Back When

I’ve been reflecting a lot, probably too much, on my teaching career.

When I started teaching in 1993, the world and the education system were completely different to now. I wouldn’t say better, but definitely different.

I teach from heart. I still do when I tutor. That connection with the children or child in front of me, or the adult in some cases, is vital to me. It makes my heart sing. I truly believe that my best teaching came from my best and strongest connections. And, my best years, came when that connection existed with whole classes.

I was blessed to have that connection a few more times than most in a twenty six year long career. So blessed.

There seemed to be more openness in 1993. We could try different things to motivate and engage our kids without having to get clearance for every little thing. Mandatory testing happened twice – Year 10 and Year 12. We were more about kids learning and growing than, ironically, we seem to be today.

I believe there is a huge difference between kids learning and growing, and mandatory testing every two years.

Achievement is significantly more than value adding and improvement in numeracy, reading, writing, grammar and punctuation, and spelling. Such contrived examinations that don’t really assess the achievement of a child. I think mandatory testing does more harm than good.

In fact, a good teacher can tell you what a child can and cannot do when they know their kids and check their work.

At my Stress and Mindfulness workshops at a high school last week, the teachers commented to me that they were surprised and impressed with how fast I identified the who’s who and engaged strategies to minimise their impact and engage them. I can develop connections quickly with this group: the disconnected who often don’t believe in themselves very much. I always have been able to.

Real teaching, heart teaching, soul teaching seems to be going by the way. The system, it’s requirements and endless administration, data collection and paperwork, is robbing teachers of the ability to teach. Their way. To get the best engagement and results for the kids.

This saddens me.

It also saddens me that there is a system, so flawed, designed to mire and disconnect teachers from the system. EPAC is a disaster. It may work in some cases, but I’ve found that it is severely under resources and complaints/investigations can take over a year, or close to a year, to be resolved.

The toll on teachers is significant; it demoralized me entirely. There was no way I could ever come back from that. And, morally, I hadn’t done anything wrong.

It highlighted how far the system and my values had become removed from one another. They used to be less removed.

Sad.

Very sad.

I unexpectedly ran into a colleague from my old school last Saturday. He told me that the kids miss me dreadfully. They feel that they lost someone precious.

They did. I now know and appreciate my value in a system that wants robots teaching kids. I’m not mainstream. I am different. And there are fewer of us every day.

I genuinely loved my students. Not all of them and not every day, but by far, the vast majority. I was genuinely interested in their achievements as a human being and as a learner. I would find new ways of doing so that I could engage and develop them. Far beyond mandatory testing, because ultimately, being a good citizen and a great human is more significant to society.

I wish we could do that again.

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