Seven Weeks. Fourteen Days.

I am grateful that my windscreen was smashed. We have not found out who was responsible for it. But, I feel no anger, just gratitude. I hope that the child responsible finds the support they need to be able to fill the hole within them that lead them to the point where they believed their actions were appropriate and necessary.

Regardless, I am grateful.

Education no longer serves my highest self. This is no judgement on or against anyone else; these are just my thoughts and my perceptions. If you are a happy teacher, power to you. I no longer am.

I love children. I love working with them to empower them to fulfil their dreams. I love those light bulb moments when they get it. I love the jokes, the loving teasing, the rapport that is built through symbiotic trust. I love inspiring them to see the world and their place in it, in new ways. I am still a passionate and idealistic teacher. I always will be.

However, I do not respect or like the machine that education has become. I do not like the lack of humanity embodied in the broader leadership, and I cannot fathom or respect machinations that regard teachers and students as robots and tick a boxes.

I do not have the passion to fight it. There are too many who just follow it. My type of teacher is in the vast minority. I don’t see enough commitment to want to change; people don’t stand up and fight for anything anymore.

I will stand up and fight for me by being true to me, and putting me first. After all, no one else will. It is not anyone else’s responsibility; it is mine, and mine alone.

So, I have fourteen working days left until I hand in my keys. Keys that I will have held for very close to twenty years.

I have no intention of ever going back. I thought, when this time came, I would feel more heartbroken. Maybe the grief will come; maybe it won’t. At the moment, I feel like I’m finally answering a call to let go of fear and to start living. I feel liberated.

I have been sick this week, my body has been purging stress toxins, I’m sure. I have not been at school since the incident. I feel liberated. In the past, when I’ve been sick and had to take a couple of days, I’ve felt sooooo guilty that I was letting other people down. This time, I was able to prioritise my health and acknowledge my own worth. Illness requires rest. No one is let down; it just is what it is.

I feel happy. I have felt exhausted this week, every afternoon, as I’ve headed out to work with my clients. But my energy thrived as I arrived to the first door step each day and sustained itself until I arrived home. I feel very present when I work with my kids. I feel a happy heart and fulfilled soul; feelings, that in teaching, have been eclipsed by ever increasing administration demands and the systemic disregard for the welfare of teachers.

I know I’m a teacher. I always will be. But, at the end of the day, I am worth more and am more valuable than the system/broken machine of education decrees, and so, like all abusive relationships, I will move away from it so that my soul can thrive. I will not allow myself to be made small again in my life. This lesson is learned ( fingers crossed lol).

This time, I am breaking the abuse cycle that has ruled my life. This time, I empower me. This time, I am truly free.

Complicated

I was chatting to a friend yesterday about how complicated we make our lives. This week has really demonstrated to me just how true this is.

My leaving teaching has been years in the making, and I mean, years. For some people, it must be the most cliche and boring mantra ever lol. But, it had to be a process for me, and by being a process, I made it all a lot more complicated.

I still remember the day I raced home and informed my Mum that I was going to be a teacher. I just knew. I was five. I was so excited. And, I didn’t really or seriously ever from this path, until a couple of years ago. I’m now 47. I have been teaching since 1993. I was insanely passionate about it for the vast majority of those years.

What killed my passion?

Politics, bureaucracy, stupid decisions by the Department of Education, and their inability to see and respect teachers as a vital part of the education machine. Basically, teachers are required to sacrifice their soul, their personal ethics, their personal ideals, their identity, their lives, for a system that never supports their welfare first.

Yes, I still love my classroom and I adore my kids, but the stupidity of the bureaucrats is increasingly forcing its way into my classroom and into what I teach.

One of the best teachers I know refuses to play this game, at her own expense, but revitalizes my teaching every week. I will miss working with such a creative and empowering soul.

I want less fight in my life. I still want to create a different world. That was my motivation in my twenties, and it is my motivation now; however, the mode for achieving this has changed.

When I entered teaching, I was a victim of my childhood. I wanted to save others so that I could save myself. I succeeded, on both counts.

I have matured, and I have done a hell of a lot of healing.

My core values are still the same: we are all worth a lot.

Once I realised that I was worth something, it became difficult to stay somewhere I do not feel valued. The school I work at doesn’t make a difference because the system that underpins education in this country is broken. The management of it, is conducted by people who truly have no idea what teaching effectively involves and requires. The ‘system’ thinks one size fits all for schools, for staff, for kids, ironically, as they force more administration duties for differentiation onto staff.

