We Are Letting Our Kids Down

Today, like every day, teachers work hard to help kids pull themselves and their lives back together. We do it because we genuinely love our students and want the very best for them. 

But kids aren’t resilient these days. And a lot of them want to die. And they express this. They have learned that these are the words to say to get whatever it is they need. And most of the time (not all of the time), what they want, what they need, is connection.

Real connection. 

To be seen. To be heard. To be loved. 

They crave time and conversation. They crave being told that they are perfect just as they are, and that life sucks a lot of the time but it sucking is also temporary. They crave being hugged. They crave knowledge and they crave understanding, belonging and acceptance. 

And we aren’t there for them enough. 

So, they take drugs, they bully, they fight, they steal, they argue, they yell. 

They do everything they can to belong somewhere to feel validated. And often, these choices are unhealthy. And they impact on themselves and others, sometimes fatally, sometimes irreversibly. 

And us adults are letting them down. 

There was a lot wrong with how a lot of us were raised and I am not condoning that. But, I have a work ethic, I am resilient, I have forged a blessed life for myself, and I am happy. Well, today I am angry and I am sad. But at my core, living the life I choose to lead. 

Because my mum was home. Because shops didn’t trade on Sunday’s or past midday on Saturdays. Because I had boundaries. Because I was taught to respect everyone older than me. Because my parents knew where I was, who I was with, and more often than not, what I was doing. Because I wasn’t given so much it didn’t fit in my house. Because we weren’t connected to everyone 24/7. Because I learned how to heal. Because if I did something wrong at school and my parents found out, I knew I was in deep shit because they wouldn’t ask me for or take my side; my ego was not pandered to.

It wasn’t an ideal world. It wasn’t an ideal childhood. But I knew there was a community of adults and families looking out for me. We had an extended family and I was as likely to get a smack from Aunty Maureen as I was my own parents, and we knew that. So when we would torment Aunty Maureen, we knew a few of us would cop it badly, but we also knew she wouldn’t get all of us. We hedged our bets.  

We were raised in the proverbial village: shared values, shared consequences. And love. Through discipline. Through high expectations. Through connection, real connection. 

And that’s what’s missing now. 

Our kids are connected to false promises and false ideals. When all they want is to be connected to us. To you. 

We need to spend quality time with kids. We need to be present. We need to be real.

Maybe then, they won’t take so many drugs, or threaten/assault adults, or tell us they don’t want to be here anymore, or cut, or be sad. 

Maybe. 

The Lure of the Dream

The magnetic pull of NewYork City was so strong for me before I went in July. But I now realise that that pull was nothing compared to the constant yearning I feel now. 

Every time I watch a show or movie filmed in NYC I scour the streets for familiarity. And in the last few days everything reminds me of home. 

Ten days. Ten days transformed my heart and my soul. And the longing I feel. I imagine writing and travelling; my base between Sydney and New York City. I imagine going to readings. Courses. Bryant Park. Central Park. Tiffany’s. 

Sigh. 

Tiffany’s.

I was wholly me. I was wholly happy. Fulfilled. Beyond what I could ever believe was possible. 

And I miss that. 

Probably more so in times of pain. New York City, somewhat ironically, has become my utopia. 

My safe place. The place where dreams can come true. 

And hardship is overcome. 

  

Teacher Grief

I didn’t know what to do today; there is no instruction manual. And conflict and miscommunication can happen so easily and so quickly when everything is out of balance. 

I wanted to run to the kids and hold them tight, assuring them that everything will be okay. 

But I can’t guarantee that. Life experience tells me that for most everything will eventually be okay but it may not be for all of them, as much as I hope it is. 

First break I couldn’t even look at the kids most impacted by Nick’s death. I was terrified I would crumble into a heap. And as a teacher, is that okay? 

Second break I forced myself to reach out. Grateful I did. 

None of us know what to say or what to do. We don’t want to impose ourselves into your grief and we also want you to know that we are here with you, very much feeling the grief too. Asking ourselves the same questions you possibly are. Not quite believing that it is true and waiting for someone, anyone, to slap us and say, ‘Got ya!’ 

Teachers cry too. 

To be a good teacher, you have to love your kids. It’s awesome sharing the good times. And in a way, the bad times. But only because it lessens the alone-ness that grief inevitably brings with it. In bucket loads. 

Meh. I know what I want to say but the words aren’t coming. I keep seeing a cheeky grin. 

Nick and I had cause to have lots of chats. A Head Teacher will do whatever they can to support their staff. In this case, lots of chats. Nick wasn’t evil, just cheeky, and ably assisted by his friends. For some reason, the final hiding in cupboards keeps coming to mind. At the time it was like the worst crime ever; now it’s like tinged with fondness, affection even. We don’t expect that our students won’t be there forever, memorialising their cheeky deeds long after their school days have passed. We don’t expect to not be able to feign our anger and frustration for the rest of our days. 

