On this particular day, at approximately 4.47am, my husband leans into the room and declares, “I sent you an article. Read it. You could have written it. I’ll be back by 6.15am. You can take off then.” He sets out for his morning run. He tries to be back by 6.15am as he knows I like to get to work early and make sure my classroom is just as I need it before lessons begin. If I am late, I get anxious.
I shift the cursor to my inbox. Subject: Love You. I know he does. The article is attached. It is titled Learning Things The Hard Way by Gabbie Stroud (The Weekend Australian Magazine, June 23rd, 2018). I was hooked as Gabbie, a former teacher, spoke of her students Ryan and Ed. I currently had a classroom defined by Ryan’s and Ed’s and the emotion she conveyed could have been my own.
– Stroud, pg 4 / Me Sunday evening Week 2, Term 1, 2018.
There are no bad kids, I reminded myself primly. There’s just bad behaviour. But was does that mean?
– Stroud, pg 4 / Me Thursday afternoon, Week 6, Term 1, 2018 just after asking a student to leave the school.
“We should be able to do something,” I said. “You know what, Gabsie? Best thing we can do for that kid is keep him safe here at school”.
– Stroud, pg 4 / Me and my boss Monday afternoon, Week 3, Term 2, 2018.
Term 2 holidays arrive and I make my way to the bookshop to select some holiday reading. I know I won’t get through much. I have an English text I have to teach next term that I haven’t read yet, a pile of marking already burning a hole of guilt into my holiday peacefulness, and two new programs I was hoping to write by next term. I feel like I should chose a light fiction, maybe a romance, a sweet story of hope, but instead I find myself scanning the shelves for Gabbie’s book. Success. I rush home to crack a beer, settle in the sun and read more about the magical world of teaching.
Suddenly she throws a shoe out the door.
It’s ok, I tell her as though she is in the room with me. We have all been there.
Gabbie and I continue to share these conversations as the book progresses. Much of her story is mine. I have taught her Warren, worked with her Sophie and argued with her principal. Her husband Matt speaks the same words as my Andrew. I have felt the love, the anxiety, the frustration, the excitement, the exhaustion, the mother guilt and the joy. Her truth is in many ways my truth… until we reach the final chapters.
She walks away.
I knew this before I began yet seemingly forgot as I was swept away by her love for teaching.
Written by Gabbie Stoud, former teacher.
Don’t give up, I beg her. We are all in this together.
And this is where I get angry at her. Not for burning out or for being frustrated at the system or needing some space for herself, but for not finding solutions. She writes at the end, “…Australia needs a dramatic re-imagining of what education could be in this great country.”
Yes, it does… but it also needs teachers like you Gabbie.
Teachers who know how education has shifted in the last 20 years and where we have gone wrong.
Teachers who have stories to tell.
Teachers who are willing to share ideas, lessons, programs with others so that the workload is reduced.
Teachers who have the confidence to stand up to administration at staff meetings.
Teachers who are passionate and care about the students more than the system.
Teachers that lead the dramatic re-imagining of what education could be.
I should have bought the light-hearted romance, but secretly I am glad I didn’t. I needed the kick up the arse. The book reminded me that we need to share our stories with each other, share our work, share the challenges and share the joy.
I haven’t posted here in awhile. I have been trying to conserve my time and energy for my teaching position this year. I am already getting up at 4.30am! However, Gabbie has reminded me why I need to keep blogging and sharing ideas and resources. I want my colleagues to know there are solutions to the teacher burnout problem. I want to lend my colleagues a hand. I want my colleagues to know there are alternatives to walking away.
“We should be able to do something”, I said. And so I did. – The Joy-Fueled Teacher.
Stroud, G. (2018). Teacher. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.