An article in The Age this morning and the subsequent twitter conversation has got me thinking about why I became a teacher and, more importantly, why I’ve stayed a teacher for the last 7 years.
I came to teaching later in life – graduated when I was 31. I’d already got an Arts degree, had travelled, had tried out innumerable other jobs and hadn’t found any that really fitted. Then my best friend went back to University to study teaching and started telling me stories of classroom life. Teaching was something that I think had always been in the back of my mind but I hadn’t felt ready before.
Getting in to a teaching course, even as a mature age student, was challenging with limited places being offered for postgraduates at the time (my course had space for 6 people). But once I was in, I knew it was the right fit and the right time. Others didn’t and the numbers dwindled, particularly in the undergraduate course that we shared classes with. Noticeably, numbers were always somewhat diminished after teaching rounds, as if the reality of daily life with students was enough to put some people off.
In my first teaching role, my colleague referred to me as ‘the enthusiastic graduate’ and, even though the graduate bit is no longer true, the enthusiasm is still there. I honestly love being a teacher. I won’t pretend there aren’t bits that I would happily give away but the highs definitely make up for it. Seeing students eager to return after the holidays and to share their adventures with you. Watching a Prep student ‘click’ and read a book for the first time. Helping a Grade 6 student who has always hated writing connect with a topic so strongly that he doesn’t want to go outside when the lunch bell goes. Catching a parent after school to tell them how confident their child was when giving their talk in class and watching the parent beam with pride. Getting into the zone with colleagues when planning exciting learning experiences, ones that you’re looking forward to because you know how much the students will love them. Connecting with students each day and watching them grow and develop.
I could go on – the list of positives is a long one and I truly hope that we can find a way to attract more passionate, caring, professional, intelligent and dedicated people to the teaching profession. Is the answer to put an arbitrary hike on ATAR scores so that we restrict it to those with the highest Year 12 marks? I doubt it. I know some amazing teachers who didn’t do so well in Year 12 for a variety of reasons who would have been locked out if that were the case. Or is the answer making students go through an undergraduate generalist degree before attempting a postgraduate degree in education? I don’t think there are any easy, one size fits all answers. What we do need to do is raise the profile of teaching and of teachers, however we can. After all, is there anything more important than preparing the next generation to run the world?