Revelations Upon Waking

I keep focusing on the negative in my relief teaching at a new school. I make jokes and accentuate how difficult it is. And it is difficult but it isn’t impossible. I’m feeding that negative outlook. Foolishly. 

Upon waking this morning, I was struck with successes I have been having. 

Yes, there are a lot of classes that are misbehaving and that are very hard work. But those kids are the ones to greet me in the playground, are the ones who settle after a few periods, are the ones to long for contact outside of the classroom, and within it. 

I don’t know why I’m feeding the negative. Maybe it is too humbling starting all over. Maybe I feel like I should be failing so that I leave teaching or so I don’t miss it as much when I do. Maybe it keeps everyone’s expectations of me low. Maybe I don’t feel supported by my old school so I’m trying to prove to myself that they were right. 

Maybe I’m overthinking it all and just need to chill lol. 

What I take from this is that we all need to feed the positive, irrespective of how small or seemingly insignificant that positive is. Feeding the position Ve nurtures the positive to magnify. Surely, we can all use more positive in our lives. 

Excitement

I have a weekly doctor’s appointment at the moment to keep an eye on my blood pressure. The last couple of times it’s been measured it has been 170 over 115. One week of medication, at the lightest dose, and it is down to 150 over 95. One week! I am excited. And with my dietary changes, I just feel so much better. 

I feel like I am on the right path. 

And it isn’t just the diabetes and blood pressure. 

This year, my gap year, was taken to explore opportunities and options, something I don’t have time to encourage within myself when working in my permanent full-time position. 

Already, I have realised how much of the world there is to explore when you aren’t committed to a permanent full time position. Life is different when lived in balance. And very different when you are doing things that inspire you. 

I don’t know exactly when teaching became work for me. I used to love it; I would jump out of bed in the morning excited to go to work. I can’t remember the last period of time that I consistently felt this way. Probably when I was working in CAPA, but even then, the hours were killing my life. 

Anyway, kinesiology is a modality that I have felt a pull towards for a long while. I’ve been researching courses. I want to be close to home so have focused on the Southern Highlands. This afternoon I spoke to the teacher of said course, and as I was speaking to her, listening to her, I began to understand the pull I’ve felt. 

The point being, trusting these pulls towards certain things this year is opening my world in a way I never dreamed possible. 

I have my Sound Healing course. I am attending a writing conference. I am seeing Elkhart Tolle. I am travelling. I am writing. I am building my business. I’m socialising with friends and family regularly. And soon, I will commence my studies in Neuro Training and Kinesiology. 

I am just so excited this afternoon. 

Life is good. 

And, it is good because I am making it so. I am controlling what I do. I am transforming my life. I wasn’t happy with the lack of balance and I’m correcting it. It’s not always easy but I’m doing it. And I’m loving it. 

I wish the same for everyone. 

Bits & Bobs Upon Reflection 

I enjoyed going back to work yesterday. 

The first two periods were brilliant. I was worried about first period because I’ve had that class three times already, and whilst they were getting better and we all quite like each other, morning periods have been the worst. One of the boys went to open the infamous window (had thrown things out of it last week) and I said, “Uh uh,” and he assured me it would be okay because he’d taken his tablets today. 

No lie from him; what a difference some pills make. We went to the Library to work on resumes. 

And, in Period 2, I was in the Support Unit. I love the kids and staff in this unit. We worked on numeracy and capitalism/market strategising by playing Monopoly. 

I had a massive run in with two rude seniors during Periods 3 and 4, and a massive success with the rest of the class, surprisingly. And I think it stemmed from a few of us crying during Big Daddy. One of the friends/co-conspirators stayed behind to talk to me into lunch. I love those moments. 

And Year 7, last period, came in, in dribs and drabs, which made control and settling harder. 

I’ll follow it all up and eventually the kids will behave, but I’m too old for the patience required. And I’m just not into teaching as much, well, snobbily, teaching kids who don’t want to be taught. 

But I love tutoring, and love my business. 

Kids that do want to learn and do want to improve. My first client yesterday afternoon is a smart child who struggles with getting his ideas onto paper. I started some meditation and focus activities with him that worked. And my second client yesterday, well, she has been helping her friends in class with their Maths and getting it right. She said that she had never been able to do that before. 

And the best part is their faces when they see me; they light up from their toes and straight into their eyes. I love it. 

