I have resisted teaching for my whole life. I spoke to my Mum last month about how I wasn’t enjoying teaching and she said “you’ve never enjoyed it.” That was a bit of a slap in the face, but she’s right! I’ve been in and out of this career that I started having doubts about in university! Twenty years later and I think I have finally made the break away from it. This is my third real attempt to break up with teaching and I hope this time I can step away for good.
It’s not so much teaching that I dislike, I actually love the interactions with students, I LOVE planning and researching and I won’t lie, the holidays and wages are fantastic! But even in second year university I remember having a conversation about the flawed system with my lecturer and her advice was to get into the system and change it from the inside! Oh! We start with such noble intentions. There is no way that I or anyone can change such a huge system from the inside – there are way too many egos and teachers biding their time until retirement who have done the same job every year for 25 years for any change to occur. What I have tried to do is empower students by believing in them. I won’t lie, I’ve had my favourites. All teachers do. Some people we just connect to, no differently than in social situations, you have your favourites.
There have only been three students in 20 years that I’ve met that had such psychopathic natures because of horrendous childhoods and trauma that I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities. Those are issues that I, not being a psychologist, do not have the skills for. Everyone else has had a strength or characteristic that I have thought – yup, they’re going to be okay, they are a good person. Maybe I went into teaching to reassure myself that people were all going to work out okay.
When I think about my motivations for studying education, they went something like this (in no particular order):
a. I got into university on the first round.
b. I selected Physical Education because I played basketball seven days a week and it meant more sport for me.
c. I had no idea what opportunities were out there in the world of work except teaching and the medical profession, working in a shop and probably farming. So I picked the easiest.
d. I watched a friend in high school deteriorate and eventually drop out because she didn’t think she would amount to anything. I believed in her, fervently, and her mindset was such that no amount of my encouragement could change that. I figured that it was such a waste of her talents to give it all up. I wanted no other person to ever experience that. It happened again to another friend in year 12 and it was about then that I thought I could help inspire people to live up to their potential.
e. I had an amazingly beautiful and inspirational Physical Education teacher in years 9 and 10 and I wanted to be just like her. I thought she was perfect. And she still is. She is an amazing human being and an inspiration.
So my motivations for entering this career I guess were wanting to make the world a bit better and to “save” young people. And I have. I had a young man hand over the drugs that he was going to kill himself with that day, I have had a beautiful young woman “come out” to me and be the first adult that she shared that with and I have seen young people bloom and blossom and get married and teach the children of people I went to school with. I have taught kids who only come to school because they know that I will help build them up because of the way they are treated at home and of course, all those little moments that I will never know the impact that I made.
Those are the moments are what keep me going back to it; those once every five years or so moments, those moments when I can feel my heart exploding with love and joy for how very brave and courageous young people can be. How valuable you are all are and how much love I feel for people when they take down their barriers to be truly authentic in the moment.
But the things that drive me from teaching are the meetings (OH, MY GOD, the meetings!!) the bureaucratic bumbling that doesn’t put children, the learners, at front and centre of policy. They think they do, but they are just ticking boxes for higher and higher levels of government and ultimately, to politicians at the top who have a top down system that only benefits their electoral cycle. When the system is child focused, when it puts the needs and desires of each and every child first, then I might be interested in it, but the top-down policy model just ultimately puts enormous pressure on the bottom of the pyramid – the children, the young people who are forced to play this game of education in order to get a piece of paper that says that they can do a job to continually fuel this economic system. Kids don’t need to have pressure to learn, to conform, they need to play, to be creative, to allow their little souls to blossom without being directed where to go.
So here I am at the end of my teaching career crying because of all those beautiful moments that surpass any bad day and have made the experience worthwhile. I have learned that the older kids get the less authentic they are allowed to be. Let that class clown, be the class clown – he might just be a world-class comedian one day! Teaching is not about ramming content down kids throats, or watching six, 12-year-olds cry because they didn’t have the skills to access the NAPLAN standardised testing, putting their progress in confidence and literacy back six months (which, by the way, was my worst week of teaching – EVER!). I still cry when I think about how much work I had spent building them up only to have it torn down by a Federal Government policy.
In terms of who I am and what I’ve learned about myself and skills that I’ve developed:
a. I need to do what I love, but more importantly I need to love what I do. There is no point in going to a job or profession if you don’t love it. Life is too short to waste. Either love it or leave it. I have left it more often than I’ve loved it. But maybe I’ve also never given anything the opportunity to be loved. I need to love the moment, whatever it looks like.
b. I am comfortable in public speaking and can be an engaging speaker.
c. I have skills that are transferrable to any job.
d. I know when I’ve reached my capacity for caring and how important it is to take care of your own mental, social, physical, emotional and spiritual health as a priority.
e. I am happier being a relief teacher because it’s all the fun of interacting with young people, learning new information and mostly because I have no weight of responsibility other than to the moment.
f. Kids who are wounded, broken and have experienced traumas are drawn to me, because my philosophy is that they are human first. I wish all teachers shared my philosophy!
g. Teaching is an ego-centred profession, it’s about what I know and what I can teach you, not about asking where the child is and helping them to get where they need to be. A teacher should be a facilitator, not a dictator!
I was guided by the universe to take this leap of faith away from my security blanket of teaching and I will probably continue to take short-term and casual contracts in the immediate future, but as a career? No, I’m done. I am so excited about the possibilities that lay before me in writing, in healing, in circus, in spending more time with my family and friends and of the possible opportunities that I haven’t even thought of yet.
I’m free-falling and the Universe will catch me. Thank you Teaching for bringing me to this point and as the late Wayne W. Dyer says,” I’m expecting a miracle.”
©Alyssa Curtayne 2015