Category Archives: Teachers

I am moving on

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red right hand Arch Feb 2012

I thought I would wind up Passing Phase when the twins got themselves toilet trained. Having a house full of people personally responsible for their own excrement has been my mental line in the sand for many things. We’ll be able to go out without the children’s section of a department store on our backs, whole days out, less laundry, no nappies, camping even! But the time has come and it has come in lengths ahead of the twins being nappy free. I need to write about stuff other than parenting. I need to move on.

But I’ve fallen in love with Passing Phase. I really have. Writing just gives me something I can’t find anywhere else. So PP stays, but the brief will change. My new Facebook page here¬†(please go and like it!!) will hopefully bring new readers, criticism, praise and disagreement. I am still waiting for my first troll. My writing focus will be opinion, fiction and maybe a bit of parenting.

The whole point is to build readers. I’ve got an important story to tell and when the time is right, I want to tell it loud and clear. I also want to build an audience who is interested is joining the discussion about disadvantage, education and the profound junction at which the two meet.

Join me. We’ll have fun. Or at least, an argument ūüėČ

The problem with teachers

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The problem with teachers is that we are human. The problem with teachers is that we were young when we started. The problem with teachers is that, like parents (and other types of humans), we are good at some things, OK at some things and hopeless at some things. I have many regrets from my early years as a starting teacher. I screwed it up so many times in so many ways, I wish I could go back and fix the mistakes that I made. At least I can say I learned some lessons. Big ugly ones. And yet some days as a parent I wonder if I learned a single thing.

A big regret that I have carried for a long time is from the year that ended up being my last year teaching in Australia. I was directing the school musical. Teaching a full high school load. Organising my wedding. And having a burn out. I was holding myself together by a thread that year and was quietly seeing the department provided counsellor on the side. I would hold my breath all day and then cry in the car on the way home. Looking back, it was a red flag to my future bouts of PND. I walked away from teaching that year and at the time I thought I’d never be back.

I remember our musical rehearsals, which should have been the time of their lives, but which were probably miserable. I was a bitch. I yelled at students. My big, pet hate today, seeing teachers yell, is what I did many times myself during that year. I had colleagues telling me to praise the kids more, that they needed to hear it from me what a great job they were doing. I had to pry the words out of my mouth. That musical scarred me. It was well over a year before I could bring myself to watch the DVD we made of it. I was stunned at how good it was. I won’t take an ounce of credit for it though. The creative brilliance came from many others, not from me. I was a mere drill sergeant.

I think today it is probably worse. The pressure on teachers. It can be crippling and your students don’t get it. They just hate you for taking it out on them. And so they should. We have to contend with teacher bashing in the media; we are all under performing, overpaid whingers with 10 weeks holiday a year after all. But most of us have a love for it, and the call of the schoolyard has now pulled me back, although in a different role.

A former student once told me she was partly inspired to become a teacher because of me. I thought,¬†dear God, don’t¬†let her turn out like me. I know that I was not, and am not, good at thinking amid chaos. This is why I struggle so much with toddlers. This is why a noisy rehearsal room flipped me out. But there were some things I was, and am, good at. Occasional bitch I am, but good teacher I also am. I loved teaching. I loved my subjects. I loved my students, gold inside every one of them. Some of them buried it a little deeper than others though, but it was there.

I wasn’t good all the time at managing my emotional reaction to stress. I regret every single time I shouted. Every time. I could tell you so many more stories about my teaching failures. But I’ll finish instead with a story of a young heart that reached out and showed empathy beyond his years. I was sitting in the library with my class one day. I was exhausted, empty, sad. A boy I had taught handed me a note, somewhat sheepishly, as if he wasn’t sure if writing a note to a teacher was¬†allowed. It read:

…today…you looked very sad…I hope you’re OK…when I saw your eyes they just seemed to be kinda hollow. I¬†would¬†like to thank you for paying attention to me as a person…you know me better than I gave you credit for…for that you have my loyalty and respect…I hope if you don’t feel good now that you will start to feel¬†better VERY soon…

I still have that note. I carry it in my wallet. It reminds me of a lot of things, but the most important thing it reminds me of is to never underestimate the power of young people. That young person shifted me when I thought I was fully stuck. And I feel much, much better. You see, the problem with teachers, is that we are human.

Dear Ms Lamens’ kids: Teachers are like parents

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Your wonderful teacher told me you read part of my blog while you were studying the relationship between parents and their kids. I wanted to write a special post just for you to thank you for reading, tell you how brilliant your teacher is (and you better do as she says or I’ll come over there and kick your asses) and tell you a little bit about how teachers are just like parents. Your teacher is very intelligent, wise and loyal. She’s got your back I’ll bet. I know how hard she works. You are lucky to have her.¬†I must say am nervous as a long tailed cat in a room of rocking chairs (just for you Jeano) that she is reading this as our friendship will mean nothing if grammatical errors are involved. So I will be on my best behaviour.

Teachers are like parents because on the one hand they love you and on the other hand they can’t stand you. They get up every morning, knowing that they will have to deal with the same inane shit you have been carrying on with for years (and those who went before you), smile while doing it, and make you feel like they think it’s important. On the outside they’re saying yeah that’s really sad for you, I am really understanding and supportive of your personal crisis, while¬†inside they’re saying¬†you’ll be over¬†this¬†by next week and on to the next¬†massive¬†drama so please let me know if I really have to care at this point.

Teachers are like parents in that they have to enforce the rules, but secretly wish they could just cut loose and let the whole place turn feral. The only reason I care that my kids’ food ends up in their mouths instead of on the walls is that when other people come over it’s kind of gross to have two week old dried cornflakes stuck to the couch. The rest of the time who cares? As teachers we secretly wish we could just let the lot of you do whatever the hell you wanted and teach the ones who are interested. As parents we wish we could just let you wear mud, fight each other and poo outside. But those damn social norms get in the way.

Teachers are like parents because they could be doing something more glamorous, that pays better, but they are there with you every day. Because they want to be. Because your humour, your creativity, your sass and your fearlessness inspire and sustain them every day. Because they think there’s nothing quite like watching your mind open up to embrace the world. Teachers are like parents because they feel like what they do means something, that when they go to sleep at night they feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Teachers are like parents because you make us cry. You make us laugh. You make us try really hard to be better.

Lastly, teachers are like parents because they know there’s gold in you. No matter that you may suck the life out of us with your illogical, frustrating, demanding, emotional and¬†slow growing up, teachers know there’s gold and they know how to get it out.