If I can grow my business, supporting people that want the support, I’ll be a very happy woman with lower blood pressure. 

Nice segue, hey.

Five days on my meds for Diabetes and I can feel the difference within me. 

At first I struggled with extreme hunger and needing to eat at night which is abnormal for me but has been happening for the last couple of weeks; I’d just put it down to my period and emotional eating. I now think my sugar levels were out. For the first few days I also suffered gastro but felt like it was a good clean out, and it’s stopped now. 

I’m managing my diet a lot better after a lot of reading, and will be seeing a dietician soon. I’ve minimised my sugar intake and now need to start on the carbs, but I’m adjusting well. Just the kick in the pants that I needed. Exercise will follow. I feel much better within myself. Oh, and I don’t get up to go to the toilet during the night. Who knew. 

I’m spending time with a sister and the nephews today. A Day Out With Thomas ( the tank engine) at Trainworks (across the road). Very excited to meet the Fat Controller (ironic) and ride on Henry. Woo hoo! 

Feeling the Forces of Change

When I sat with my Principal towards the end of last year and told him that I needed to take leave this year, he said that he didn’t think I would be back. I replied that I thought I would be; I just needed a rest, and time to heal from the trauma and anxiety that the investigation had triggered. I am due to start back in my full time substantive position in the first week of December. 

Last night I started to look for shop assistant employment in my local area. 

Yep. 

There was nothing. 

This morning I drew an oracle card that told me to trust the universe. What I need will be there when it is time. So I am trusting the unknown. And I am good with that. 

I no longer feel anger towards all that encompassed the investigation. I accept that in the eyes of policy, my actions should not have been delayed, and I forgive myself for my tardiness and perceived wrongdoing. I also accept the divide between policy and humanity, and understand why policy is important. As a result, I forgive those that lied to the investigators when they were questioned, and I forgive all involved for the behaviours and choices that resulted in the investigation in the first place. 

Importantly, I understand that it needed to unfold the way that it did so that I could grow and prioritise my health/life. I was not looking after my needs and had stopped looking after my needs a long time ago. 

In the chain of events of my life, I was still healing from my miscarriage, resolving many failed IVF attempts, and coming to terms with a necessarily intrusive foster carer process. A process that I felt that I failed because my answers were not deep enough for the assessors yet I had nothing more. 

My needs – the basic needs of love, security and health – were not being met by me. I had let them go. I had not been nurturing myself, my relationships, or my life outside of work. There was no balance, and I was suffering but caught on a treadmill without brakes that moved faster and faster.

The investigation was the brakes. This devastating trauma and anxiety forced me to stop, pause and then question EVERYTHING. I fell apart, bits of me lying everywhere. India started the process of picking the pieces up and I gathered them in my arms. 

And then I decided to put me first. 

And now I am here. 

And I don’t want to teach anymore. 

I want a different life. 

I am walking forward, in trust, that I will walk where I will serve myself and this world best. 

A Morning of Tears 

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. 

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/conversations-gabbie-stroud-rpt/8240730

Why They Leave

There has been more exposure in the last week, in the broad media, regarding the increasingly high numbers of teachers leaving teaching. One such article suggested that 53% of trained teachers are no longer working in the field. They always focus on the young teachers. Older teachers are leaving or taking extended periods of leave too. Like me. 

The reporters state that there is not enough data about why teachers aren’t teaching. I scoff at this. The Department has our details. Call them. Or continue reading …

When I decided to be a teacher, I felt the calling. I was only 5 so I couldn’t articulate why, I just knew teaching was what I was meant to do. Initially I wanted to be a primary school teacher but by the time I was seventeen, I had moved into a calling for high school teaching. I loved English, so high school English became the dream.

My home experiences during my adolescence also impacted this change. After my parents divorced when I was in Year 8, and fighting in both homes became the norm, culminating in me moving between my mum and my dad’s houses, and ultimately living in a caravan in a friend’s backyard for a few months after receiving the beating of a lifetime, I didn’t want any child to feel as alone as I had during my high school years. I vowed that whilstever I was in a school, kids would have an adult they could turn to for support, whether I taught them or not. For me, it was the responsibility of the adults to protect the children. 

When I was in my first year of teaching, 1993, I was interviewed by a local newspaper. They asked why I wanted to teach. My response was simple, “To change the world.” 

