I’ll Tell You Why 

Warning: bad language in this post; it was directed towards me today – not from my mouth. 

                                       *****

It isn’t just young teachers leaving teaching. I’m an old teacher and I am leaving teaching. Today consolidated the decision and has accelerated it; I am motivated more than ever to find something else and build it. 

The hours are insane, the paperwork is ludicrous, but beyond that, teachers just aren’t respected anymore. We are treated like sub-humans. Continuously. 

I was humiliated today. Absolutely humiliated. I wanted to sit on the floor, rock myself and sob. But I couldn’t. I was on class. I was teaching. 

It’s a hard thing to deal with. You know you are worth more, you know that you don’t deserve it, but there are too many kids who don’t value us. 

I started the day positively. I was organised. I love the kids. I was happy to see them again. Happy to be there. The start of the final four days of a block in a faculty I love, run by a great Head Teacher whom I adore. 

One of the kids had other ideas. It started with whining and talking. It became whistling. It developed into tapping with swearing,”Fuck you.” Belligerent refusal to stop, to move, to put the phone away, to complete the work, to stop talking. The phone continued to be out. I confiscated it. I confiscated the pen that was used for the tapping. The child started arguing, loudly proclaiming that they weren’t going to follow my instructions until I gave them the phone back. They then started bullying other kids, pushing the buttons of a student they knew would freak out and react; he didn’t too much because he respects me. The child just kept going and going and going. They were removed by the Head Teacher. 

During Assembly, I politely asked a student if they were in the right line and I copped another mouthful, and when she finished her friend started. I was polite and just doing my job. 

Next two periods and playground duty were fine. 

Last period, the child from the morning banged on the classroom door as I was settling my class. The child then went to the windows, smiling and laughing, raised the middle finger to me and called out, “Fuck you”, “dickhead” and “arsehole.” 

Yep. I just wanted to curl up and bawl. This isn’t the life I want. This isn’t the world I want. 

Were there positives? Sure. A student who usually won’t do anything for me was so mortified that someone (except her) could treat me so badly so worked exceptionally during the lesson. I thanked her. The small windows we get. 

Teachers are leaving because we aren’t validated by our employers and their representatives. My Head Teacher applied for a formal caution. She received it. But I think the Deputy and the Principal should have suspended the child. For three out of the five periods she belittled me. 

I don’t deserve this. 

I left work feeling like a failure, mentally modifying the work that was left to try to mix things up for the kids, to try to engage this child. 

It isn’t right. Kids have license to abuse at least one staff member before they learn that their behaviour is unacceptable. 

And I’ll keep seeing the articles, Teachers leaving the profession, and reading everyone’s shock. Really? Kids have changed and as their behaviour has become worse, Principals and the Department have become softer. 

We need to look after the child’s welfare.

Sure. But who is looking after the teachers? 

I had to see a friend to debrief so I could come home relieved of pain. I’m now taking time out of my life to process it a bit more. And I’m exhausted. My plans for tonight will go by the wayside; my energy is depleted from staying calm and being professional whilst abuse was hurled at me repeatedly. 

Seriously. 

Goodbye teaching. We will be parting ways very soon. You have changed. It is you. And it is me; I know I’m worth more than this, and my life and the people in it deserve better than this. 

A Very Quiet Week 

Warning: further on in this post there are potential triggers for survivors and victims of childhood sexual abuse, and their parents. 
Between the business and casual teaching, I have had a work filled week which has permitted not much of anything else. But it’s been a calm and soul filling week. 

The kids at the school I am working a lot at are getting to know me and I am getting to know them. I like the staff I work directly with and am becoming a little emotionally connected. I have some blocks coming up too. 

But the exciting news is that tomorrow I leave for the US. In forty eight hours or so I will be reunited with two of my tribe (from our meeting in India last year) and I am so excited. Nervous – I hate being in the way (a value thing) – and excited. I can’t wait to be in their space and share energy with them. 

And the following week I head to Las Vegas for a friend’s wedding. And we are getting tattooed at Pussykat Tattoo Studio. And then she gets married and then I go to the Grand Canyon and then I fly home. A whirlwind trip incorporating time in two places I never thought of going to. 