Kids are meant to outlive adults. It never makes sense when they don’t. 

And I don’t get this. People say that he’s gone to a better place but he should still be in this place. The pain that people are feeling, his family, his friends, his teachers, none of it makes sense to me. I don’t get why he had to die and why he made those choices. I don’t get why we couldn’t have saved him. 

I know we can’t save everyone. I say that. But I don’t think I can believe it fully or accept it at all. We are teachers. We are meant to save kids. It’s what we do. It’s why we put up with the long hours, the perpetual abuse, the marking, the reports, the garbage, because at the end of the day, we save kids. We help them find the path to happiness and fulfilment, and when we fail, well, it sucks. 

And I know it isn’t just up to us, and that we can only save those that want or need saving, but tonight, today, I just wanted to grab all of those kids and hug them tightly to protect them from this pain, this grief, this moment. And I couldn’t. 

No idea how to title this effectively 

I have often said that the hardest part of teaching is a multitude of things that aren’t the hardest part of teaching at all. Today the hardest part of teaching happened. 

When I teach, and I assume it is the same or similar for other teachers, I give my heart and my soul to my students. There is me in everything that I do. Even as I’ve aged and seem colder, my heart and my soul are still given to my kids in every exchange. Even the angry ones. 

I love the kids. I wouldn’t have survived this long without the love I feel for them. My classes and the school’s students are more often than not in my thoughts. If someone is having a bad day I reflect on them and wonder about them that night. I am invested. All good teachers are. 

At times, it is frustrating. Today, it is heartbreaking. 

I became a teacher because I wanted to save the world. I figured education was the best way to achieve this. Over the years, I settled for saving my part of the world and hoped to inspire my kids to see the beauty that is possible. I help kids because they are precious to me and valuable to our world. They truly are our blessings and our saviours.

And today, I found out that we have lost one. His oldest brother was one of my babies from 2001-6 when I was a Year Advisor. And as a Year Advisor you get to know the family, and you keep an eye on/out for the younger siblings. In a way, they all become part of your heart. Of your family. 

And so, it came to be that I have watched all four boys grow up and mature; each with their own brand of cheeky and mischief, all with beautifully loving hearts. Nick is the youngest of the four. There are younger siblings; I do not know them. 

Nick could be respectful and funny and silly and smart, and during his last months as a student at Reddall, was really maturing into the man he could have become. But he died yesterday. 

And this morning, when I was told as I entered the room for our Professional Learning, my heart stopped. I put my bag down, feeling oblivious to the news, grabbed my tissues, and stepped outside to  process the news. And cried. 

Fuck. 

Fuck. 

Fuck. Fuck. 

What the fuck. 

And questions swirl through the brain. Memories surface. Conversation after conversation trying to get him to do the right thing in Music for his teacher. Reconciling beautiful Nick with feral Nick. 

And I have to laugh. He got up to some silly things. Funny as, but not always appropriate. And as a Head Teacher, I could wryly grin and tell him to pull his head in as he grinned at me, daring me not to laugh with him. And he adored, worshipped, loved his brothers. All with their own Douglas cheek. And my heart breaks for them, and for his parents. 

What a tragic loss to our world. To their worlds. To our school. And to his friends. 

It was hard not being able to be at work today, in our community, grieving with the kids and staff. It was hard contacting staff that have left that know him. It is hard to continue doing this. It is just hard. 

And so wrong. 

There have been too many souls lost. And the loss doesn’t get easier. And each time, you remember each and every one. 

A teacher’s heart never stops loving it’s students. Never. 

I am sorry, Nick, that we couldn’t have done more and that you are no longer here in this world with us. I am sorry that we will never get to see that cheeky up to no good grin again. I am so sorry. 

❤️

The Tide of Change 

I’m not sure where this post is heading which pretty much goes against how I usually construct these. There is so much going on in and through my head at the moment. 

I hurt my back yesterday. I am in pain today. Ebbs and flows. Incapacitation. Hurts to sit, hurts to stand, hurts to lie down. Bizarre place to be in. 

There are so many people having babies or falling pregnant at the moment. Also a bizarre place to be in. It’s been almost fourteen months since my last failed IVF attempt and almost nine months since I decided to stop by not accepting my sister’s offer of donated eggs. Mostly due to finances and future quality of life. 

I still twinge though, every time I see a pregnant woman or hear of a pregnancy; I’ve only not felt that once in almost six years. I sometimes wonder if it will ever stop, hoping that it does. 

I have locked in the dates for my foster care assessments and training sessions. 

When you struggle with fertility everyone says that foster care is there as an alternative. Even I have said it. But what I am realising is that it isn’t an alternative to being a birth parent. There is nothing that is. 

And that’s okay. 

