I have spent the past week at the Teach for Australia “Mid-year Intensive” – five days of living together back at our old haunts at University College and Melbourne Uni, and participating in some great times of learning together – both formally and informally. It’s been a fantastic time of hanging out, laughing, crying, expressing frustration, re-invigorating one another and reconnecting with why it is we got into this program in the first place. That and riding out a nasty stomach virus going through the majority of the group (and quite a few staff members). Nothing brings people together quite like poo stories.
This group of people have inspired me. They drive me on to being a better teacher and they remind me of the good things I am already doing. So it’s in this context, I’d like to (anonymously) introduce a few of my friends, and perhaps share a little bit of the lessons they teach everyday.
B is a drama teacher. In reality she teaches English as well, but you only need to look at B to recognize that she is probably a drama teacher. B brings an enthusiasm and excitement to almost everything she talks about: I can still vividly remember a conversation with B about the disappointment of the bland salad sandwich she was eating. There’s little doubt that she brings that whole-hearted approach to absolutely everything and anything she does. And once she is onto talking about something she truly cares about, there is no stopping her. B teaches her students that things matter, and that it’s OK and important to be passionate; that there are things in life genuinely worth looking a bit silly to pursue.
R1 is a deeply faithful husband and dedicated father. He gave up a very successful career in the IT industry to teach information technology and maths to year 11 and 12 students. R1 has a beautifully disarming way of communicating the absolute heart of a matter. But more than that, R1 knows exactly who he is and what he stands for. He knows that he’d much prefer to spend an evening with his kids after a long week at the intensive than he would spend the time at a lavish dinner with friends. So while his students may have maths or IT written on their timetables, I have little doubt that in reality R1 is teaching these kids that being an adult is about knowing what’s important to you, and living for exactly those things.
R2 and L are both teachers at my school, though I don’t see them much because they’re on the other campus. While they are both close friends, in reality they are quite different people. L teaches English and Humanities, while R teaches Science, Maths and IT. Both are in Teach for Australia for quite different reasons, and come from noticeably different backgrounds. But the most unifying thing about these two beautiful women is the love they ooze for their students. I’ve been in conversations where someone (else) has besmirched the name of one a ratty year 7, and both these girls have leapt to the child’s defense. It is not possible that R or L could teach a student and have them not know that someone cares about them, and how they do in life.
J brings a quiet dignity to everything he does. I can’t remember meeting a more gentle voice delivering such a rapier wit, and yet he brings an immense calm to tough situations. J makes people (and certainly myself included) feel safer through his own presence. As he works in a pretty rough, country school: it seems to me that J must surely be teaching that manliness and strength is not about aggression or domination.
These stories are there for every person I have been able to share this experience with, and it is an absolute honor to be calling these people my friends. There are certainly better teachers out there, and probably even groups of better teachers. But I am so immensely proud to be a part of this one.