As we compiled this column of members’ comments we thought it important to acknowledge the explosive growth of engagement and communication over the past weeks and months.
We have welcomed a meteoric increase in followers, comments and engagement with our pages. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, our Facebook page has seen a more than 400 per cent increase in “reach” (the number of people who have seen our posts), and page views have increased by an astonishing 1500 per cent.
Our website has seen similarly increased traffic, with an increase in visitors of about 400 per cent compared with this time last year.
This growth in online engagement is commensurate with the influx of new members we have welcomed to our ranks in the same timeframe.
Yet it is with decidedly mixed feelings that we report these statistics. While we are proud to welcome and engage with our members both new and existing, we know these numbers are driven by the prevailing and overwhelming sense of anxiety and uncertainty the coronavirus has brought with it.
Like never before, the union presence online has been crucial in providing regular updates, information, advice and support. Of this, we are proud. But what inspires even greater pride among our team has been witnessing our pages come alive as community hubs for our members – where you have shared stories, expressed concerns, and extended solidarity to your colleagues.
Here’s a selection of just a few of the hundreds of impassioned, heartwrenching, and supportive messages our members have been sharing with us and each other, loosely grouped into themes.
J.L: I don’t just want respect – I want hand sanitiser, cleaning supplies, enough space to distance – and one job, not online AND at-school teaching.
Pamela: I am SO angry with how Scott Morrison has been speaking about teachers and school staff – how dare he be so denigrating to such hardworking people.
Michele: I cried when I heard Scott Morrison refer to me as a glorified childminder. It is a very scary and stressful time to say the least. Please keep me, my family, my colleagues and students in your prayers.
Lala: How dare the PM lay a guilt trip on teachers and on national telly. He has never shown the least bit of interest in our profession before! Leave it to those who know how and to our unions!
Angela: Teachers have never wavered in their commitment to delivering education, even under very trying circumstances.
Early childhood teachers
Marnie: Thank you for advocating on our behalf. The importance of Early Childhood Education and the incredible challenge this current crisis has been placing on parents and the need to pay fees to keep our preschools operating and staff in the workforce. We appreciate your efforts and support.
Jennifer: I am a student member of this union and a part time ECT [early childhood teacher]. Due to this slashing of our funding and the fact that I am ineligible for JobKeeper payments as I am not yet a permanent resident, I would logically be stood down. I have nothing to fall back on as Australia will not help me and I cannot safely return home.
Kylie: Struggling to understand how it is ok for early childhood educators to perform their jobs safely when they are talking about maintaining social distancing in schools.
Leoni: Casuals are such an important part of the school communities. I’m not a casual teacher but my heart goes out to all of you who are. I love casual teachers!
Michelle: I wrote to the PM about this. My mental health is suffering big time. Us casuals have definitely been handed the short end of the stick.
Rachel: I feel very sorry for all the casual teachers who now have no work and the permanent teachers expected to do double the work. Teachers already are incredibly dedicated people and always work above and beyond.
Lesley: As a casual teacher with no financial support offered by the government, I will no doubt be forced to teach at schools where it is absolutely impossible to practice social distancing. The whole situation is quite ridiculous.
Online learning and workload
Sash: I have frozen. The enormity of the task at hand is overwhelming. I just want to curl up in a little ball and resurface when it’s all over.
Kerry: Don’t feel guilty. You obviously needed to take time out. Sleep, chill and regenerate. You will be able to face the music and think much clearer after you have rested. Enjoy your much deserved break.
Mandy: As teachers, we try so hard to reinvent the wheel. We have just learnt about distance/remote education, and now we are probably expected to do face to face teaching as WELL as remote learning.
Tania: The government needs to be made aware that remote learning and partial class rosters don’t just happen automatically. There is a huge amount of work and planning involved by schools then parents need notice to be able to plan around this for their work.