This is what my gap year/mid life crisis is about: exploring life’s potential and trusting that where I am drawn to, I am meant to be. 

I have found a stillness within me. I’m meditating more and there is a calm in my mind and life. I am finding it infinitely easier to be and to exist for sustained periods of time in the present moment. I talk to my fear, to the odd pop of anxiety, to acknowledge it and then let it go. As a result, I am enjoying the things that I do because I am wholly present in them. 

Teaching is my means to an end. It pays the bills. My business, my study and my writing is my soul work. These light me from within and bring me home. 

I have always struggled to find inspiration and creative freedom to write whilst working, until now. During the week a block that I have found whilst writing my novel was lifted and I have been able to write in small chunks of time, at lunch, between clients, wherever I can, and it has just oozed out of me. 

I am at peace. I have found a type of balance. For now. Interestingly, I’m not taking a laptop with me on my travels – iPad yes, phone yes, laptop no. I hate taking it out of my bag continually at security checkpoints and don’t use it enough to justify it. I will use my phone and transfer it when I get home. 

My novel is about a teenage girl who is raped at a party. In the course of processing it, she learns more about herself, her friends, her family, and the world, than she ever wanted to know. It’s been easy to write at times and more difficult at others. I’ve been researching and have decided to include her mother’s perspective because the role of the mother, whilst pivotal, is never really explored. 

I think my recent experiences of helplessness – through the issue that resulted in the investigation last year – will enable me to empathise with the role of mother in these circumstances – the paralysis, the fear, the not wanting to open a hornet nest, etc. I will obviously also research in other ways. 

If you are the mother or father of a child who has been raped or sexually abused, I would love for you to write to me about your experiences if you feel that you can – not the specifics of the situation necessarily, but definitely your emotional/psychological journey. If you can

Our children live in such an unsafe and disconnected world, I fear for them. Manchester’s events rocked all of us during the week. Targeting young people specifically is a very cruel strategy. But when I reflected further, we always have targeted young people, just not as noisily or blatantly. 

The number of kids in care, or who should be, is ridiculous. The number of kids with parents who work so much they aren’t really present, grows. The number of kids subjected to sexual abuse, physical violence, neglect and emotional abuse, grows. CASA state that 20% of women and 10% of men have reported non-penetrative sexual assault occurred before they turned sixteen, and these numbers are significant disproportionate for indigenous adults. 

Childhood sexual abuse really has become and has stayed a silent epidemic. The long term impact of sexual abuse incapacitates adults, which impacts society. It is an issue that requires a higher social profile because it needs to stop. 

I know, am blessed to know many, and be, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I’m not whole. I am close to being whole. It has taken, and continues to take, effort and work to maintain emotional and psychological health. At forty six, the impact is significantly less on my life now than it used to be. I have worked hard and for a long time. 

I love that practice, I think Chinese, where the cracks in a bowl are filled with gold – a beautiful metaphor for survivors of trauma. It is our cracks that make us vulnerable to breakage but when filled, make us more resilient and more beautiful than we otherwise would have been. 

Yep. A quiet week but apparently not so quiet in my mind. 

Namaste 🙏🏻🦋

The Inevitable 

It’s 1.35 in the morning. I fell asleep on the lounge around 9.30 last night, waking up an hour ago. I’m now in bed but can’t sleep. I’m reflecting on my week. 

Last night I realized that the inevitable had happened. I have emotionally connected with and become attached to a group of adults and kids at another school. And, I’m okay with it. 

I’ve also realized that whilst I can come across as very arrogant, and at times, behave arrogantly, it’s mostly because I am really good at what I do. Not perfect but really good. And not acknowledged by those in charge, in a very broad sense, for it. I think the arrogance, if that is what it even is, stems from that quest for someone to acknowledge it. A result of damage and trauma no doubt. 

I had a success at work. It made my heart melt. I smiled inside all afternoon. I felt connection. 

There is a boy who struggles with change. The first few times I relieved for various teachers, he couldn’t even come into the room. On Monday he came into the room, and he stayed in the room even when he had the opportunity to leave. 