I shake my head in disbelief.

The investigation year was difficult. I felt so guilty and so shamed. This triggered healing on different levels for me. Eighteen months after its conclusion, I realise that it is not me who was wrong. The system is.

My values no longer align with the values and philosophies of the system. I still believe that every child, every staff member, every family, is the most important thing and deserve, and are worthy, of being treated as such. One size does NOT fit all. Far from it.

And, if you’ve never experienced childhood trauma, if you’ve never set foot in a difficult classroom, if you’ve never programmed a unit, or written assessments, or spent hours marking, you shouldn’t be writing policy for education or legislating for Child Protection. It really is as simple as that.

The smashed windscreen forced me to stop living in fear of not having enough. My soul does not belong in a system that does not look after its people. My values no longer align. It is my responsibility to move to something that suits me better.

Last night, after an afternoon and evening of tutoring, I drove home with a full heart and a smile on my face. The same thing happened on Thursday night as I drove home.

I’m still making a difference in children’s lives, and they are still making a difference in mine.

I still program, I still teach, I’m still ‘saving’ kids. And, I’m doing it without fear. I’m not looking over my shoulder. I’m just being and doing, breathing and loving. Myself and them.

Maybe, I just reached a point in healing my own trauma and pain, and I’m ready to fly. Maybe, I’m ready to grow and live large, and really own my potential in changing the world. Maybe, I’m just remembering the whole of who I am, and systems don’t support the individual expression and accumulated knowledge.

And, maybe, I’m just overthinking it all, making it more complicated.

Anyway, I’m on the bridge. I’m almost to the other side; eight more steps. It’s scary and it’s liberating, all in one.

Doing what fills my heart is the right thing. I don’t know exactly where I’m heading, but I know I’m heading somewhere. I’m doing what makes me happy, where my skills and talents are at the fore, I’m living a passionate life, and I feel truly blessed.

I wish this for everyone who doesn’t have it. It’s scary changing course, very scary, that’s why it’s taken me so long. It’s hard to leave everything you’ve ever known and take a leap in faith.

Today, when I leave for a long day of work, I will feel light and happy. Tonight, when I arrive home, I will feel full and extremely grateful for the opportunity to work in a job I love so much.

Today, I won’t be sworn at, my windscreen won’t be smashed, my things won’t be stolen, I will only have the paperwork and admin to do that benefits myself and my clients directly. I’ll still be programming, targeting the needs of my kids, supporting their holistic learning, and connecting with community. I’ll be doing things that are purposeful and soul filling.

That’s the difference.

It’s time for this bird to fly. I might crash, but if I do, it will be on my terms and because of my actions.

Clashing

When I was a young girl, I really struggled with any sort of injustice. Injustice really hurt my heart. I would cry, I would write emotional poetry, I would hurt for days. And, I would wax lyrical about how I was going to change the world.

When the nuns were found, murdered, in an African country in the eighties, I was going to become a non-Catholic missionary and go out to save the people. Yes, I now know what a missionary is in its fullest extent – romantic idealism does not take into account limitations. And, when I saw a documentary about sows chained in little pens, I cried and cried and wrote one of my favourite poems, and cried some more until I became vegetarian. Now, my soul cries for all animals.

I had a dream when I was very young, between 9 and 12 years old, where armies were converging upon one another on a dark night and I stood up between them, hands outstretched, dressed in white, instructing and inspiring them to stop, in a speech that Martin Luther King Jr and Barack Obama would have been proud of.

The systems were wrong, even then. There is something wrong with humans and the way we have organised our society.

When I first started teaching in the early nineties, I was interviewed by a local newspaper. They asked why I wanted to become a teacher. My answer, predictably, I want to change the world.

Typical Tina.

Over time, with maturity, or was it growing cynicism, I realised I could change the world only by changing the lives of individuals. They would then do their part, and in time, our world would become a better place. Instead of me being the saviour, I accepted that I was a part of a bigger process.

At 46, almost 47, I don’t know where I sit with all of this. The changes in education, the changes in the way people lead, the lack of change that is needed yet not delivered, bamboozles me.

Education has become so right wing, so totalitarian, that I just don’t get it. Everyone needs to do things the same way, everyone is a cog and no longer a human being, and playing the game gets you ahead. Being true, being authentic, being real, does not. The systems no longer fit the individual, if they ever did.

I don’t like it. But, I don’t care to fight it either. Well, not as a part of it.

