and wait patiently for their parents to arrive. Because Mrs Jackson was out of the classroom making arrangements for her own children who’s school was also closing, I sat the children down on the mat and read a story as adults drifted in and out swooping up their children as they went. I had to ensure that I kept a detailed copy of who was picked up, by whom and at what time using the online class registration form, a new type of technology for me. I felt I showed effectiveness in administration and management and ability to use new technologies with confidence and ease throughout this entirely new experience for me. Of course, all these skills are totally transferable- having an ability to manage change is an inevitable element of the teaching profession and I was both proud and relieved to find I felt confident and relaxed throughout the whole experience.