End of Term


After primary infection [chicken pox] VZV remains dormant in dorsal root ganglia nerve cells in the spine for years before it is reactivated and migrates down sensory nerves to the skin to cause herpes zoster.

Source: Dermnet

I don’t remember having chicken pox although I think I had it very young when my father was still alive.  Funny to think of a bug living down in the base of my spine all those decades to emerge 40 years later as a nasty rash on my shoulder.  Shingles sounds like an old fashioned complaint like gout or water on the knee.  It’s one of those ailments that every fifth person seems to have had when you tell people you have it.

The doctor told me that it can happen when you’re run down.  If you think of run down as being hit by a car then I am definitely feeling run down.  One advantage of acknowledging that you are run down is that you can have a rest.  One disadvantage is that you get to have your rest lying out in the middle of the road; other cars occasionally clip you.

Modern life doesn’t want you to rest.  It really doesn’t.  Term Three had a slow burn to it; a gradual accumulation of stress that flowered late.  Some students haven’t really acted towards others in the best spirit over the last couple of weeks.  It happens because by the end of Term Three the real pressure of the year in terms of assessment is reaching a climax, winter weather is still with us, and combined with the added social pressure of the school ball, good humour tends to fray, and good will can unravel.  I begin to feel like I’m manning the pump on a sinking ship.

Being 16 or 17 now is not like being 16 or 17 in 1989 when I was doing it.  I am regularly thankful that I got to grow up without social media.  Its capacity to cause harm any time to any one is remarkable.  The pressure of assessment is also exponentially higher.  The recent debacle over a Year 11 Maths exam was a great illustration of how most people don’t get it when it comes to school.  Teachers, students, and parents understood how stressful that exam was because of its unusual pitch, but many others took it as an opportunity to tell students to harden up, or say it was actually not so bad.  A couple of idiots from AUT decided to say the test was “hardly challenging” and it was the “teachers’ fault”.  Back when they (and I) took Maths it wasn’t a big deal if you failed Maths.  Back then it wasn’t hard or expensive to get into university.  Back then things weren’t competitive, and people didn’t come out saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt in a very tight labour market.  Now, you can’t get into university unless you pass your Maths when you are 15, and everyone has to take Maths and pass it in Year 11.  Maths stressed me in 1989 because I found it hard; I can only imagine how stressful I would find it if I was doing Maths  in 2016.  So yeah, thanks AUT guys, well played.

In other ways it has been an intense term.  I’m two terms into thinking about how race is something I’m still learning about, and how complicated and nuanced it is.  I spent many weeks worrying about a student who is a New Zealander but happens to be black and muslim.  Worrying because she has felt quite isolated this year, and upset.  But then she gave her speech in her Year 12 English class.  God it was powerful.  How you stand in front of your peers at 16 and deliver a six minute speech with no notes about what it is like to be a black, muslim girl in New Zealand I just don’t know.  Like how I don’t know how you have the skills at 17 and 18 years old to run a Pride Week at school and get MPs in to talk.  Or how you set up a group about intersectionality, or do a cool project for the Sustainability Trust, or run a staff quiz because you’re worried about teacher well-being, or deliver a presentation about bringing more Maori content into mainstream subjects.

The list goes on. And on.  But so does my anxiety.

Youthline is so overwhelmed with young people calling its service that 150 a week are missing out on help.

Source: RNZ

On the whole I am impressed by the young people I work worth everyday.  Incredibly impressed.  But I remain unimpressed by the society we are preparing them for.  I remain convinced, without a shade of exaggeration, that our present system is collapsing the environment, and that a collapsing environment will lead to a mass collapse in vulnerable societies, and an intensification of us and them thinking between the countries that can afford to mitigate disaster and those that can’t.  I also remain convinced that this can all be blunted through a radical, people-driven intervention against our current form of capitalism.


Chicken pox was one of those things that the colonists brought to the New Worlds they “discovered” from the late 16th century onward.  It was one of those things that killed millions of indigenous people.  The “triumph” of the West, of capitalism, of democracy, now begin to look like the dormant period between one illness and the next.  The first infection laying down the second that would emerge centuries later; a slow burning rash across the land – anxiety, distress and rage playing out on a shrinking field of good will.

I’m not sure we should be raising our children to be participants in our society so much as activists against it.

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō