Everywhere I’ve gone in the past few weeks, people from outside the education sector have been coming up to me and saying, “What can I do to help?”

It’s a year since NZEI Te Riu Roa members started campaigning for more time to teach and lead, more support for children and a pay jolt to make teaching a sustainable career choice. But as we prepare for our third strike on 29 May – combined this time with our secondary school colleagues – the public response has been humbling and heart-warming.

Rather than frustration with the inconvenience, people are expressing their horror that teachers and principals are working so hard and being paid so little. They’ve been expressing their awe and appreciation of teachers. They see that we’re burning out and leaving the jobs we love and they understand the implications that this has for children’s education.

Increasingly, the cry has been, “The Government needs to do something!”

The Government’s response has been that they understand the issues, but it can’t be all fixed at once and they will not budge one inch on what they are willing to spend. Teachers and principals don’t accept that. We can’t. We can’t wait another three years to negotiate our next collective agreements. How many of us will be left by then? The time for genuine and lasting solutions is now.

We’re not asking for the world. We’re asking for a sustainable workload, support for the children who need it and pay that reflects our qualifications, skills and responsibilities.

So, for those in the community who ask what they can do to help, please just be visible and stand with us. Join us as we march in events around New Zealand on 29 May. Phone or write to your local newspaper and MP (regardless of political party!) and share your support on social media. It’s only people power that will win this.

And if you have a teacher or principal in your life, let them know that you’ve got their back. It will mean more than you’ll ever know.

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