Over time this idealism has tempered itself. I still want to change the world, and believe education is vital in this, but have settled for changing the children’s lives I teach so that they are empowered and enabled to change the world. 

So, why am I on leave, initially hoping to leave teaching (but not so much today because I miss it from my core)? 

Because teaching is run by bureaucrats and politicians who have absolutely no idea about what teaching is, and why teachers teach. 

As a result, the art of teaching has been seriously compromised. 

Administration duties have taken over from the magic of programming, preparing lessons and units, and actually teaching. Stupid behaviour and clothing restrictions have been mandated to ensure that teachers are “professional” (pfft, please, professionalism is an attitude not an appearance). 

Data collection, which only serves to demoralise teachers and students, and takes away from the magic of teaching by taking time from preparing resources, has become the most recent catch cry; let’s take time from teachers teaching to collect data do that the results for kids stay low. 

Teachers, young and old, to stay on top of everything that is required, lose the precious work-life balance, lose time with their families, lose time to exercise, lose time full stop, and begin to resent the career they so nobly entered. 

Not only that, but teachers are no longer respected by society. Parents think nothing of abusing teachers, of telling them how to do their job, and of enabling their child’s poor behaviour choices to continue. All the while, belittling the teacher’s knowledge of children and pedagogy. The media, politicians, parents, the average person on the steeet, all think they know better than the people at the chalk face. I shake my head. 

And then, there is no protection for the teachers who find themselves facing an investigation, or accusations of misconduct, or being bullied by other teachers/deputy principals/principals/students, because the child comes first. And whilst they should, it shouldn’t always be at the expense of diligent teachers who are doing the best they can under hopeless circumstances most of the time. 

As a classroom teacher, throughout the last twenty four years, I can’t tell you how many mandatory referrals I have made to principals with students who have suffered some type of heinous abuse. I can tell you how many times the system has supported my welfare needs at these times. Nil. We are expected to listen to the crimes of others, deal with the results of post traumatic stress in our kids, refer them so that the system can continue to let the kids down because the system is under resourced and under funded, WITH NO SUPPORT for us. 

At the end of the year before last, I faced an excruciating decision: immediately refer alleged misconduct of another staff member possibly setting the kids up for reprisals without ongoing support, or protect the welfare of myself and the kids and build resilience so we could cope with the fallout. I waited to refer, I did refer, but not straight away. 

Investigation. 

I could cop that except that it was months of not knowing before I found out why I was under investigation, and then more months before I had a chance to respond, and then because other people lied in their reports and the investigators did not ask me for evidence (dodgy investigation at best), I was labelled as a self-serving liar.

Teachers are leaving because it is not the profession it once was, and because they are not protected from ever increasing workload, attacks from every angle, and dodgy investigations. Because they receive no support to do their job. Because society is disconnected and kids embody this disconnection and teachers deal with the impact of this every day. Because the system doesn’t cater for changes in the way kids learn in the 21st century. 

Because it is just too hard … 

and no one cares. 

Joy Rediscovered 

I needed to take some time away from teaching this year after the trauma of the investigation last year. Pushing through every day amidst doubt and uncertainty, pressure and strain took its toll on me. By the end of last year, the thought of returning to my job was enough to make me want to jump off a very tall cliff. Even as recently as two weeks ago, anxiety filled me when I thought about work. 

Ironically, anxiety also consumed me when I thought about money not coming in regularly. But, I’ll get by. 

My tutoring started this week. Working with one adult as she writes her memoirs, a young boy on Reading and Writing, and a young girl on Maths, has reconnected me to the essence of teaching. 

When you take away the administration, the formalised testing, the behaviour concerns of kids, what you have left is pure magic: people moving to be the best version of themselves. 

Magic. 

And to be able to facilitate this is such a divine gift. 

Teaching is one part knowledge and content, and nine parts inspiration, empowerment and enabling growth. 

It is a magical process. 

I have had a couple messages through text, Facebook and email this week, letting me know that even after one week, I am missed. And I miss the kids, staff, and the magical chemistry of learning and teaching. Even after only one week, I know I will return to my classroom to teach kids. I miss the play. 

I wish the government could see how much they have corrupted education with their unreasonable demands on teachers. I think if we were empowered/enabled to just teach and do what we do best, our kids’ results would soar. 

I never thought I would enjoy tutoring, especially as much as I have this week. Maybe it’s just my specific clients, maybe it’s the process, maybe it’s just what I was born to do. 