Yesterday he was reluctant to come into the room but did. And then he started to tease me and play with me. He smiled and he laughed and I just watched him blossom right in front of me into his potential as a happy person. It was so magickal. This transformation. Wow. He trusted me. 

It is such a gift to become the custodian of someone’s trust. As a teacher, it is our reward.

He completed no work but I have always maintained that to learn, we need to trust the teacher, and building that relationship takes time. Small steps. Being consistently in the unit is enabling and empowering me to build the relationships, with kids and with the staff. 

I think I’m feeling a return, from deep inside of my soul, to my passion for teaching, separate from the bullshit that can be the profession. A return to wanting to make a difference in people’s lives. To caring and to trust that caring is okay. 

And inevitably, this leads to an understanding of the extent to which last year has damaged me. I always trusted that my employers would look after me, and they didn’t. And this is why, even with renewed passion and yearning to make a difference, my days in the profession are restricted. 

Teachers need to feel empowered and inspired by the leaders in their organization, and that doesn’t happen. To ‘succeed’ you need to be a certain type of person, and that isn’t me, can’t be me, not interested in it being me. I have always created my own success in partnership with my kids. And that was enough for a very long time. 

But it isn’t anymore. I’ve lost respect for the institution. I don’t trust that the organization knows what is in the best interests of its ‘clients’, and that teachers are no longer empowered or supported to undertake their core duties. You need to look no further than NAPLAN reform and continual syllabi changes to see this. 

There needs to be fundamental change in every aspect of and at every level of the education machine in this country, and unfortunately, apart from the odd random twinge of politicalisation, I’m not interested in the fight. Maybe that spirit will return one day, but I don’t see it happening just now. 

Still too damaged. 

Such is Life 

An interesting day, today. I had to have an ultrasound for my upcoming surgery to ensure all is okay with my gall bladder and then needed to go to the gynaecologist for a service. Appointments away from home and close enough together yet far enough apart to not bother coming home. 

As I am prone to do, I also arrived to both appointments early which interestingly resulted in me being seen earlier than my appointments; a rarity to be sure. First went smoothly. Picked up the images a little while ago. Second one threw me a curve ball. 

I had internal and external ultrasounds done a few weeks ago due to ongoing bleeding. My doctor wanted to rule out the cancers and horrible stuff. I took the images with me. My gynaecologist looked at them. 

No service required.

Hospital it is. As soon as possible before I travel to the United States in a couple of weeks. 

Trying a curette first. Inserting Mirena. If unsuccessful, lasering everything. If unsuccessful, hysterectomy. 

Day surgery. Fifteen minute procedure. An hour recovery. Home. 

She’s trying to book it for tomorrow afternoon. 

We both giggled at the irony of this IVF repeat failure reproductive system at forty six still being so fertile that even the gynaecologist said I was years and years away from menopause: life’s cruel ironies. After IVF I’m at higher risk of developing some type of cancer in my reproductive organs, especially endometrial cancer. 

Who knew. I think I vaguely recall reading that in my own research earlier on during that process. Meh. 

I always say, IVF is the gift that keeps giving. I just don’t wish it on anyone. 

As a result of those two appointments and having to wait around, I went to The Square to hang. Well, after my first appointment which I had to fast for, I really went there for breakfast, and just in the knock of time, my sugars were going out and I started to get the shakes. But, I also ran into a few ex students and friends, made through teaching. 

Man, if teaching isn’t the most powerful profession in reaching people I don’t know what is. And if ever I’m having a day questioning my own value and impact, I really need to just hang out at The Square. We raise compassionate and caring kids at my old school. They go on to become such beautiful people, trying hard to make life work and to give to others and become the best versions of themselves.

Us teachers are truly blessed. And if you’re a teacher who doesn’t work hard, doesn’t reach out to your kids, you won’t understand, but deserve to, so work harder. 

🙏🏻

The Dreaded NAPLAN 

As a tutor it is interesting to see different teachers attitudes towards this dreaded N word. The standardised test launches itself into primary and high schools this week from Tuesday to Thursday. And everyone has an opinion. Including me. 

