The Gift of Teaching

Possibly ironic as I prepare to leave the profession; however, timely in my life as a reminder that my years as a teacher have not for a single second been wasted.

I caught up with an ex-student for breakfast this morning. She is now 34 and the universe conspired for us to run into each other at a library last week. There are no coincidences.

She wanted to say thank you to me. This morning she articulated the impact my existence had made on her; humbling and beautiful. To offer any child some semblance of hope or inspiration or something positive at all is why I became a teacher and what drove me for twenty four years.

She has lived her life in service and she has fought many difficult battles to be accepted for this and to be able to do this. She is truly inspirational. And realistically, what I gave her was permission to be her and to follow her bliss.

What an amazing gift. And one that good teachers provide for their students every single day.

We all fulfill a role in this world when we follow our bliss and live our best life.

Those of us who are agitators and disrupters of the status quo have a hard road to follow in some respects, but man, the rewards, like this morning’s catch up, make the bumps and ditches worthwhile.

Ultimately, we all need validation. If we say we don’t, we are lying to ourselves. I received that again today. And I gave that today.

Who can you validate today?

😉🙏🏻

Perplexed

I often stay away from using those little ads-ons on Facebook. You know, those things you can attach temporarily to your profile picture. I think the only ones I have ever attached were for the Syrian crisis and miscarriage awareness. I might be wrong, but I don’t think so.

I realised this morning why I stay away from them. I’m fairly open with what I believe, and most people can predict what’s my politics lie after even a short conversation with me. This morning I was scrolling through my newsfeed and one of my friends has one of those things on their profile picture. Irrelevant what it is about, but it goes against what I believe and I felt jarred when I read it.

One of my fundamental beliefs, lying at the core of all of my beliefs, is that we all have the right to do whatever we want to AS LONG AS WHAT WE DO HURTS NO ONE ELSE. I try very hard to not hurt others, and when I feel that I have, I own it and try to make good.

I understand why we need laws: to protect the rights and freedoms of all. But, for the life of me, I do not understand why marriage comes under that, for two consenting adult people anyway.

It perplexes me that this is such an issue in my home country. We tout ourselves as a welcoming and inclusive country, very relaxed and happy people living the good life.

I think we must mean though, only if you are white and a Christian and heterosexual and mainstream and you don’t push any buttons or believe in weird things. As long as you fit into the box.

My whole teaching career, I never really fit into that box, the one that makes you an acceptable teacher, a role model for others. No one looked at my practice and said, “Man, she really gets the kids to work hard and they seem to enjoy it. We should try to learn from what she is doing.”

Instead, I was marginalised, talked about, targeted, judged, shut down. People perceived me as arrogant rather than knowledgable. People think I pushed the boundaries too far rather than doing what I needed to inspire my kids to want more from themselves.

Interestingly, the qualities I felt condemned for in schools, that I believe made me an exceptional teacher, definitely one of the very best, are the qualities that are growing my business. I am grateful.

I think society, meaning all of us, needs to be careful how we judge other people, and really look at the boxes we confine people to. I think, too often, we are stopping integral people from being exactly who they are and exactly what this world needs.

I think we need to check ourselves on this. All of the time.

Sick 🤢

I have been coughing and feeling very ordinary since Tuesday. So much internal change and processing in recent times; it was bound to catch up.

I worked in a local primary school during the week. I had a Stage 3 class. I like having one class for a whole day; you feel like you are doing more than babysitting. I had a few beautiful moments with this class.

The best one resulted in tears.

In primary school I spend some time handwriting the roll to get to know as many kids as possible by name. It also provides an opportunity for the kids to see me as our pack leader. I find that it sets the tone for the day. This is also the time that the cheekiest kids will show themselves. And, as a result, we set the boundaries for what is acceptable and what is not.

I love this part of the day, and I always fall for the kids who show themselves during roll. On this day, that became reciprocated.

One of the kids participates in a group at the end of the day and leaves the room to do this. He had been looking forward to it all day. The other kids had told me he was usually really naughty, but today he was behaving perfectly. I was surprised when ten minutes after the start of this session, he arrived back in the room and stayed. I acknowledged him and when I had the opportunity, asked what had happened to his group. Bless.

“How come you’re back from your group?”

“I chose to come back. I figured that this might be the only day in my life that you are my teacher, and I didn’t want to waste a minute of it.”

I kid you not. Tears fell. I hugged him. He looked suitably abashed and absolutely chuffed.

That connection is what I miss not teaching every day, but that connection is the same as I build with my students through my business. There is more than one way to achieve what gives us greatest joy.

And, some of those ways don’t include the grief that comes with every day teaching.

Almost at the end of eight months of leave. I have three and abut months left before I heard back to full time teaching in December.

What a break.

I hold anger towards one participant from the events of last year. I hold that person in absolute contempt and am not looking forward to working with them again. I need to come to peace with this, need to move myself to a point where I do not care, one way or the other about their existence. From that point, I can work towards coming back to love.

I have been thinking about why I feel so strongly against this person. I think it is because they have never really shown themselves to be of integrated character. They are insecure and very ego driven, and impact a lot of other people in a negative way. They are divisive and consistently deceitful. They back kids into corners and do not hide their favouritism, marginalising and wilfully hurting the kids who are not favourites.

Picking up the pieces from broken kids is never fun, even less so when the damage is intentionally caused by a colleague. For me, their work and the intention behind it is so at odds with my own intention. I’ve stood up to this person many times, but I don’t think I should have to.

As adults, we should reflect, continually, on whether we are bringing light and love into our place, or not. If not, we should try to change our actions, ourselves, or move from that place to a place where we can manifest light and love. If we aren’t here to heal, ourselves and our people, then why are we here.

It is definitely not to self serve at the expense of others, particularly children.

As I push the soap box back underneath the bed.

Have a beautiful day.

🙏🏻

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