Something fundamentally necessary has disappeared from education in NSW, probably worldwide, except Finland, and that is the passion of its educators and legislators for the welfare of children. It’s become so day to day that we have forgotten the why. We no longer strive to be better, even though we pretend we are with continual changes in syllabi that do nothing except alienate the underclass further. Changes that don’t further education or our kids or our world.

The system sucks. It’s broken.

So, how am I settling back into the machine after a year out of it?

Five days a fortnight is working for me. As a classroom teacher with no leadership stresses, my love for my classroom practice is thriving. I love my students. I manipulate what I want to teach to fit what I have to teach. I refuse to become entrenched by the education machine. And, I know my time is limited.

I love my kids. I love watching them navigate their own learning. It’s such a gift. I love playing with them in our classroom. I love seeing their smiles and I love seeing them engaged. I love the relationships that build and I love loving my kids.

On Tuesday, another teacher gave me some feedback from one of my new students. She said that the student had said I was inspiring. Beautiful. If I can help that child know their value and enjoy their learning, I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve.

I’ve changed the world.

Bullying ūüė≥

My puppy sits on the lounge and watches television. When any animal comes on (I now think it may be when he wants a cuddle), he barks and does a little dance. This morning, Queensland’s Premier, Anastasia Palaszuck (spelt wrong – sorry), was on television demanding a national plan for bullying to be stopped in schools in the wake of Dolly’s suicide as a result of ongoing bullying.

I’m a big fan of bullying being outlawed. But, I’m not an idiot. This is way too simplistic an idea. It will not work. For so many reasons.

Bullying has existed for a long time. A long time. Not just in schools, but in workplaces and homes amongst adults first and foremost.

Bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power. It stems from the ego governing the choices of a human. That ego is often fed by a deep insecurity and fear that the person has no power themselves. The person addresses this by exerting power over another. When this happens, repeatedly, to the same person, we call it bullying.

Until our society works on healing the damaged adults who model this behavior, and we call systems to account (like institutions whose policies mandate bullying behavior), bullying amongst children in schools will continue.

However, we can attempt to mitigate the impact of bullying by strengthening the resilience of children and, case by case, responsibly dealing with early incidents of bullying. This, too, requires that egos be checked at the door.

By ego, I am referring to the part of our psyche that tells us we aren’t good enough or that something is our fault (this ego operates from a lack position), and so we become aggressive and single minded when we try to bring a situation back to balance (impossible, where the ego is concerned, because it needs to win to be satisfied).

Bullying is not okay. Not ever. Not between adults, not between kids, not towards animals.

It will continue to happen whilst ever our society runs on the adrenaline of ego, whilst ever one person has more power than another (and uses it to further their own desires), and whilst ever power structures form the foundation of every organization, including government.

So, dealing with bullying. I am often charged with handling a bullying situation at school. This often occurs at an early point because I don’t tolerate kids saying mean things to one another or being mean to one another.

In fact, in my classroom I maintain strict expectations for how we treat each other during the learning process. I expect students to respond to questions, to ask questions and to make mistakes freely ( we learn more from mistakes than getting things right). I create a safe environment for this to happen, to empower my students to learn.

I warn my students that no one will laugh at someone else without serious consequences. They only ever need one example of someone being minimized and me reacting to know that I am true to my word.

Whatever people think of my strategies, they work. Kids feel safe with me and they learn. I pride myself (bloody ego) on creating a safe learning environment for my kids. This extends beyond the classroom walls.

I am regarded by some as a bitch. I don’t care. Students in my classes regard me as fair and only a bitch if I catch you doing something you shouldn’t. I have had many kids referred to me by ex students who say, Go see Meyer. She’ll deal with it. Yes, yes I will. Every child deserves to feel and to be safe at school.

I will share my process. This is a general summary. Every situation is different and might require some tweaking, but this is it basically.

I speak to both kids individually. I try to work out what has happened and why it has happened. From both sides. Why is the bully needing the power and why is the victim willing to sacrifice their’s.

Before you jump, I have been bullied. In each case, I need to work out for myself, why I sacrificed my power. It’s a hard conversation to have with yourself because we lie to make ourselves feel better. I encourage the kids to be honest with themselves, and with me, so that we can resolve the core issues.

Often, bullying isn’t about either child, it is about the feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness – on both sides. These need to be resolved so that the bullying does not continue.

