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Puppet takes flight in lockdown for new entrant class

Teacher Annabel Zussman didn’t have much time to prepare for the first lockdown.

When the announcement came through, she, like many around the country was working.

“It was sudden – we had ten minutes to gather the class and say we won’t see you for a while.”

Annabel, a new entrant teacher at Auckland’s Point Chevalier School, wanted her children and their families to know that they were still “very much there” and that they’d be supported for as long as necessary.

“The first thing I did was grab our toy kea, Beaky.”

Each day, Annabel recorded Beaky reading a book. Even though it was officially school holiday’s, Annabel wanted to help provide some routine and familiarity to the children, at a time that was anything but familiar to the country.

She got inventive with Beaky, photographing the bird doing anything from cooking to dressing up as a police officer. She also sent lego challenges to students to do in their own time and with their whānau.

“We didn’t want them to feel like we didn’t care.”

Annabel teaches in partnership, so her colleague brought Sunny the puppet into school activities.

“We were just keeping that connection alive.”

The work and videos of Beaky were an absolute hit, with many children and their families gathering to watch them for nightly story time.

While many of her students have grown accustomed to Auckland’s level three lockdowns, it’s been challenging for some of those who started school in February, and have had little time in the classroom.

For Annabel, supporting her students to get through lockdown, comes down to keeping them informed and providing routine.

After the first lockdown in 2020, many children returned to school tired and behavioural issues were prevalent. Annabel says it’s no wonder, when adults too were worried.

“We worked on how we could look after each other,” she says.

She says there has been a real change in behaviour and feeling in the following lockdowns in Auckland.

“They’re much more engaged in school work this time round.”

If anything, Annabel wants parents to know they’ve been doing a fantastic job managing schooling from home, with work and everything else thrown at them.

“I’m really impressed with parents of young people, who have managed. They’ve done it tough every time. People should feel really proud of themselves.”

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