Updated: Feb 13, 2019
I know it’s holidays and I am absolutely loving the time out and lack of stress that comes with holidays (even though I’m not getting paid for them this year!). I am already dreading going back to 'reality'.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile, well before Christmas but I kept putting it off. I am really loving the extra time I’ve had with family and with my husband. It really is the best time of year.
That doesn’t stop me from thinking about teaching though and the one thing that really bugged me at the end of last year. The show. That teacher show you have to put on everyday when you enter school up until the time you leave. It’s not the show I have to put on for the students. That’s my job. I will perform all day if it means the students are achieving something and are engaged in their learning. I'll put aside emotions or the fact I am having a bad day if it means my students will benefit.
It’s the show for other teachers and executive staff. You see, I know I do a good job but there are some teachers who like to make you feel otherwise. Subtle comments, the way some teachers look down their nose at you as if they know better. Unrealistic expectations of others when they should really just be worrying about themselves. Since when did teaching become so judgmental and petty?
Of course, it’s not all teachers. I have had the privilege of moving to a regional town out of the city and have had positive experiences with almost everyone I’ve met. It’s just that handful that likes to suck the fun out of it. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to constantly feel like you’re being watched, your every move pulled apart making you question your teaching decisions. It’s like a never ending job interview each and every day. I am always glancing towards the door to make sure no one is watching or listening around the corner. Again, I know I do a good job. I’m not worried about being ‘caught out’ doing something horrible but there’s always that niggling feeling in the back of my head that someone is around.
I feel guilty if a teacher or the principal walks in and the students are having a brain break or I'm playing a game with the class. I often wonder if they assume I just play games all day and don’t actually do any teaching. It never fails to amaze me that you can teach an incredible lesson, the kids are engaged, the room is buzzing and alive with learning and you decide as a reward to play a 5min game and the principal walks in just as you start. That’s always the way.
I will never forget a recent casual day. I had a Stage 3 class so the students are around 11-12 years old. Old enough to know right from wrong. It was my first time having this class and, as always, there were a few students trying to push my buttons. Now don't get me wrong. I am not the type of teacher who mollycoddles students, wipes their nose, gives in to every cry. I am firm but fair. So if a student is behaving in a negative way, I pull them up on it. This student continued to push the boundaries until I eventually said 'If you didn't come to school to learn, get out, go home, there's no point in you being here anyway'. Not the end of the world. In fact, coupled with my tone of voice, this student actually stopped the negative behaviour after this. Perhaps some of you think this is harsh. If you're a teacher reading this, you most likely will not but a parent might. That afternoon, the principal pulled me aside and explained he had received a phone call from that student's mum. She was very upset her son had come home sad that day. The principal was completely supportive of me but it didn't stop me feeling as though I needed to apologise and justify my actions. It also made me worry that I wouldn't get future work at this school (that didn't eventuate but why should I have to worry about it in the first place?).
Why do I even feel like that? Is it just me or do a lot of teachers feel the same? That constant need to justify your decisions and the choices you make in the classroom. Like teaching isn’t stressful enough. You're always on show, feeling as though you can't put a foot wrong or make a mistake. It has become a running joke that I am the 'sorry' person, always apologising. 'Sorry I didn't get through everything', 'Sorry I had so many issues with behaviour', 'Sorry I'm late' (mainly because I had to herd students in from duty and somehow get to lines on bell time even though I am on the other end of the school), 'Sorry for not being able to get much out of x student today', the list goes on and on. I hate saying it but I honestly don't even realise I do it anymore. I constantly feel under the microscope and under pressure to always do and say the right things.
It. is. mentally. exhausting.
This leads me back to certain teachers who make it their life mission to comment, glare or throw subtle comments your way. Teaching is meant to be collaborative and supportive but sadly has shifted to being very individual and competitive. Who’s with me? Do you feel like you’re always on show or being watched? Or am I just a little paranoid? Be honest. I love feedback.