Despite the pre-warning, the announcement by our Prime Minister on March 23 that all schools and businesses would close due to Covid-19 felt unreal. Instead of watching news broadcasts of the pandemic taking its hold of the world from the safety of my home, this virus was about to put our country on hold.
I honestly didn’t know how I was meant to feel. My initial feeling was ‘Yuss!! No school!!’ but then I started to stress as I realised how that could affect my Year 13 results and options for 2021. I tried to gather as much schoolwork as possible from my teachers and while they were trying to reassure us it would be ok, it honestly felt surreal.
That night, my shift at Raglan FourSquare revealed the true effect the lockdown notice had on people. Before March 23, there were plenty of local ‘panic buyers’, but at the time I just thought they were silly and just laughed it off. But that night was different. Seeing people lined up outside, a car park crammed with cars, made it all hit me. We were actually doing this and New Zealand was really a part of this pandemic.
That night was nuts! We had more customers than I had ever seen, stressed people asking for things that we didn’t even have in-store and people buying as much as possible. Yet, despite all of the stress and worry I saw the true beauty of our small community as many people thanked us and asked if we were ok. There was so much more respect in the room even through all the chaos.
Since then, there have been many days after work when I have felt absolutely drained and can’t wait for this to be over and I can stand at a counter without gloves and a mask. For me, the hardest part has been serving people who are considerably struggling. There are definitely people in our community who are struggling with the hardships due to lockdown and I am thankful to see that there are a lot of kind things happening in the district to ensure these vulnerable people are helped.
One month later, the supermarket is still packed every day and people are still buying ridiculous amounts of food but the conversations I have with people are great. I love hearing the different points of view and how people are enjoying their family time. I feel like I am contributing to the situation and the support of our community helps make me feel safe at work.
Even though I grew up in an isolated region and have been separated from most of my extended family for years, having to stop sports training, socialising with friends, cancel school trips and going out on the weekends has been a challenge.
Last week, we started on-line learning and while I was initially worried about it, RAS has taken a very calm and collective approach to the task. As a senior student in my final year at high school, I am focussing on ensuring the learning experience targets my long term goals. I know the only way I will succeed is to take responsibility for my learning by making sure I am as prepared as possible for each on-line session and to make sure I do the work. My teachers are always available to support me and everything we need is available online. Personally, I like this way of working because it is flexible. Apart from set class conferencing, I can study when I want to. Unlike larger schools, RAS students are familiar with working in small groups or alone in some classes. I do worry that I am going to hit the point when teacher contact time is going to become vital for practical assessments and NCEA so hopefully we will be back in class before that time comes.
Like most of you, this lockdown has felt like a massive journey. I’ve tried to put a positive spin on the whole experience and just enjoy the time with family because it’s something we haven’t done for many years. I feel lucky I still have a job while many others do not. I feel lucky to have what I need to keep learning and most of all, I feel fortunate to live in a place where we help each other. We are all a part of something truly special in New Zealand’s history and I am so grateful we have worked together to keep our community safe.
Amiria Drysadale, Student Leader and Board of Trustee Student Representative, Raglan Area School and Essential Worker