Saturday, May 15, 2010

Teaching's not all bad!

I often commemorate the crap on this blog. But it's not all bad. In fact it's quite often uplifting, or I wouldn't have pursued this vocation for the past thirty or so years. Here's part of an email I just received from a student's mum:

...Also thanks for going through Em's
story the other day, she really does appreciate your thoughts,
comments. I think that she would really benefit from being in your
class. I am really hoping she has you next year & you can steer her in
the right direction, Em seems to respond well to you. Your the only
teacher that received a gift from overseas - couldn't wait to buy you
something. You must be a fantastic teacher."

This particular student had a burgeoning talent as a writer; something I tried to nurture when she was in my Creative Writing elective. That was eighteen months ago, so I was quite surprised when she turned up at the staffroom the other day with her latest piece of writing, wanting my advice. I didn't know I'd made a difference - thought she'd bought everyone a gift after her overseas trip.

Something to remember when it seems overwhelmingly negative.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


I'm feeling overworked and a bit like packing it in, today. First, yesterday's news.

A stranger was lurking with a clipboard in my classroom yesterday. "I'm just auditing," he said, by way of explanation. Just had to trust that he was official, and not about to filch my purse or my laptop from the office. He seemed congenial.

"Hope I don't have to move out of my room," I told him, as if he cared. "Think I'll have to retire if that's the case."
"Not to worry," said he. "Just an audit!" Yeah, whatever that is.

I did freak a bit though, and shared my paranoia with my office companion. "Not to worry, Jude." He didn't raise his eyes from his Age. He's used to me catastrophising.

Three-thirty, the same day, one of the Assistant Principals wanders into our rooms. "You've got to pack up all your things and clear out of your office and these rooms by Friday," he told us. And FARK said the crow, me.

The department has decided that our asbestos-y ceilings must be replaced. They're pulling the ceilings down and replacing them. Yes, I'm glad I'm being protected from asbestosis - hopefully I haven't picked it up in the last seven years that I've lived and breathed in my poisonous classroom and office. But I hate chaos. And this all comes in the middle of marking and cross-marking the first Creating and Presenting SAC, which I organise for all the year 12 teachers. I'm also on countdown to a well deserved short stint of Long Service Leave. Prior to departing for a bit of swanning along the Danube on a bike, I have to organise the whole faculty to operate smoothly during my brief absence: reports, exams, my senior students, my replacement teacher.

It's fraught, but I know I'll cope, despite a bit of pain between the shoulder blades.

Which leads me to what made me feel like opting out of this teaching lark altogether. At our staff meeting this afternoon, with the sky darkening, wind howling, trees thrashing the windows, IT guy told us, in his dulcet tones, about the Ultranet. Now I've rolled with all the changes incurred in secondary teaching since 1978, including the biggie: the introduction of VCE in 1991. I've adapted to the introduction of ICT when I can still remember us all oohing and aahing over a computer mouse in 1984, wondering whether it would ever catch on. But this whole expensive Ultranet thing really got up my wick.

It sounds as though the department wants us to be drones, accessible to parents at their convenience, not ours. Everything - curriculum, assessment records, comments on students' work - must be on line to allow parent scrutiny whenever.

I'm deeply concerned about teachers' rights and teachers' workload. It's just taking some of the spontaneous joy out of what has been a demanding but worthwhile career.

Hope I'm just negative because I've been up to my elbows in dust and cockroaches clearing out my office. Hope the Ultranet really does improve teaching and learning.

Time to connect with my old man and see what he's got planned for Europe. Lucky one of us has time to plan the trip.