It’s been a while since I’ve cried about teaching. Probably at some point last year out of exasperation from the investigation. But this morning, the tears are flowing.
A friend sent me a link to an ABC Conversation with Gabbie Stroud. She attained infamy the year before last when she just left teaching and wrote about why: burn out from the realities of contemporary teaching which are opposed to the idealism teachers start their careers with (we still have the idealism so our spirits become suffocated and we need time out to renew our navigation of the system).
Gabbie talks about the ridiculous focus on data collection at the expense of lesson preparation time and student learning, increasingly heavy administrative duties, the pain the kids feel as they start to feel left behind, our feelings of hopelessness as we see this, the loss of our own lives as we become consumed with anxiety trying to get everything done, and that feeling that our best is never good enough, or just enough.
I love teaching. My heart breaks as I write that. I love my classroom and I am missing my kids to the bone this year. I miss my Year 12 class; I had been so excited to take them through to their exams later this year. And, I just miss them as people. I miss seeing them every day, I miss getting frustrated with L as he stuffs around learning to navigate his life. I could list something about every single one of them that I miss.
And many more kids. Some have messaged me to say they miss me; it’s been two weeks. Some that I was meant to teach for the first time this year have let me know they are disappointed that I’m not there. I miss them. I
I miss seeing my colleagues every day. I miss our shared existence and commentary. I miss the gossip and the laughter; I even miss the immaturity of bitchy behaviour. I miss the early career teachers and helping them navigate this overwhelming profession. I miss the collegiality and the love that epitomizes my school culture.
However, I don’t miss the stress, or never getting a break, or not feeling on top of my job. I don’t miss the anxiety or feelings of frustration as the system mandates one thing after another, designed to corrode enthusiasm, passion and idealism. I don’t miss the desire to balance system requirements with idealism and what is actually in the best interests of the children.
Teachers teaching are too busy and too tired to fight together, and unfortunately, the reality is that politicians and the public don’t really care. The media set teachers up a long time ago as whingers, and the ignorant populace were too happy to believe the demonic propaganda. After all, anyone that gets three months holiday a year and only works 9 to 3 has it easy in life. WTF.
And, so, as Gabbie recounted her experiences, I felt a kinship and felt for all of us teachers.
We wanted to change the world. We wanted to help kids see their potential, to be the best they could be. We wanted to instil hope and passion and happiness into kids lives. We wanted to believe that we were part of something noble, necessary and nurturing.
My classroom still is.
But, my classroom is at odds with the profession, the politics, the bureaucracy. And it wore me down.
After twenty four years, I’m tired of fighting an unseen enemy: government policy, government bureaucracy, government fads.
Teaching itself is simple. Love your kids because then you will do what is necessary to watch them thrive. Love your colleagues because collectively you create a school culture of love and growth. Love your community, even on its bad days, because that’s where the power for change generates.
If only the machine understood this. If only the machine listened. If only enough of us stood up and said no more.
We are tired. Tears are easier.