NAPLAN is a great tool (stick with me; don’t give up just yet) for teachers to review where their kids are at and to determine what they need to alter in their ongoing teaching and learning programs to fill the gaps, strengthen the areas of weakness, etc. 

However, some teachers are not using it to do that. NAPLAN has become a device to terrorise some children as teachers fear their programs don’t quite hit the mark and they scramble with saturation. 

One of my students, who has been very worried about not meeting the minimum Band 8 standard for HSC this year, asked me why her school had been providing additional support to the kids who had already achieved Band 8 and not to the students, like her, who hadn’t. 

Interesting question. And let me assure you, this child was very articulate in her questioning of the school’s logic and the perceived injustice, as well as how it made her feel significantly less important/valuable/worth something. 

The school, I imagine, is feeling pressure to value add to their top performing students so opted to place their resources there. I am absolutely certain that they intended no harm whatsoever to their lower performing students … but this is the epitome of school fear manifested. 

Another student that I tutor had a negative experience at school in the lead up to the standardised test. She was unsettled during our session and I caught her tapping her head (our strategy for stress management) several times during it. She has had a relief teacher who was putting such high level stress on the kids to perform that my student’s confidence and self-value took a significant hit. We will rebuild it but we shouldn’t have to. 

I personally see some merit in the testing. As an ex-facilitator of a school wide literacy program, I could gather data about the impact of the program on our students’ achievement. I could determine the growth in my own students (in Year 9 from Year 8). My Year 7’s last year struggled with making connections (inference) so in one of our units we focused on exactly this. I also ensured that we continued to visit inference in different ways. NAPLAN data can be used to support student learning. 

But I see so much damage rendered to our students, because of adult mismanagement, that I don’t think the damage is worth the positives that are currently gained for the few teachers who use the data constructively. I do not saturate my Year 9 students prior to the test because I have embedded aspects of the test throughout their prior learning. I try to put their stress into perspective for them by informing them how I use their results. I also tell them that their results are a snapshot of a moment in time and have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with their value as a human being. 

It is so important that adults minimise the stress rather than buy into the drama that can be created. And if NAPLAN stays, and it is likely to, that teachers and schools use the results to modify their programs rather than teach stress. 

Glory Days

When I saw Lucy a month ago, she suggested that I was struggling to let go of the financial predictability of teaching, and she was right. As a result, I hadn’t liberated myself from that lifestyle and the chains that were shackling me. 

Something has shifted during April. Advertising for my business, Tina’s Tutoring, has been somewhat successful and I have seen a rapid increase in the volume of clients.

It has also given me something else. 

I have been missing my friends from work and the experience of being in the classroom. I have missed watching kids engage and advance. I have missed the building of rapport and that feeling of success. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss being in a school or my job. I have mised the practice and art of teaching. 

However, during the last week, working with last term’s clients and meeting new clients, the diversity of need and experience within my clientele, has enabled that yearning to be fulfilled. I love working with my clients. I love it. 

I love my business. I love its potential. I love being the owner and the process of creating something magical. 

I am so excited for its future. And I hope that my hard work continues and it continues to grow. I can see its potential for generating long term consistent income. 

Most of all, I can smell freedom from the politics of education, freedom from the daily grind, freedom from meaningless administrative tasks that do not achieve the results required to justify the workload, and freedom to live my life my way.  I am creating the life that I want. 

It is magical. 

I am happier. I am less tired. I can’t wait to go to work each day but also value every minute of my day spent doing things other than work. I am loving my life. 

And interestingly, I do not feel the need for travel or movement away from home. I am content. And I am resilient, manoeuvring my way around or through obstacles. Life is not perfect. There is more uncertainty than the predictability and security of teaching, but I am valued by the kids I tutor and their parents. 

And I really am a gifted teacher. Who’d have thunk it 😜

Jumping has always served me well. Iit is scary. But so worth it. 

Disappearing

It’s been a significant week for me. A lot of emotional and psychological processing about a lot of things; some important, some not. 