But I’m going to stop suggesting it that way. It is a completely different scenario. A completely different mindset is required. 

You aren’t a parent, you are a carer. You have the responsibility of raising a child and providing them with opportunities, but they are not your child. They are in your care. Not yours. 

And I’m good with this. I’m looking forward to providing a child with opportunities they currently don’t have access to. I’m looking forward to inspiring them to heal and to be all that they can be. I’m looking forward to building a family. A modern family. And I’m okay with what it is. 

I think realising and acknowledging the difference has been important for me. I was always so worried that I wouldn’t cope if I had to give the child back. Now I understand that that would be okay; in ideal circumstances that would be the best for the child and my impact isn’t lessened even if a child’s time with me is short. 

They are not my child. They do not belong to me. Realistically, no person belongs to another. But I needed to really get this before I could proceed. So I am grateful that I finally understand that. 

And so, the sting continues. 

But now, as a result of missing out, I try to put my needs first. I don’t often succeed at this point, and when I do, I often feel guilty. But I am a work in progress, hurtling towards evolution … Happily. 

Nervousness

I have received contact from Fostering Young Lives; about to confirm my appointment times throughout December and January for the continuation of the application process to become a foster carer. 

And I am so nervous. 

The unknown does that. Insert nervous giggle. 

I am sure that I could be a good foster parent. I think I have resolved most of my issues as a human being. At least enough to make healthy decisions regarding parenting responsibilities. 

I think I am nervous because whilst I feel I will be accepted as a carer, I know nothing beyond that. And there is always a fear that I could be a bad carer, that it will be way too hard, and that maybe I’m not ready to sacrifice the freedom of my life. 

All big questions, and funnily enough, the same questions and fears I had throughout my IVF cycles if I became pregnant and carried successfully to term. 

My logic says that the fears and questions are sensible, even healthy, and so if I am questioning but continuing the process, then it will be okay because this is the path that I am meant to be on. Realistically, the path that I continue to choose to be on. 

I really am grasping my life and giving it a good shake. 

And it’s empowering more than nerve wracking. But the nerves are there. So many unknowns. 

Will I be at my school next year? Will I start my business by running my first workshops next year? Will I become a foster carer next year? Will I be successful? Will one happy? 

What I do know is that life is incredibly short. And none of us know what tomorrow will bring or when we will take our last breath. And that it is our individual responsibility to be the best we can be and to live the best life we can live. 

I feel that I am succeeding in trying. 

Fear is not crippling me. 

Life is Precious

Enough said really. 

One of my students lost her mum a few weeks ago. Another lost her aunt last week. My extended non blood family have found out that his dad has an aggressive brain tumour. Lots of anniversaries of passing coming up. 

And today a friend lost her husband. 

When we are young we tend to take longevity for granted. And that’s okay. 

As we age, we learn not to take anything for granted. 

To those of you that I know that read regularly, thank you. To those of you that I have never met and have passed by or regularly read, thank you. 

Sharing always lifts the weight of worry.

I blog because I have survived a lot and if that can help anyone, well, that is me paying my blessed life forward. There have been many times that I have let myself fall, and I really haven’t been living my life or counting my blessings, but after the darkness, light has always come. 

Our lifetimes, even at their longest, are short. Live fully. Take opportunities. Smile. Love. Believe. 

Thank you for sharing my life, either in the real world, or in this one. I am grateful for each of you. 

Love today to all of you. 

The Power of the Teacher

I wrote yesterday that I am an outstanding teacher. Yep, you read right. I said I was an outstanding teacher on a public document. 

And I meant it. 

And today I saw evidence of it. 

It really is so very important that we choose resources that will engage, inspire and challenge our kids. It really doesn’t matter what you teach; there can be no excuses. 

I’m an English teacher. I will admit, it is really really easy for us. But a few weeks ago I taught a beginning lesson on Trigonometry to a Year 9 Maths class and I was outstanding in there too. Not a top class; a class with some ferals (said with absolute love). 

I read the teacher’s PowerPoint and worked out what it was and went for it. The PowerPoint was amazing but I didn’t use it. 

I asked them to write down the foundation principles of what we would be covering. They did. 

Then I explained some examples. I asked them to write them down. They did. 

Then I asked some questions to ascertain the level of understanding. Some got it, some didn’t. 

So, then I asked three students to stand up. They became a right angled triangle. I labelled them. I asked the questions again. More kids started to get it. We kept going until most got it. 

Then we wrote the process together on the board. 

It’s about pitching it to the audience in front of you. Tailoring it directly to them. 

If you don’t, they won’t get it. 

Today my Year 8 class watched Jane Eliot’s A Class Divided. Old film footage but the experiment captured the imagination and social justice mentality of my class. So, then we watched Waleed Ally’s spiel on ISIL from the other night. 

Got ’em. Completely. 

Man I love teaching. And I am outstanding in any classroom.