Rebecca Pyle knows she did the right thing.
At the end of 2017 she resigned the job she loved in South Auckland, packed up her belongings and headed to Hawkes Bay in search of work.
“Staying in Auckland wasn’t an option anymore”, says Rebecca. “I needed to get some sort of balance back in my life.”
Rebecca had gone to Auckland at the start of the year to take up a senior position at Fairburn Road School. She had a plan: work hard, advance her career and put down roots in the city where she had family and friends. In the not too distant future she hoped to buy a modest home there.
“I knew it would be hard work. I was under no illusions”, says Rebecca. “As a single person you have to save really hard to get ahead and teaching is not the most lucrative profession.”
So Rebecca did what she’d always done. She took on extra employment to grow her savings. During school holidays she did nannying work and was a demonstrator in supermarkets. She was a polling place manager during last year’s election.
“Even though I did this, I always stayed focused on my primary role”, she says. “I love teaching and it’s a huge job. You’re not just an educator. You also have to deal with the social and emotional needs of children. You’re a confidant, a nurse, and in the modern environment you work long days and take work home to do at night and on weekends. There is always stuff to do.”
On a typical day Rebecca would leave home at 6a.m. to be at school at 6.45. The school day could end anytime from 4.30 to 6p.m. and was invariably followed by a battle with the city’s traffic.
“After the frustration of being caught up for an hour or more on a clogged motorway, the last thing you want to be doing is sitting in front of the TV making resources or marking, but you do it because you want the best for your students.”
Toward the end of the year something happened that made Rebecca decide that she had to abandon her Auckland dream. She went along to an auction of a run-down two bedroom flat, not to bid, but to see what her savings might buy.
“I was flatting with friends, which was good, but not something that you want to be doing forever. I’m in my mid-thirties and I’m ready to have my own place,” says Rebecca. “I went along thinking a little flat like this would be ideal.”
She was wrong. The flat sold for $900,000.
“Even though I wasn’t bidding, that hit me hard,” says Rebecca. “I went home and had a cry, because I knew then that I’d never be able to own a home there. It was just too hard.”
So at the end of the year Rebecca packed up her life and moved to Napier. She’s settling in there and is in her own home. She’s teaching in a fixed-term position in Hastings and the start of the year has gone really well. The drive to and from work is a breeze.
“It was hard leaving my senior role in Auckland, but I know that if I work hard I can succeed here. I’m a good teacher”, she says. “What’s really important is that here I can have more of a work-life balance. It’s something that teachers everywhere are struggling with.”
Rebecca is hoping that there will be changes in the education sector that will make teaching a better career. She’s looking forward to this year’s collective agreement negotiations to start that process.
“I don’t want to come across as complaining. I chose this career and I love it but the load is too great. Teachers are falling over. They need more time and they need to be paid better. It’s about being valued and respected.”