One of the first students I ever taught is the Principal of a primary school in a very socio-economically disadvantaged area, an area that we both grew up in. But the disadvantage almost stops the second that you walk through the doors of her school. 

And I had that privilege on Monday. 

No school is perfect, I know that. But some schools function differently to others and the atmosphere very much reflects the leadership. I have never before walked into a school that felt so liberated and so open. The people I encountered all seemed to genuinely and unreservedly be happy to be at work. They seemed to be enjoying working together; no games and no undertones of treachery or malice. 

I left in the afternoon questioning whether it was time to retrain, become a primary school teacher and work there. It is a beautiful thing to see others following their calling and making a huge difference in the lives of others. A truly beautiful thing. I became inspired to teach again. Thank you, Tammy. 

This week too, my clientele has grown substantially. I am servicing more children. And I love it. I feel that passion I once felt for teaching returning. I am enjoying the diversity of client and love going to work. 

This has created small psychological hurdles, which I am navigating. Over time, unbeknownst to me, I have allowed myself to become impacted by the negativity of others, to the extent that whilst I say I am amazing, and often believe it, when someone else tells me or I achieve success, I question my worthiness. This week I have been questioning when I will be found out and my success will come crashing down. 

I think we all see ourselves as fraudulent some times. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am an exceptional teacher, and that I possess a way of working with kids that empowers them to see, and to trust, their own value/brilliance/ability etc – I own that. I guess I have pigeon holed myself in a role and never envisaged my own potential or the potential for my life. I was always going to be a teacher because I had always wanted to be a teacher. And now that my life is opening up, I’m seeing a world that is different to what I’ve always known as mine. 

I am a small business owner. I am a teacher. And, I am so much more than all of these labels. Labels provide safety but they also restrict growth. My teacher label provided job and financial stability, but the same label has also hindered me fulfilling all of my own and my life’s potential. Until now. 

Yes, the investigation I was under last year resulted in burn out, but what a wonderful gift it provided me to force transformation and growth. And how blessed do I feel in my freedom. I set my own hours and I can work when I choose to. 

This week I have started feeling calmer. I have stopped watching every penny that has left my purse, bathed in financial anxiety. I have started to embrace my alternative working life, a flipped employment. I have taken control of my business recording and I am enjoying getting up every day. I feel happy, content, focused and driven. 

And my blood pressure is almost normal (140 over 85 – amen). 

It hasn’t been easy emotionally, and I dare say I will still struggle at times, but I feel the new dawn rising above the horizon, and the darkness is ending. 

And what better way to mark this than with a tattoo. Tonight, this part of my life narrative will be etched into my skin; this part of my journey memorialised. 

#livingacharmedlife #blessed #withbravewingssheflies #tattoogirl

Between Places 

A part of me is afraid to let go of teaching. It’s a weird place to be. It isn’t surprising though. 

I wanted to be a teacher and a writer synonymously. Becoming a teacher was easier I think, and I was going to use it to support my writing. I just didn’t manage both. I gave all to teaching: becoming better at it, the students, their families, the school. I left no real breathing space for myself.

I was talking with one of my best and closest friends on Monday. I told her that I didn’t know when my passion for teaching went, when I stopped loving going to work every day. She told me that she knew; it was the last time I took leave without pay. 2008. 

And I think she is right. 

I had a few years in there, finishing prior to being under investigation, in the Creative and Performing Arts faculty, where some passion came back. The staff I was working with, and the Reading to Learn and ALARM programs rejuvenated that passion. I felt alive again because I was fulfilling my creative potential I think. 

There was no real passion last year, love but not passion. 

On Monday, whilst out with my friend, we ran into a few of my students. Oh my. I loved seeing them. I miss the play with the kids, the symbiosis, the laughter. I miss regular contact with some of the staff. I don’t miss the politics, the gossip, the egos, the welfare, the long hours and the frustration. I do miss my classroom. 

I’ve been struggling to go back to one of my adolescent fiction novels about a teen who is raped at a party even though I’ve been writing it in my head. And I think it is because I am putting the writing first. Stepping onto that path and owning it has given me pause. 

