The human impact of the border closure
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 7, 8 October 2021, page no.13
The QTU has been supporting members for 132 years, and while COVID-19 is not the first pandemic to impact QTU members, never has there been an expectation that teachers and school leaders should pivot between face-to-face delivery and online learning virtually overnight.
The Queensland/New South Wales border closure meant that more than 200 QTU members were locked out of Queensland. Daily we were talking, emailing, Zooming, Teaming, and text messaging those members to offer advice, support, strategies, and a friendly ear.
The QTU was a conduit between schools, regional and central offices, the Chief Health Officer, the Premier and the Minister. Support has been taken many forms - in recent weeks the QTU has:
- secured priority vaccine access for Queensland teachers
- provided advice regarding leave provisions for employees impacted by the border closure
- confirmed that sick and long service leave provisions do accrue while on special leave (paid)
- organised tech support to assist members struggling with online platforms
- conducted trouble-shooting exercises with individual members navigating “reasonable adjustments” (aka teaching remotely) while managing their own “little people”
- advocated for additional resources to support the staff physically present in Queensland state schools
- negotiated for the department to fund the additional human resources required
- delivered online tutorials for screen sharing, creating online polls, and break-out rooms
- focused on member wellbeing via hosting online catch-up sessions, touching-base emails and care packages
- delivered branch and EB10 info sessions for our NSW members
- hosted wellbeing coffee van visits at schools impacted by the border closure
- activated the Regional Teaching and Learning team to engage with members delivering remote learning
- worked with school leaders in relation to curriculum adjustments and managing class-sizes
- negotiated with regional office to provide school leaders with clear guidelines for parents regarding expectations for students currently undertaking learning from home
- established weekly check-in opportunities for staff in NSW.
Every day, we hear from members who are left exhausted by juggling remote learning and their own children, members who feel guilty that their colleagues are managing the students onsite. We hear from members worried about the impact of their absence on their students’ learning, members who are concerned about the financial cost to their school, members frustrated by dodgy internet connections and hardware malfunctions, members who are stressed attempting to maintain dual delivery to ensure that the students stuck in NSW are not disadvantaged.
The stories are deeply personal, but the consistent narrative is one of shared commitment and angst; teachers and school leaders want the best for their schools and students.
I am 100 per cent #QTUproud of the profession and honoured to support members engaged in herculean efforts on both sides of the border!