Sunday, July 17, 2011

I miss teaching every day =(

Just last year, I looked forward to the school holidays. Every holidays, I would commit the first week (although sometimes it took a little longer, sometimes a lot longer and on the odd occasion it took the whole of the holiday period) to planning and preparation for the upcoming term. Then in the second week, I would have some quality time with my daughter, time to relax and recharge.

Now, I am counting the days until the holidays finish. Actually, I'm counting the hours... There are 33 hours and 3 minutes until I will be able to ring the agencies and say, "I'm ready. Please ring if a job comes up".

I've found life as a casual teacher, without a car, to be very hard... Especially for someone who is navigationally challenged, living in a new area. At first, I thought that I had covered my bases by signing up with two major agencies and hand-delivering my CV to the six closest schools.... But, I was mistaken. I've had so many days 'to myself' that I have been able to:
  • order my external HDD (1TB of data, dumped from CDs, DVDs, my computer and school laptop before leaving NZ - all of my projects, coursework, portfolio pieces, workshops and conference presentations.... a feat and a mission!)
  • read up and study four new curriculum frameworks (the local NSW curriculum documents K-10; the IPC; the England and Wales National Curriculum; the IB framework - the differences and similarities between the organisation of learning areas is fascinating)
  • organise a re-write of my will (last done in 1998)
  • catch up on all of the movies I haven't had time to watch (since becoming a mother in 1996)
  • photograph and backup my important documents
  • post a video to YouTube, as a way of practicing my te reo Maori
  • join and start to learn some basic phrases in Ukrainian, Mandarin and Indonesian
There's also been a lot of time to think. Although I am only in my third year of teaching post-qualification, I have committed to teaching and learning since 1998. Being a mother is what drew me (like many others) into teaching. I started as a teacher's aide (kaiawhina), going in to my daughter's kohanga (nursery or kindergarten) to help. I was and always will be, passionate about learning. I wanted my baby to have every opportunity and it is from this, that my belief in the right of every child to excellence in education came from.

My brother asked me a question, when we first arrived in Sydney. He asked me why I stayed so long as a teacher's aide. I didn't know how to answer at that time. But, I thought about it as I was sorting my HDD. I thought about it while I was sorting photos (getting all teary eyed and 'homesick'). 

I worked many more hours than I was paid for, especially when I started as a teacher aide at my baby's primary school. I realised... I found it hard to leave and do the formal training, because I love the children. I love the job with all the associated ups and downs. I love learning and teaching and I love the 'click' moments.

I strongly believe that teaching should be an apprentice-ship first and foremost. You learn how to teach by teaching. All of the theory and academic readings in the world cannot help you if you don't go through the practicum experience. Perfect attendance at lectures and great note-taking skills won't help you if you cannot question and reflect on your own practice. Getting A's on your assignments won't help you if you cannot accept constructive criticism or feedback about your classroom practice, using it to learn and grow as a practitioner.

I love reading books. I love watching movies and I like keeping up-to-date with news and current affairs. But I am saddened by what I see and hear sometimes. I believe that teaching is the hardest profession in the world, after parenting... yet, despite (or maybe because of) the challenging nature of this profession, teachers are constantly looked down on. There are so many reasons that are given. Teachers are not professionals, who work shorter hours, get longer holidays and are not even capable of constructing a grammatically correct sentence. Teachers 'brainwash' their students, don't care, or that it's such an easy job anyone can walk off the street and be a teacher. 

I believe that this is the reason why I (unintentionally) insulted a practitioner, while in the process of writing my thesis. I was not a qualified teacher at this stage, but I was in the fourth year of my apprenticeship. I sincerely apologise to you and I hope that you know how wonderful and painful every teaching day is. I constantly question my practice and invite questions and dialogue from colleagues. It took me many years before I was able to drag myself away from the classroom for the university qualification... and I used every excuse I could find to return to the school and the classes that I was missing dreadfully. Every one of my classmates quickly learned of my passion for the school I loved, for the 'master' colleagues that I had been apprenticed to and of how badly I wanted to return. 

It was likewise very difficult for me to leave this school that I love, at the end of 2010. But I had to leave. I believe that, as a practitioner, I need to study and apprentice in the programming and implementation of new curriculum frameworks, in new countries - immersing myself in new cultures to learn and grow.