I need to do what I usually do, acknowledge the fear and jump anyway. 

So, I leave you to pick up my laptop and to continue writing her story. 

Quitting

My gap year is about finding and then living my bliss. I’m predominantly living off savings. I’ve had a little bit of casual work to supplement this, basically to pay bills. I have a vague vision for my life and I have decided that anything that does not fit into the vision must go. 

I always have theories about stuff. I sometimes find it difficult to manifest any that connect to work, self-worth or guilt/shame. My parents instilled a strong work ethic, and a strong sense of responsibility and commitment. 

Because of fear, guilt and a misguided sense of loyalty to others before myself, I have often made poor choices for my welfare. I’ve stayed in relationships longer than I should, kept friends who weren’t really friends, and worked in places and for people that used me. 

Until Wednesday. 

I had committed to work to the end of term, Friday week, and I was taking that commitment seriously. Due to appointments I wasn’t working today or yesterday.  Wednesday was my third day of work this week and last. I could make it through. 

I thought. 

Tuesday afternoon finished badly – kids walked out before the bell. I wrote them up. I followed them to see many kids had left their classrooms. Hmmm. 

Wednesday morning started badly. A rude girl answered her phone, refused to leave the room, held court and disrupted everyone. Another rude girl gave lip and refused to follow instructions, and then a boy was rude to me. I had the same class later that day. The deputy was called for – the Head Teacher was away. 

I reminded the kids they owed me detention in the next period. The boy said, You are fucked. I gave no response. He unleashed, You are a fucking dickhead, fuck off, you are a both, get fucked, etcetera etcetera. 

The kids laughed during his vulgar minute long assessment of me. I just looked at him. I have a foul mouth, the language doesn’t upset me personally; however, the disrespect does. The Head Teacher had already removed phone girl and was leaving premises so I was virtually stick there with this predominantly rudeclass. 

I started recording the behaviour in Sentral. As time came closer for the bell, I moved towards the door. When the bell went, I closed the door. They all stayed. After some stern words from me, they knew they were there for disrespect or failure to work as hard as they could or both. 

The swearer kept swearing during his litany because he was trying to get a reaction from me, a reaction that I didn’t give. A fifteen year old in Year 8; obviously he has experienced disconnected learning probably due to a traumatic past. However, I didn’t deserve the rudeness of him or his peers. 

I was faced with a choice. 

We choose how we are treated by other people. I do not trust that his bad behaviour will be followed up. I have seen other students break the school rules repeatedly without consequence from higher up. I was told by one staff member that I needed to lower my expectations of what the students would achieve with me. 

Nuh uh. That’s not how I work. 

But, this year is about me consolidating everything I have learned and manifesting the life I desire. I am valuable. I am worthy. I am happy. 

I am a casual teacher. I do not need to tolerate this behaviour. 

And, so I told the class that their collective behaviour saddened me. To the core. Because they always want to be given a chance and become quite upset if they feel they aren’t given a fair go. But they don’t extend the same courtesy to others. And as a result, they have lost a phenomenal teacher whom they could have loved, if they had given her a chance. I explained to them that life is short, and we choose how others value us. I told them that they would not have me again, but not to cheer about it, because they haven’t got rid of me. I choose me. I choose happiness. And it is only their loss. I lose nothing. 

After twenty minutes I released them. I went to the Deputy Principal and I apologised that I would not be able to fulfill my commitment this term because life is too short and me, and my health, are worth infinitely more. A beautiful soul, she said she understood. 

And so, for the first time in my life, I quit. 

And by doing so, I put my needs first, my happiness first, and sent out the signal that I am worth more than the treatment of those children suggests. I could have stayed and fought. But that would be meeting the needs of the children and the school alone, and my needs are finally more important to me because I am valuable. 

It has been a long road to get here, and I am very much a work in progress, but I’m starting to get it. 

I create the life I want by the choices I make. 

If I am unhappy, I need to change the things that I am doing. If I want a certain life, I need to create that life by living it. Trust that I will be provided for, and so, that’s what I’m going to do. 

What will be, will be. 

I refuse to be disrespected or undervalued ever again. 

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.