I will then often sit the kids together and I mediate a conversation, a sharing of how each child feels and the real reasons as to why. The kids start to see their same-ness rather than their difference. I do a lot of the talking in this mediation until the kids feel safe with being honest. It usually results in a lot of tears (from me too – nothing more beautiful than kids seeing each other as equals after pain and seeing a way out) and resolution.

Very rarely have their been repeat offenses. And, if there are, I become a bully to the bully. Not nice, but effective.

The core issues are integral to solutions. They are often ignored in the resolution of bullying incidences. There is too much blame and too much anger and too much a need to be right rather than happy. Us adults model this poor behavior all of the time. We need to model our authentic selves rather than our masked selves.

Realistically, the solution to bullying relies on us adults being honest with ourselves. The bandaid solutions that will filter down from government are bullshit. They will achieve nothing. Us adults needs to be empowered to be our best selves. Only then will we empower our kids to be their best selves. Only then.

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 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

Well, what a week, a term, a year …

The last 65 hours or so have been intense. Oh my! 

By Thursday morning I was a broken woman. I walked into school truly believing I was going to leave my job. Friday would be my last day in teaching as I knew it. 

I was resolved. I had worked out that I had enough in savings to support myself for a few months and had finally, for the first time in I don’t know how long, put my needs and my happiness first … Above everyone elses’s. 

Huge moment of realisation of my own growth. For eighteen weeks I have been a yo-yo. I love being in my classroom, love my colleagues, love being part of something. As my current boss says, the fulfillment that comes from teaching kids is second to none. But I was willing to sacrifice that for whole happiness. 

I have blogged before about the insanity of hours that modern day teaching and leading requires. Being part of a system of education often leaves the individuals feeling lost and unvalued. We are all mere cogs in a machine; no acknowledgement of our value as our employer uses us as pawns to fulfill political agendas that have little to do with the needs of our kids and society. Definitely not teacher needs. 

After eighteen weeks of roller coaster rides, long hours, no work life balance, a broken teacher sat in front of her boss and said, eyes downcast, hands in pockets, body slumped over, tears flowing, I am broken. 

He asked why. I explained the feeling of utter demoralisation that I felt. Raw to the core. And I didn’t really stop crying throughout it all. I don’t break in front of people easily. I break in writing and on my own, but not really in front of people. In 45 years of life, I can count the times I have felt safe enough to break in front of others on two hands. 

And, he heard me. Like, really heard me. And after I left him, not realising that he had heard me, I continued to release 18 weeks of exhaustion and pain and frustration and not knowing through sobs absolutely wracking my body. 

And then I went to Year 11 and taught strategies of mindfulness to them. 

Before the end of this lesson, which I was very late to, my boss was at my door, DP in tow to take my class, to take me back to his office to let me know that he had removed the straw that broke my back. He outlined how he was going to remove it. And he outlined why. And I sat in shocked silence. 

I am still shocked. I am still employed. I am not sure what will happen next year but for the next six months, my workload focus has shifted and I was heard. 

An amazing gift to give someone. Hearing another person, especially a broken person, reading and seeing through the broken mess, and hearing the validity of what they say, breaking from the institutional mire to do what is right for them, is a phenomenal gift to give. 

And to receive. 

It was the first gift I received on Thursday. The second gift came from a very unexpected source. 

Kids just want to be seen, heard and loved (much like adults; our shared humanity). So many kids are damaged by adults betraying their trust and basic needs. A lot of our kids are at least a little broken by the time they come to us. 

One of my students is fighting each day to live a life irrespective of the baggage of her past which continues to sit with her (well, really a lot of my kids do this). On Thursday though, this particular student gave me some of her personal writing to read. 

And on Thursday night I read it. 

And I realised that she hadn’t just given me writing to read, she had given me the gift of trust and of her soul to read. The papers in front of me represented her life and her journey to discover herself and her place in this world. They were significantly more than words on a page. 

And I was truly humbled. 

And I am very raw, very vulnerable, but proud of myself for standing up for myself, my needs, and saying that I am worth more. Proud of myself for not being petulant and entitled, but articulate (amidst tears), honest, and willing to value myself. 

Damaged children become damaged adults. Yes, we work to heal ourselves and we work to keep moving forward, and we work to change the world, but the damage, the broken-ness inspires that. And sometimes we have glimpses that the healing process continues. This week was that. 

