‘One woman’s struggle to keep the heart in teaching’

I am always intrigued to read “tell all” books because to be frank I am just a bit nosy. There have been a few released over the last couple of years, however, this is the first book I have read by a teacher and the real-life story about being a teacher. I knew teachers work hard, I know people always say that teachers get such long holidays, however the immense workload and pressures they are put under it is quite breathtaking.

I find with a lot of government organisations such as the military and in the UK the National Health Service, people do the job because they have a passion and a love for it, as usually the salary is pretty poor. However, now because the government it seems not just in the UK but also in Australia continue to want more and more out of you, with no wage increase or no additional benefits the love starts to somewhat dwindle for the job and you can easily fall out of love for it.

Gabbie writes a heart-breaking and quite an ugly tale of teaching wearing her down. From the stories Gabbie tells it is not necessarily the children, but the political side of teaching, the sheer amount of paperwork, continual changes in syllabus (which is not necessarily for the better), the increase pressures on the children to be perfect and learning in a very one-dimensional way. From reading Gabbie’s book I just felt it did not make sense as during her teacher training, they are taught about different ways of learning and one side does not fit all. However, this is not reflected in the schools or the expectations of the children. It is all a one-way street with no exceptions to this rule.

I went through a range of different emotions, mostly anger at the government for allow not just Gabbie but some of the other teachers you witnessed deteriorating throughout the book. These are good teachers who clearly love teaching and have a passion for learning and want to do the best for their children. Teachers are not just teachers, they are at times parents, social workers, cleaners, laundry maids, cooks and carers – roles that people who are not involved in the teaching profession do not realise.

“Just keep him safe. That’s your key role for this child. His basic needs aren’t being met so we can’t expect that he’s going to learn. At least when he’s here at school we know he’s safe.”

When I read this part of the book, I felt so incredibly sad as that was Gabbie’s role and the responsibility and the thoughts that must have gone through her head when the young person returned home and questioning whether they would be returning the next day at school and whether there could be more that you could do to ensure they are safe and happy and not just living and looking after themselves. I wanted to help to look after these particular vulnerable children and wanted to do more as clearly their parents were unable to do at this present time in their lives.

When the children finish for school, there still seems to be a full-time amount of work still to undertake in such a short space of time as well as the teachers having their family time and life outside of work. We watch the deterioration in Gabbie’s physical, mental state and her family life. Something had to give, she could not have it all.

“I curved my car along the solitary road, my mind still fifteen kilometres behind me, in my classroom but already in tomorrow’s drama. A feeling of being overwhelmed seemed to seep into the space around me, like the darkness of the night was closing in. The feeling grew, consuming the air in the car until I thought perhaps there was nothing left to breath. I touched on the breaks, flicked on my blinker and pulled over to the side of the road.”

When I read this part of the book, I was shouting for Gabbie to stop teaching and have a break as clearly this was having a dramatic impact on her. And it was time to stop and to stop the fire fighting for her own and her family well-being.

I hope the Australian government read this book all of them from both sides and take in Gabbie’s story as she cannot be alone. The only issue is, which was reflected by Gabbie is that due to the continual changes in governments and new initiates and new “bright ideas” schools always feel the impact which means teachers are having to be the face of the new initiatives which they knew will either mean they will be taken away from teaching, having a negative impact on their students or will not work. Teachers need to be listened to.

What Gabbie has done for me, is when my children start school. I will now look at teachers in a different way a more respectful and humane way. I will also have in the back of my mind, how much work has the teacher already done to ensure my children have a good, positive and fun day at school and have the best learning experience they possibly can have and give in such tight and limited resources.

I believe all parents and all the people involved in government need to read this story, it will be uncomfortable and will open your eyes. But it means that you can make the difference and help support and give thanks to the teachers that work hard to ensure the next generation have the best learning experience and bring on the next generation of Doctors, Vets and Engineers.

Thank you Gabbie for your honesty, thank you for your hard work and thank you to all of the teachers out there who are working hard and being just simply amazing.

I will finish this post with Gabbie’s wise words:

“We need to understand and accept that there is nothing standard about the journey of learning. Our schools are not businesses, our students are not clients. They are individual, learning at their own pace, in their own way, with their own circumstances framing their experiences. Imposing standardization on our students, on our teachers and on our schools only serves to stifle creativity, curiosity, progress, self-belief and autonomy.”

About the Book

Watching children learn is a beautiful and extraordinary experience. Their bodies transform, reflecting inner changes. Teeth fall out. Knees scab. Freckles multiply. Throughout the year they grow in endless ways and I can almost see their self-esteem rising, their confidence soaring, their small bodies now empowered. Given wings.

They fall in love with learning.

It is a kind of magic, a kind of loving, a kind of art.

It is teaching.

Just teaching.

Just what I do.

What I did.

Past Tense.

Teacher is published by Allen & Unwin and you can purchase here

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