One year on from the 15th November, 2021, the day the Ardern government mandated thousands of hard working and honourable Kiwis out of their jobs, we look back at a teacher's final day in her role with the pupils she so treasured.
A searing, brave remembrance of courage in the face of cruelty and loss.
Shared from FreeNZ Contributor
I feel the eyes peering at me sideways. Palms move in front of hissing toxic mouths. Cruel smirks. People savouring the gossip. I walk into the staff office and see incriminating eyes on me. The chatter halts mid-flow. What had I done? Nothing, except to say no. I feel the pressure striking me from all angles. The anxiety hurries my pulse, my heart pumping in my ears. There is no sympathy here. Just a blank set of stares, coldly stamping me as an outsider.
I walk up to Jennifer to ask to borrow her stapler. Her lips twist in disgust. Evidently, I am not wanted here. She tells me, “No, you might get your germs all over it” before she pulls it towards her as if it were her precious babe in arms. She grabs the nearest sanitiser and squirts some onto her hands, as if even being in my presence is enough for her to catch something deadly. She eyeballs me the whole time as her hands aggressively spread the alcohol scent over her delicate skin, her tight lips taut in concentration. The bell rings to signal lunchtime. I jump a little as I am so focused on the waves of disgust rolling off someone I once assumed was my friend. I have lunchtime duty, so I walk out without a word.
What is there to say?
As always, I wander past the teens trickling out of class. It is bittersweet to see their laughing faces as they spend time with their friends – something quite alien to me now.
A group of students I have taught in the past, come rushing up to me. “Miss, is it true? Are you leaving?” My heart squeezes in a painful shudder of contraction as I reply. “I don’t know. I will just have to wait and see. I don’t want to leave.” They have already had so many changes in teachers over the last few years. They have felt let down by others. They beg me to “Just say yes. It’s only a shot!”. But I can’t. How could I continue to teach them about right and wrong if I were to crumble? I just want this nightmare to end, but I know I have no choice. With down-turned faces, they scurry away after a quick hug and wave. How I will miss them. Tears prickle once more, and my throat feels as if it will close up. This is the hardest thing I have ever done.
The buildings, mostly empty now: the juveniles outside savouring the sunlight. I walk past an entrance to hear my formerly close friend say to another workmate, “I can’t wait till THOSE people are out of here!”. I choose to carry on walking with my head high. What is the point of making a fuss? She is, after all, the principal’s wife. I am already in enough trouble.
The bell sounds its shrill cry and I reluctantly turn to head back towards my classroom. My staffroom is now a battleground. Cruel eyes glare at me, if I set foot in there these days. A place no longer accessible to me. Like a thief in the night, coffee is a guilty pleasure only when I can muster enough courage to ignore the disgusted looks, and rush in to grab a steaming cup of sustenance.
As I head back to my classroom, a lad I know only by sight, stops in front of me and snarls, “Good luck with dying from Covid.”. I am left dumbstruck, knowing that this is coming from a place of hate. But again, what can I do? According to our ministry, I have no rights anymore. My heart is heavy to know that this is what he is learning. I always believed that school should teach children how to be good citizens. Respectful of others, respectful of different choices. Instead, we are advising them that it’s ok to fear and despise groups of people based solely on a personal medical choice. All of this, and so much more cruelty, are the flow-on effects of a Prime Minister who smiles on the nightly news, while her unkind policies tear apart our country.
Hands shaking, and feeling overwhelmed, I try to head back to my safety: my classroom, with all the students’ work displayed proudly on the walls. My Scentsy warmer pushes flower scents into the room. Standing at my door is the principal. His look of pity and disappointment fills my stomach with broken butterflies. He hands me an official letter stating I have to meet with the Board. They have given me notice, for refusing to comply with something which I simply don’t agree with. I try to reason with him. His eyes go chillingly hard and I see there is no point. My head bows in defeat.
As he leaves, he says “Have a wonderful day”.