Ahhhhhhh

My brain has been processing a great deal this week. I’ve had a massive couple of weeks. I’m really tired lol. 

I started to pack my office yesterday and move my things to the English staffroom – where I started in April, 1999. A young, idealistic, passionate teacher. More cynical, old, but still passionate these days. I left my school in 2008 for six months and taught elsewhere, and it reinvigorated my practice. I also started to believe that I was a good teacher. 

Today, I say with contentment and confidence, I am an exceptional teacher. Exemplary. And an exceptional leader. I have matured into myself, enough to realistically assess my strengths and weaknesses (areas for improvement lol). Imperfect in my perfection 😉. And, I am grateful for all of this. It has taken years of commitment and dedication, tears, ongoing learning, mistakes, courage, stubbornness, tears, laughter, fighting, resilience, and then more tears. And more love than I ever dreamed would be possible. 

But I need a break. 

The system is nowhere near as competent as I have become. It’s changes have negatively impacted its constituents. It’s growth has not been as significant, and its stubbornness/courage has not yielded the best results for kids. I could keep going but there is no point. If you aren’t a teacher, I’m just whinging, and if you are, you know. 

My investigation was resolved, two days prior to hitting 42 weeks. Paradoxically this year has been my best and my worst in teaching. My best in the classroom and in leadership, my worst in confidence, doubting myself, and shame. 

It took from March to July to find out what I was under investigation for. And from August to Tuesday this week, for it to be resolved. 

During the last couple of years I have relived the tortured feelings of an abused child, culminating in being called a liar and self-serving by two women who have never met me and whom, realistically, did not conduct a very thorough investigation. I am guilty of the charge, and I own that, did so in my response to it, but I am not self-serving or a liar. 

In the world of contemporary education, it has become mandatory to report the behaviour of other adults. I was charged with failing to do this. In the world of contemporary education, it has become mandatory to extend a duty of care to all students. They say I failed to do this by failing the first part. I say, we cannot ever know this for sure. The context was muddied. 

They say I receive no consequences, an acknowledgement of the difficulty inherent within the context. Apart from the anxiety and shame filled year I have had, that has resulted in one of the proudest and most capable public education teachers, resigning her union membership and needing to take leave from a job that once filled her joy with love, to heal. 

My union failed to support me, failed to provide me with a welfare officer when anxiety filled, I reached out to them. I was instructed to speak to no one. When I did reach out to people, my job was threatened. Forty one weeks and five days. The gestation period of a human being. It’s a long time to have to hide and to be voiceless, to not own the narrative of your own life. 

But, it’s over. Shackles withdrawn. Lips unsown. Healing can start. 

What a week. Starting with a funeral, another reminder that life is short and should be filled with moments and adventures that bring us joy. 

Resolution on Tuesday. Reaching out to friends as I stood on the ledge, wishing it all to end, as I read the words liar and self serving. Words existing because of the lies of others and their perceived greater integrity. Not the way I would describe my work in education over the last twenty four years, or my commitment to the children in the schools in which I have taught. 

Wednesday brought anger, lots of it. 

Thursday, great disappointment. In my employer, myself, others. We should never have been in this situation. 

Friday, yesterday, the realisation that we are all just victims of the choices of others. 

Today, understanding that we choose our lives. We choose how we deal with hardship. We choose whether we remain a victim or become a survivor. We choose how we let others treat us, marginalise us, betray us. We choose … everything. 

I will move forward. I’m an amazing teacher. I love my kids. I love being in the classroom, motivating my kids to be more, to live more, to dream more. I love empowering them to achieve, and to believe. I love seeing them embrace all that they can be. I love being the smallest part of helping them to make that happen. Their success is their success, and it brings me joy. 

This will be my legacy. And it lives in the lives that I have touched. Everything I do is the result of love, even my mistakes. 

Lessons from India 

I have been home for just over a week. Every day, it becomes more apparent to me that something deep inside of me has shifted. In some ways, I almost feel like I have recaptured the enthusiasm/idealism/passion of my younger years. In my twenties I possessed a fighting and partying spirit. I had formed a community of like minds around me, and I felt purposeful. 

I have also lost my patience for shit. In all of its forms. My soul is crying out for difference and I need to nurture this. 

The most significant place this is appearing is at work. And I knew I would struggle with school after being in India.

