Image: Trey Ratcliff
I'm sure I'm not the first teacher who finds him/herself pausing from time to time to ask the question: Why do I do this? What keeps me in this profession?
It's certainly not the pay, is it? And the hours? For the dedicated and passionate teacher, the hours slip away into a stream, but when you stop to tally up those hours it can be a bit frightening to see how much of your life is given over to your 'work.'
Amongst a host of other rationales, I think one of the things that keeps me passionate about my profession is the sense of overcoming adversity. Wading through streams of can't and won't and emerging on the other side to find the negative suffix has disappeared and been replaced with an emphatic exclamation mark.
In essence, nothing fires me up more about my job than the sensation of having turned corners.
As the academic year peters out in my current (and new this year) teaching role and I struggle to cope with the exhaustion, there comes that warm glow as I contemplate the corners that have been turned.
I think about groups of learners approaching the Literacy classroom with expressions ranging from loathing to (much worse) complete indifference back in June, who last week walked in with friendly greetings, happy to be there and even happier knowing that not only have they passed Literacy but actually passed it quite well.
I think about those individuals who, in June (halfway through the year), did not have a single VCAL Literacy Outcome marked on their trackers, but now have 16-20 outcomes completed and a Year 12 High School pass as a result.
It is, I have to very selfishly admit, pleasing to contemplate that this time last year, of the failed students well over 60% of them didn't pass on account of a fail for Literacy, whereas this year the figure is going to be more like about 10%.
Grades and bean counting aside, one of the most pleasing things about this year has been the transition in so many students from 'I want to be anywhere but here in this classroom' to 'I like being here'...
Watching learners turn major corners is probably the most exhilarating part of being a teacher, and knowing you played a facilitative role in that ought to (quite rightly) lead to a sense of genuine satisfaction and pride. Their corners as learners are linked ineluctably to our own as teachers.
There are always other corners to turn, however, and I sure as hell know what some of my more pressing ones are for next year. Some of the hardest yards have already been completed and that makes new challenges that little bit more exciting and interesting... Successful foundations mean that building can commence; survival and 'basic needs' have given way to more of a sense of aspiration.
That's why turning corners (and recognising that they've been turned) is so important. These become the catalysts and sources of energy we need to overcome the next obstacles, slip through or around other adversities, identify and chart a course towards turning those next corners.
I'm sure you've managed to turn at least a few corners this year... What were they?
And, just as importantly, which corners are you going to try and turn next?