Saturday, 11 July 2015
I'm sitting in the departure lounge of Sydney airport, waiting for a flight that will take me back to Wellington and New Zealand. I've flown down from Brisbane this morning after taking a six day vacation staying in Byron Bay. It was a gift to myself, a present to say thank you, you did it. It was a chance to recharge my soul after a hard slog through the first half of my post graduate teaching diploma. On Monday, the hard work resumes, university commences after the break that marked the end of the first trimester. Four papers completed, one seven week school placement successfully negotiated, four examinations passed. The grades are in. On Monday it begins again. Still I wonder, is this really me? Is this truly my life's purpose?
How is it ever possible to know the answer to the question unless you try? I loved my first school placement. Absolutely loved it. The kids were amazing; we shared some amazing moments; I helped them to learn; I taught lessons in mathematics, French, and social studies; I helped out in PE (physical education), took groups for reading, and assisted in all other learning areas of the classroom. I recently returned to the school after a few weeks away and the children were very happy to see me, exclaiming that I was the best student teacher ever. Heady praise indeed. I try not to think about how many student teachers these eleven and twelve year old's have actually known. It doesn't matter. The fact that they told me such things is the most important. It tells me that we connected, that whatever I did in the classroom and outside in the playground, down in the city at the ANZAC memorial, on the park at the girl's football tournament, at the ten pin bowling alley, and at the trip to the zoo, it must have worked. It must have been good and it must have been right.
Not every student told me I was the best but one of those that did was one of the students with whom I had experienced a real difficulty in making a connection. He often seemed closed off, reluctant to work, apathetic and lethargic. When he spoke to me and made his proclamation I was absolutely stunned and taken aback. Perhaps his view is the one I treasure the most because it was the hardest won, even though I wasn't fighting to gain it, just trying to be the type of teacher that I would have wanted.
It was not an easy placement and I experienced many difficulties. For example, lessons that I had meticulously planned infrequently didn't quite work out in the way that I had envisaged. Time was a major factor in this - there was never enough of it. I wanted to take my time, to explore where the children wanted to go, because I wanted to respect their opinions, their desire to ask questions that I had not thought would occur, and to take the lesson into areas that were of interest to them. Now that I think about it, maybe that was as important as the lesson itself. Learning occurred in a different way but it was still learning. We were never off topic, more often just taking a tangent, a minor detour that changed the scenery but did not necessarily alter the overall journey. For me, learning needs to be a two-way street. I am a strong believer in the views of William Glasser and Carl Rogers, their views resonated with me deeply, I intrinsically understood what they meant, how they believed the classroom should be maintained.
Other problems occurred that I would not have envisaged. One member of the staff expressed very negative views of the teaching profession that I found shocking and which saddened me immensely. I had not been prepared to find people teaching that did not want to be teaching. I witnessed some incredibly poor teaching methods, students relevant and well-thought questions were ignored and dismissed, and I found that for every very good teacher, there was equally a very poor one. It was an eye opening experience to what can occur and in retrospect, I am grateful for the experience. Initially, I wanted to give up but I decided that the children needed better and I wanted to give them that. I wanted them to see that not every teacher was the same. I wanted to let them know that I cared deeply about them. I hope I achieved it.
I raised the question, is teaching my life's purpose? I do believe that it is. It is not the classroom nor the thought of teaching that is my concern right now. Now I am half way through the course, I know that the end is going to fast come into sight. It is always the way of things. Just think back to any two week vacation you've ever taken and you'll know that there is a significant difference in the experience of time between the first week and the time of the second week. It is as if time accelerates the closer we get to the end, like we are being inextricably pulled towards the end, sucked into the vortex of a giant black hole of time. With the end of the course comes my next big adventure. I will need to make a commitment to one place, something I have not done for ten years. Perhaps it does not need to be like that. Already, I considered teaching overseas, using it as a means of travel. Africa pulls at me, South America maybe, back to Central America perhaps?
So, there is my decision. I am going to finish the course and I am going to become a school teacher. Another dream accomplished. The dream that has been in my heart for many years. Let's get that job done, let's get through the next five months, four more papers, and one more placement. Then we'll see how the land lies. Nothing is forever in this life. That is the joy of making decisions, of being able to follow the heart. You have to do what is in the heart today. Tomorrow, well, when tomorrow comes, then maybe we will find another dream, a new dream to pursue. Until then, I am teaching because of one thing I am sure. I was born to teach.