Genevieve Vine (Cohort 2016) shares her story of impact inspired by the community that came around the preparation for the Onehunga High School Cook Island polyfest performance.
Before you write my situation off as a bad one from the title of this post hear me out. I was exhausted, I had barely stopped to eat since the previous morning and in all honesty, I really needed a shower but I was surrounded by the most wonderful community of aunties, mums and students, all of us readying for the Cook Island polyfest performance at 9am. And even though our pre-performance to a group of around 250 people earlier in the night had ended with the tutor bringing up the supporting teachers and making us dance to the drum beat (it was an embarrassing time), I was still full of energy to make sure we were ready to perform. And so I sat down to sew for 8 hours straight with three other women to get the girls dresses ready for the next morning. We were in a big church hall in Mangere with headdresses on one end, fabric printing and titi making in the middle and the church dresses being made just before the huddle of sleeping students on the floor.
At around 3am, one of my students came and sat down next to me. After watching me sew for a few minutes he asked “Miss, how are we ever going to pay you back?” and it was the first thing that night that really made me stop. I had felt so welcomed and so much a part of the community that the intensity of the situation hadn’t really sunk in. We were all working towards one thing and it wasn’t me driving it, it was everyone. From the students showing up to every practice, to parents making sure we had enough food, to community members donating time and resources we were all creating something beautiful, no payback needed.
Those are the moments I think, that make you realise your privilege as a teacher. I get to be a part of the big picture for so many of my students and that’s the kind of thing that Teach First NZ recognises and celebrates. As a movement and programme there is an understanding and affirmation time and time again that it is community and togetherness that is moving the show forward. It means that as a teacher you might find yourself in situations that are difficult and push you outside of your comfort zone. Situations so far from what your life might look like now that it’s a bit scary. But I really promise that this is a good thing, because helps you learn and grow not just as a teacher but as a human being.
Teaching is one of those professions that doesn’t let you stand still - you are made to get up and dance, to sew through the night and cheer on students that you care about more than anything. And getting to be part of something bigger that impacts our young people's lives is well worth it.