Thursday, 12 June 2014

Out of the Rubble- The Rebuilding of a Community

I'm going to put it out there..........Christchurch teachers are EXHAUSTED.  Really, really exhausted.

Ok, so there's a few Christchurch educators reading this saying,
"Speak for yourself, Bridget! I'm completely and utterly chipper! Teaching is Christchurch is just awesome. I'm full of beans."
But on the whole, most of us are getting by on high doses of iron tablets combined with large and frequent doses of strong coffee.....or something stronger!

It has been an incredible four years in Christchurch. That 4.35am, 7.1 magnitude wake-up call in
 September 2010 and the resulting hideous few years have changed us all irrevocably. The quakes have left such deep and jagged scars on the people of Christchurch that it is sometimes hard to convey that impact in words so I'm not really going to try. You'll have to just take my word for it.....and I know that you wonderful kiwis do. I know that you have supported Christchurch in a way that makes me so proud to be a New Zealander. I still think back to an incredible week we had in Auckland when we escaped Christchurch after the February quake on an Air New Zealand 747 so my husband could work in his firm's Auckland office. We were the lucky ones, able to escape the ongoing aftershocks, the lack of electricity and running water and the overwhelming sorrow that was so thick in our city you could taste it. I know how lucky we were and I'm immensely grateful. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about how my traumatised children were swept up by complete strangers who knew exactly what to say and do to distract them- the kindness of strangers was such a beautiful and moving thing. It helped us to be brave enough to pull ourselves together to return home with the resolve to stay here and help rebuild our precious city from the ground up.

But things were tough, especially in schools. Our students had been through things that no child should have to experience; they were frightened. Just leaving their parents on that first day back at school was something I will never forget. It was TOUGH. Teachers had to be strong, no matter what. We had to ensure that we provided the safest environment we could but it was hard to be positive when we'd lost homes and friends and for many Christchurch teachers, family members. It was hard to keep smiling when you were sharing portaloos in the playground with your students. (By the way, I recommend not being in a portaloo during an aftershock if you can avoid it!)

The girls wanted to hang messages of love on the school fence on our first day at school after the quake. 

We were living in broken homes with wonky floors and cracked windows. Many of my colleagues had their homes demolished or red-zoned and had to find new homes in a saturated and over-priced rental market. We were fighting with EQC and insurers and finding out our land was damaged and labelled TC3 which is earthquake speak for, "You've just lost 50% of the value of your home because who's going to want to buy it now?"

Then came the killer blow for schools- the announcement that the Government was looking to close or merge up to 31 schools in Christchurch. I still remember the overwhelming horror I felt when news of these possible closures broke. Schools had been the backbones of their communities since the quakes. Teachers had provided safe havens in the midst of tragedy and devastation.  Deep down, the Christchurch education community knew that change would have to come at some stage, but after so much tumultuous change in Christchurch in such a short space of time, this was a step too far, too soon for many broken communities.

But as you probably know if you're reading this, we teachers are a dedicated and resilient bunch, aren't we? We box on for the sake of our students; we want the best for them........ and so, Christchurch teachers put their heads down and continued to do their very best in the most trying of circumstances.

But the thing about resilience is its tiring! Exhausting even. And trying to be resilient all on your own is even more exhausting!

Enter the wonder of the PLN- or Personal Learning Network. Some time in that most hideous of years, 2011, I did something that has changed my life as an educator more than I could have imagined; I joined Twitter. My PLN don't know this but at times when teaching has been really hard work, they've inspired me and I know many other Christchurch teachers who feel this way. The power of belonging to a network of educators who support one another is something I can't rave about enough.

Last night was the Christchurch Eduignite; a fantastic night. It was attended by a small but incredibly passionate bunch of educators who are aware of the need for Christchurch teachers to come together to inspire each other and affirm the amazing work that is happening in our schools. Later, over a cheeky shiraz, a new hashtag was born; #chched. We hope that Canterbury teachers will join the conversation, connecting and supporting and affirming and perhaps most importantly, having a much-needed laugh. A huge thank you to Pauline Henderson and Aimee Sibson for being the impetus behind this rebuilding of Christchurch's teacher community.

There is so much incredible stuff going on in the Christchurch education community. To any Christchurch teachers reading this, I think you're awesome! And I hope to get to know you better on #chched. See you there!

Right! Off to take my iron pill.........


  1. As a fellow Twitter user and someone who hugely values my PLN I can only concur with your thoughts about the value and power of twitter. I have worked at schools where I have been the sole teacher who has been working in an online capacity and the only teacher online with a blog and having my PLN has been the support that I needed to get through the days when I felt that no-one cared. Its still invaluable at times when I need to think about the 'bigger picture stuff'.

    1. Thanks, Myles. You've inspired me in many ways and your generosity with giving feedback on blogs etc is just awesome. My class defines you as the "ultimate digital citizen."

  2. Love this post. It is so true - esp about beng exhausted. The ongoing extra work with sorting out a house and all the uncertainty takes a toll on the middle-of-the-night sort of thinking. Some days tired is an understatement. Like you, finding my PLN has been suchblessing. A great place to connect with other teachers and remember there is big world out there. I love knowing that there are people out there trying things and sharing things in education. This provides both inspiration and support. Although our Chch group is small we have a great deal of enthusiasm. Thanks for summing all of this up so well Bridget.

    1. Ginnie, You and Greg continue to blow me away with your positivity and ability to roll with the punches given what you've been through.....your amazingly positive children are a testament to the way you've worked so hard to keep positive in the most trying of circumstances. xxx

  3. Hi Bridget. I just wanted to let you know that I have made a few resources which maybe of use to you/teachers. These are all free and there are no strings attached. They are freely given and hopefully help save some teachers a bit of time. Having been teaching on the Eastside back on that shaky day in 2011 (I had just decided to move to CHCH at that stage), I do have a soft spot for CHCH, so trying to help out teachers with some free resources is close to my heart. Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know in case any could be of use. My FaceBook page is and my website is I hope some are of use. By the way, I have really enjoyed reading your blog. It certainly brings back some memories. Cheers, Chris (currently in Rakaia/Ashburton area during Term 2)

  4. Thanks so much, Chris. That is really helpful. Thanks for your generosity in giving this resources away. Mmmmm that was certainly a rough day back in 2011- I hope we never have another day like it in our teaching careers.
    Thanks for your kind words and great resources. Much appreciated.