Saturday, 18 February 2017

It's My Privilege To Be a Teacher

It's been been a while since the last post and life continues to unfold often as planned and anticipated and at other times in a tangential manner. We seem to have a trajectory in mind, a vision how things might pan out, a virtual template to guide us on our way. Things don't (why should they?) always go as imagined but ain't that the spice of life? The odd happenstance from left field (where did that come from?) will issue forth a challenge to meet and negotiate, an invitation perhaps to reach beyond yourself. Or indeed it may be an unanticipated delight that stops you in your tracks and lays a subtle smile across your hitherto sullen (feels that way) countenance.  The odd curve ball that's hard to lay a bat on and strikes you out before making a play! The tee off goes awry and your 4th golf ball goes off into the rough never to be seen again and it's only hole 2 of 18! Shut up already with your sporting analogies I can hear some say. OK I hear you!

So you've decided to feel miserable and resent that today is a day where you don't want to go to work but you have to! You know the joke where the mother is trying to get her child to get out of bed? You know where she says you have to go to school because 'You're the teacher!' That kind of day.

Then you arrive at school and automatically you start to do the intuitive things that have made up your routine forever it seems. And you are soon in the groove and you control what you can and your only expectation is to expect anything. Ain't that the way of schools? Of teaching? Of learning? Of life? Of course it is and why should it be otherwise I ask? To do so might suggest a view that perhaps all should or indeed can go the way I want it to go i.e. My Way! Now that rings a bell ...

But it is folly to assume that all will be fine. I recall my dad telling me of the ass you and me become when we make assumptions about how things should be.

Then you begin to take in the sights and sounds and feel of the place as you stroll along the corridors and poke your head into the classrooms and engage with colleagues and students and slowly you are reminded why it is you get out of bed in the morning.

You see:

  • Students skipping to greet their school mates in the yard as they discard their school bag somewhere approximate to where they line up
  • The teachers in a shared unit with other helpers and volunteers preparing breakfast for all children, especially for those that have had none
  • The parent/carer who has to rise in the wee hours to get her child who has special needs ready for school and who offers a big smile as she drops her off at school and hurries on to work
  • The students who spontaneously hug their teachers in a genuine gesture of affection and respect
  • The smiles exchanged between students and their peers and between teachers and their students
  • The teachers who meet to talk about the day, to share ideas - readying themselves for teaching and learning
  • The teachers who treat the child who seems not to be able to shake off those persistent nits in her hair or who showers and dresses the child who has slept in the same clothes for several nights
  • The teachers who put a food hamper together every week for struggling families and who will deliver it after hours if need be
  • The teacher who has spent 3 hours after school has ended on the phone to authorities to get support for a child who is at risk going home
  • The student through silent tears who trusts you enough to tell you of the heartbreak and pain of missing his dad who suicided only two years ago and how he has resolved to be the best he can be
  • The child who starts crying because she is reminded she won't see her dad for a while because he is in jail and how her mum will go into the bathroom and sobs on the bathroom floor (and she cries again) whilst big sister makes tea
  • The teacher who says 'I'm getting through to this child at last. She's beginning to smile again!'
  • The child who as a five year old would bang his head on the floor to articulate the pain of abuse and who two years later smiles more often than not
  • The child who begins to understand that he isn't bad for doing bad but is always worthwhile

As the day unfolds we engage with students in many ways in different situations and as it ends we are reminded why it is we get out of bed in the morning. Because what teachers do matters to our young charges. We are challenged to respond to their needs at every level and in doing so they teach us more than we can ever teach them. It is a privilege to be a teacher and to be accepted into their young lives.

This is a note I received today from a student and teachers get many such gifts in the course of their teaching careers. These words in a note of appreciation from this young person is one major reason why I get out of bed in the morning and it prompted me to write this.

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