I cried the last eighteen weeks out. The pressure of following an inhumane, unjust process with no end in sight whilst my core principles scream to fight it to the bitter death, cried out of me. Years of not really believing my worth and value but gradually embracing it as a teacher knowing that I still need to find it as a human, cried out of me. 

And, finally standing up for myself and finding that I do believe I am worth more, deserve better, and am willing to give the gift I give others every day, back to myself. Empowering. 

Despite, maybe because of it, we all deserve to be heard and deserve our unique gifts to be acknowledged. And we deserve, and need to, acknowledge them ourselves first. 

It’s okay for me to say I am a brilliant teacher, not because I get it right all of the time, or because my lessons are always the best and most engaging (far from it), but because I care, I grow, I learn and I keep trying. 

I don’t give up on myself, and this week I was willing to fight for myself because my kids deserve a happy and valued teacher. I deserve the life I want to live. 

We all do. 

Love is all you need?

This short film is one of the most powerful I have ever watched. There are so many issues within it to provide a reasonably honest image of what adolescence today is like if you are different and don’t fit in to society’s restrictive little boxes.

Ashley Curtis, the protagonist, is a heterosexual child born in to a world where homosexuality is the norm. Every stereotype that has ever been levelled at homosexuals is shown in this short film; a world turned on its head. Ashley understands that she is different but doesn’t understand why what she feels as normal to her is so wrong in her society’s eyes. She is teased, chased, hit, kicked, drawn upon, taunted, texted, facebooked, everything to highlight there is no peace for her from knowing that she does not belong.

The ending is chilling. Too real.

I supported a friend during their process of coming out. Their fear of how others would react surprised me. To him, it was very real fear that he would lose every one that he had ever known, family included. He didn’t have the expectation that who he was was okay. I am different, but I have never felt that extreme fear at not being accepted, of not belonging. Going through the process with him really opened my eyes to how hard that path was, and impressed upon me that no one would ever ‘choose’ it.

It never ceases to amaze me how intolerant our society is of anything different, of anything¬†that doesn’t follow mainstream lines, and of how ignorant we can be.

Today I have asked my Year 11 class to reflect upon this film and their response to it. The best one as voted by the class, will be contributed here. They are currently composing. We shall be back later.

 

Maturing :-/

A few years ago, probably six years now, I managed to read Ekhart Tolle’s very dense text on the importance of living in the present moment and dismissing the claims of ego. It was a difficult read and so I would wake up every morning, sit on the balcony of a holiday flat in Queensland (I know – wtf), and read until my friends woke. I would spend the rest of the day thinking about and processing what I had read. I think most of the good advice I have gleaned during my 43 years of existence has emerged from books. No wonder I write to process.

I have experienced a monumental year of professional growth. I have really blossomed in my practice in the classroom, embracing new ideas and strategies, and loving being in my classroom as a result. I have blossomed as a leader in my school. I love the staff I work with closely, in my faculty that I lead, my faculty I teach in, my Literacy Committee, and my network of friends. Most of my school are really good people. And the kids, well it is no secret, I adore them. They are my lifeblood in teaching. Tomorrow I will have finished my 22nd year of public education teaching, and I am so proud.

This last year has been my best. I feel like I have arrived. Finally. Part of that has been my maturing attitude towards conflict and resolving conflict. This will all fit together shortly (I am hoping). I try not to engage with the other person’s emotions but really try to hear what they are feeling and trying to express. I’m not perfect but this strategy has succeeded more than it has failed. And you see a different perspective of contexts as a result. I had several tests today. And after hours of mulling them over, all in the present moment (what a long moment!), I feel the need to be sitting here typing when I should be heading for sleep.

So the tests, hmmm. The one that has impacted me the most has hurt my ego. The ego I try to not engage in these situations. And I am faced with a dilemma. Is it ego to speak to someone who has disrespected you?

I am scared to face them and talk to them about it, and over the last few hours of running different scripts through, the scripts have become significantly more gentle and, I think, less ego-centred. I have moved through blatant anger, “How could they do this to me?!” to “I will make them regret saying it by telling them how wonderful I am” (that’s always a winner – rolling my eyes at myself) to now, “I just want to talk to you about something that happened yesterday and was reported to me by other staff members. I have been told that during my presentation to staff you were seen rolling your eyes to someone else in the room. Is there something in my practice that I need to change?”

I am most comfortable with this. And I am comfortable in just approaching the more senior of the two people. I know I will be bitched about as a result, but my hope is that next time someone is presenting, they may be more sensitive to the audience who may or may not see their behaviours.

