At 23 years old with my teaching qualification hot in my hand I felt like I was equipped with enough nous to get by overseas. First stop, London! To go and teach over there before I had even taught in a New Zealand classroom, was I crazy? The retired English teacher sitting next to me on the plane thought so but it was a sink or swim scenario and I was determined to make it work.
Teaching in London as a beginning teacher, I believe up-skilled me quicker than if I had remained in NZ. My behaviour management skills went from zero to a hundred, my mastery in navigation (as this was before iPhones were affordable) surpassed my expectations and I was collecting an array of teaching ideas and resources from all over the country.
Fast forward 10 years and I've done a full circuit. I've travelled to some amazing places around the world and landed right back where I began, in my hometown, teaching at a local school. It was amazing coming home and teaching kiwi kids and I loved it. The school was situated in a picturesque scene opposite a river at the foot of the ranges with a close-knit community vibe. As most teaching jobs are, it was challenging but always rewarding, and for me I thought this was where I would stay.
However, last year amongst the thick of the issues around there being a reliever shortage, I recalled back to the days in London where I could pick up casual Nanny work through a simple text message service. They would text you the details of the job and you could accept the job immediately. It was so simple and I loved it!
It made me think, why do we not have a system here that makes it easy for schools to find cover and for relievers to accept work?
I began brainstorming what this would look like for schools and relievers and how I would go about creating a system that would help solve some of the issues around relief organising. Did I know where these thoughts would lead me? Not particularly, but I knew changes needed to be made and drawing on the feedback from my fellow teachers, I listened to what their concerns were and 6 months later I started my journey creating SeekaTeacher.
SeekaTeacher has developed into an online platform where both relievers and schools can connect with each other in real time. Schools can use our service to notify their own relievers when a relief position becomes available and relievers can accept it immediately. Relievers can see which schools are currently looking for more relievers and send through their information directly to the relief organiser. It's a collaborative system which takes the manual element out of arranging cover whilst maximising relievers available time.
Schools are a fast-paced environment and sometimes processes need to change in order to keep up. I've set out to make it easier for our long-term relievers, Mums & Dads coming back into the workplace and teachers who might need a break from full-time work to stay in the education sector whilst at the same time reducing the stress relief organisers face on a daily basis.
What was the Unknown I left teaching for? I'm still unsure. It's definitely a new adventure, seeking to find answers and create something new that is going to help our kiwi kids receive a quality education and retain the relievers and teachers we currently do have, watch this space!
By Gemma Clancy
27.5.19- Since writing this Blog, SeekaTeacher is working in Schools all over NZ. It's made a big difference for the relief organisers and relievers have said it's made connecting with new schools much easier. If you're a reliever looking for more work or a relief organiser looking to make organising cover less stressful, head over to our Website or connect with me via LinkedIn or alternatively our Facebook page - Or all 3 if you like :)