I have always believed that education solves problems. It saved my life by providing me with opportunities to escape and break a cycle of dysfunction (even though some may argue I am still dysfunctional lol). I see similar attitudes outside of the privileged west. And, so, it kills me when I see education and opportunity taken for granted. Ask my kids, they’ll tell you I’m not lying. 

And, all hell broke loose yesterday when I stood on chewing gum that transferred itself to my dress, my beautiful dress. I screamed the block down, somewhat humorously, but the frustration was real. How selfish must one be to spit gum on the ground when there are bins everywhere! 

I’ve lost my ability to put on a mask or play ‘the’ game. 

I’m playing my own. This is who I am. The real me. A crusader for ‘right’. 

It’s been 39 weeks since I found out I was under investigation. For the most part these days, I am okay. However, it doesn’t take much to trigger a relapse of sorts. In fact, now that I am consciously reflecting, it’s been a massive week, beyond just going back to work, jet lag and illness. Significant shifts. The reinforcement of lessons. 

On Wednesday, I was concerned for the welfare of one of my students, and as a result I referred her, correctly, to the Learning Support Team (Year Advisot and Counsellor too), and I informed the parents of my concern, so that they could keep an eye on her at home. I documented all of this. Our LST Co-ordinator jumped on it straight away. She and I had a conversation to clarify what could and could not happen immediately. Perfect. 

However, last period of the day and I am on class, knock on the door and I am asked to have a word outside. The person asks me to speak to them privately before I leave for the day. My body reacts like it did 38 weeks and 6 days before when a different person had a very similar conversation with me, and I walked back into my classroom, filled with anxiety and dread. I had only been back at work for three days, who could I have possibly offended in such a short time! Like, WTF! 

And, so I went to speak to the person. The parents had contacted the school and this person was blind sided. It isn’t our process to notify the person I failed to notify. And I had a small window to operate in because I was teaching four periods and Head Teacher on duty the rest of the day – I only had ninety minutes off. That was when I referred the student. I apologised profusely, and genuinely; I do not like causing other people pain. 

But, upon reflection, I became indignant. I did my job. I followed process. I shouldn’t have been spoken to. It’s ridiculous. And, ego driven. This is not my future. 

The child was happier on Thursday. And I have lost considerable respect for a lot of things. I cannot tolerate a lack of humility and integrity. We need to know ourselves as adults, and function accordingly. I can’t abide people in positions of power who do not know themselves. Effective leadership never extends from ego. 

This isn’t rocket science. 

Yep, still angry. Lol. 

And then yesterday, another student needed support. Followed the process. More ego unleashed. And I wonder why education is so troubled at the moment. Again, though, child will receive support. So ultimately, two wins this week. Yes, I am needed in education. But, it isn’t what I need any longer. 

I am valuable. I am beautiful. I am deserving. I am of the divine. I am worth something, everything. 

These are my lessons from India. Thank you to my soul sisters and Richard for empowering me to integrate these lessons. These are the lessons for all of us. If we aren’t being respected, valued, adored, then we need to move to an environment where we are. We all deserve abundance and prosperity and soul bliss (thank you Alana and Lakshmi).

Simple. Trust it. 

PS. I am writing letters tomorrow. My fight continues. I never want someone else to have to endure what I have endured this year. It is criminal. 

But today, well, today is my day. Gardening, decluttering, feeding my soul. Being in my bliss. Being home. In my head, my heart, my soul, my location. Yep, today is my day. 

Oh, and I have decided my next tattoo. Lakshmi. 

Victim Shaming & My Shame

I did the unthinkable today. I picked myself up, but oh my. 

I am studying Go Back To Where You Came From with Year 12, focusing on Discovery. We were talking about something that triggered from the first episode which lead to my recent trip to India and different cultural attitudes, treatment of women, etc. I spoke about the security checkpoints at the airports and different treatment of men and women. 

One of my students shared the anecdote of two of his female friends, one of whom was spat upon as she walked through the airport. 

My response was, “What was she wearing?”

It took me a second, wherein my question was answered, before I exclaimed, “Oh my god! I just victim shamed.” 

I was mortified. I then turned on my student, as you do in moments of your own shame lol, and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me off!?” 

He said that he had thought about it, but … 

I am so meant to be better than that! I guess, if anything positive can come out of it, my kids realise I am human (goddamnit), and that it is important to be cognisant of what we say and own our own ignorance. 

What a lesson!