No I didn’t see it. But I do believe it happened.

Once upon a time hearing it would have reduced me to tears and raised so many doubts about myself it wouldn’t be funny. But their dislike of me is their issue. They do not know me; they only ever see the portrait of me, my public self. And I am not convinced that I even always like that me. So sitting back and seeing myself through their eyes, I can understand how my ¬†passion for Reading to Learn can be misconstrued as arrogance or false hype. They don’t know how excited I get sometimes to just be alive, or at trees, or at moments of honest love. So to them, my excitement for a Literacy and Numeracy program could be misconstrued or misunderstood.

I am also not sure that they are blessed to feel about teaching and our students as passionately as I do. They haven’t been there quite as long or been engaged the same way I have. That’s not to say that my commitment and passion comes from longevity, it doesn’t. There are many teachers in their first year at our school that do feel my passion and enthusiasm in exactly the same way that I do. So really, as I process this, I am starting to feel for them. In my inbox and on my desk have been so many gestures of love and respect, and so I choose to hear those voices.

Unfortunately I can’t drown out the negative completely, but tomorrow I choose to empower myself by confronting with compassion, extending the proverbial olive branch to a supervisor who really should know better.

Much love to you all …

Potential

I received an unexpected visit at work during the week. I am still processing it.

From 2001 to 2006 I was a Year Adviser to an incredible group of kids. To date, it is one of the roles I have fulfilled in my life that I am proud of. I gave everything I had to my kids for the six years that they were in high school. There were many highs and many lows. In a sense, those six years are the perfect microcosm of my entire teaching career. I often wonder what happened to some of the kids. When they left Year 12 they all had somewhere they were going. I hope they all made it to where they wanted to be.

One boy, highly articulate and always well behaved, but always in the bottom classes, graduated in Year 12. I had taught him and had witnessed first hand the depths of his laziness (and I say that with love). Through senior school he almost received his marching orders from the school after failing to complete assessment after assessment. Luckily, with a promise of catching everything up he was permitted to stay for his final chance. Most people had written him off entirely so I am sure you can predict what I am about to relay to you.

Anyhow, when he graduated, one of many that almost didn’t make it up onto that stage (are there any other prouder moments), I begged of him to at some stage, fulfil his potential and use his brain. He just smiled. Well, this is the way I remember it.

His mum came to see me on Thursday. I received a phone call from the Office. Jan told me that Mrs L was there to see me; she asked if I remembered Mrs L’s son. I did. I was very nervous walking the path to meet her. I couldn’t imagine why, after so long, she wanted to see me. And I was hoping it was good news.

We greeted each other with big smiles and she told me that she was happy I was still at the school. I told her I would probably die at the school so she was fairly safe to always find me there. We laughed (possibly more at the truth of my statement rather than the humour). She wanted to give me an update. She had been thinking of me and of how much I had given them both when her son had been at school (she is very generous).

He had worked in retail, moving through management after he left school. Then he had told his mother he thought he would go to university. Never one to pressure her children, always hoping that they would find their paths and achieve their best, she was happy at his news. He¬†went¬†to TAFE and redid his HSC. He made it into Medicine and gained excellent results. Part way through the course he chose to transfer into a¬†double degree – Law and Science. Law to help others; Science because it interested him.¬†He is doing exceptionally well. A student who was always in the bottom of the year group and¬†who many had written off as ‘dumb’.

When he finishes his degrees he is moving overseas to finish his Medicine degree. Then he will come home.

I cried. He was always a gorgeous kid; quick witted, perceptive, sensitive, wise beyond the institution that is our education system. I am so proud that he has navigated himself towards embracing his potential.

It’s not that I was right about his potential, nor that I was justified in not giving up on him. It is more that he is happy. And he went to a school that many¬†write off. I am happy for him. And I was so touched that his mum went out of her way to come to the school, eight years after he graduated, to update me. There is no greater validation of how hard I work, and the way that I work,¬†than that. I will eternally be grateful to her for thinking of me, and for sharing with me.

I have always said that school isn’t for every child. And it really isn’t. IT could be but there aren’t enough administrators willing to revolutionise the system. And I have always said that just because you don’t do well at school doesn’t mean that you won’t do well in life. Some of us are nerds. Some of us aren’t. Finding our path though, and being true to our authentic selves, ensures success.

Because success comes from happiness, and happiness comes from being true.

It just takes courage.

For that first step.

It helps when someone believes in us but it isn’t vital.