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This morning before work/school drop off I had two conversations that really struck a chord with me. The first was with an amazing lady who has taught my children at the beautiful small school they attend here in sunny Brisbane, Australia. She’s a dynamo of a lady, fantastic teacher, and mother of a bunch of kids herself. She’s one of those people who is a ray of sunshine, and the kind of person that you feel kind of lucky to get to know let alone be the person to shape the minds of your kids.

I saw her whilst we were both grabbing a coffee at our local café before 7am. She had already dropped her kids to school and been to the gym and was off to school…at 7am.

We talked about teaching, how tricky it can be to squeeze in the curriculum, stay relevant, cater for individual needs, be innovative and also be inspiring for kids. She has years of experience under her belt, whilst my experience was limited to my ‘prac teaching’ experience a few years ago whilst studying a Graduate Diploma of Education.

I came away from our conversation thinking, wow, we are so lucky to have this wonderful lady as part of our school community and that I still think that teaching is a tough gig.

Once I arrived at school to drop my youngest daughter off at Before School Care, I had a brief but frustrating conversation with two other parents.

The conversation started with one of the parents commenting on seeing this wonderful teacher (who I had just spoken to) arriving at school in her gym gear, with a dress in her hand ready to get changed and prepare for the day.

The comment was something along the lines of ‘how nice it must be to have the time to exercise’ and how ‘easy it must be for this particular lady as she is a teacher and has teenagers’. I couldn’t help but feel a little incredulous and also defensive. I replied that I thought teaching was a tough gig, and that my brief stint highlighted to me how tough it can be, especially if you are also a parent. The response I got was underwhelming and came with a side-serve of eye roll, along with a comment about how nice it would be to have ‘all those holidays’.

I smiled, nodded and continued on my day, signing in my youngest daughter, dropping my sons to school and then heading to the hospital to spend the day juggling caring for my eldest daughter whilst also working remotely.
After giving the morning and those interactions some thought, here’s my take.

Working can be hard.

Working with children can be hard.

Working once you are a parent can be hard.

So it stands to reason surely, that working with children once you are a parent can also be hard.

Right?

It can be so easy to look across and form an opinion on how hard someone’s life/job/family/ situation is when you have not walked a mile in their shoes.

I will freely admit I am sometimes jealous of the amount of holidays teachers get each year. When you work full-time in most other professions, you only get four weeks annual leave a year. Once you have children this presents you with an impossible challenge – spread out your four weeks annual leave to care for your children during their 12-16 weeks of holidays. So unfair right?

Well, not quite when you look at the whole picture. My brief stint of teaching taught me this – teaching is hard, rewarding, gruelling (so much time on your feet! parents expectations! the assault on your senses!) and takes you away from your own kids…a lot.

I also came to the realisation that teachers need those holidays to plan, recover, relax and for some to spend time with their own children, connecting and having fun. How can I begrudge the great people who spend every day of the school term fostering the learning of my kids some time to recover, relax and plan for the next semester/year/subject/group of young minds they will be looking after?

On a related note, if you are there on the sidelines judging and thinking teaching is such a great deal…why not become a teacher? You know why a lot of people don’t? Most people don’t have the patience, resilience and passion to do that. Most people find out what teachers are paid, and think well that’s not enough for me. I know that I didn’t have the patience and right personality to become a teacher. Which makes me feel even more appreciative of the fantastic people who do.

It’s not just teachers, there are countless other professions who cop flak and yet these wonderful people still turn up day in and day out to work, helping others, contributing to society, supporting their families. They do this despite the criticism and judgment levelled at them.

I came away from my conversation with those parents thinking, I really hope that one day they can appreciate how hard teachers work and how life can be tricky for teachers too.

Until you’ve taught a class, worked a night shift, completed a swing as a FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) worker, maybe save the judgement.

A little empathy can go a long way.

Enjoy xx
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