Monday, 28 July 2014

Every small talk question I have been asked about teaching EVER.

Almost four years out, I've realised how many times people have asked me the same questions. Over and over again. I created this FAQ to avoid it where possible. But, well, I have to be honest and give more than the stock answer... sometimes.

Teaching is one of the few professions a large majority of people have had the opportunity to witness in action for literally years. Many people also have preconceived notions of what our role looks like. Lots of the time they are wrong.

Which year levels do you teach?
I'm Primary/Middle trained with some post graduate study. That means I can teach from Years 3-9, and teach English all the way to Year 12.

And which ones do you like the best?
In uni it was always 'which grade level do you want to teach?' and we would all earnestly say things like 'ooooh, I would never teach Receptions or Year 7...' Now days, I take what I can get and everyone else is in the same boat.

Just for the record I love teaching Year 4. They have some great texts, they have moved beyond the junior years and they are ready to learn more advanced concepts. They appreciate nonsense without getting too silly.

So... you must really like kids.
Yes and no.
I'm not at all, nor have I ever been, clucky. I have never volunteer for Sunday School, I don't pull faces at babies on public transport, I don't think I have any online photos with children in them.
But, yes, I do like working with kids and that is a huge difference. I like people in general and to be a teacher you must like all ages.

Why don't you teach in Kadina?
Simple answer: Because there are no jobs I want to apply for, or am qualified to teach.
Much more truthful answer: I don't want to. I live in an area where we have plenty of transient families, which is not a bad thing, just that they are always starting over and there is not enough continuity for me. Also, I leave Kadina at the end of the year. I was doing TRT here last year but with huge schools, large classes and a timetable that meant I'd be visiting seven classes in six hours, I just couldn't do it without staying sane.

So you drive to Pirie just for ONE DAY of work?
Yes. It's only an hour, sheesh. Largs to the CBD takes the same amount of time. With more traffic.

Wow, relief teaching is good money!
Yes, I can walk out the door at 3.30pm and not worry about the crazy day I've had. But I don't do that. I go home and stress. Also, do you remember relief teachers at school? Even the good kids played up for them. So I do earn my money.

How many days a week do you work?
I find this question both rude and insulting. Essentially it asks two things: how much do you earn a week (lots or none or some, it varies) and are you worth much as a teacher (yes, because I come in and work when others can't, and no because no one truly sees TRT work as 'real teaching'). Some weeks I don't work at all, other weeks I will work four days.

Oh, teachers get so many holidays.
Yes, they do.
I'm not one of those people who think teachers "deserve" holidays, and I also don't believe in working too much during time off. Holidays are for holidays. Coming back to school after holidays is tough and it only gets better after Week 2 concludes.

NAPLAN is terrible for students and here's why...
I don't love standardised testing, but is there a better way? Probably not. NAPLAN allows schools to gain extra funding to support students. It helps give a 'snapshot' into the day in the life of a student. It helps you know where your child is sitting in terms of their own year level and students across the nation. Should teachers be teaching to a test? No. Is it unfair for them to send students into a test such as NAPLAN completely unprepared? Yes.

I had this teacher once....
We all had that teacher once. Part of my inspiration to become a teacher was because I had a really bad one who broke me, but was also incredibly good at the curriculum side of things. We all have these stories, and frankly I work in an sector where my colleagues are verbally bashed by parents and stakeholders, used as scapegoats in the media and told by the world around them they take too many holidays. I don't care about your story.

You must really love kids. When will you have some of your own?
I tell people that I work with children and that has made me think it's okay to wait to have them, I have enough to look after at work anyway. It's kind of a lie though, something nice you say when someone is being incredibly rude and is really just asking too many nosy questions.

They say those who can't teach.
They say a lot of things, don't be an ass.

Do you have to live in the country?
Yes and no.

Yes because many teachers do earn their stripes and permanent positions in the country, at least in the government sector.

No because plenty of new graduates work in town, can live at home with their parents and save up plenty of money to buy their house before their 30th birthday.

We don't have to. But this is where Stephen works, and here I am.

Public or private?
This is really tricky for me to answer without upsetting anyone. Three big factors:
1. Where you live
Assuming you don't apply for your child to attend a school outside of your zoning area, where you live should really dictate this. My advice is to visit your local public and private schools and decide what you think is best.

2. Religion/faith based
Nothing upsets me more as a Christian educator than the old 'well, I don't HAVE do do chapel/Christian Studies/prayer/grace/sing a song because I'm not Christian'. Or worse, notes excluding students from this because their family isn't. Here's the problem (that's you parents, not your impressionable child): you decided to send your child to a school which is openly Christian, who have devotions every day, who have Christian Studies as part of the core curriculum.If you don't want this for your child, don't send them.

3. Education
Just because a school is privately run, doesn't mean that the education standards are going to be of a high level. Many private schools recruit only those with an 'active' Christian lifestyle, which is good in some ways, but can eliminate wonderful educators who can't prove they attend church regularly. I'm not just making this up, please check out the 'employment' link on a few school sites to see if you can access such forms. Private schools may also have limited funding, and often their caring nature will attract families who don't like their local public school, so they uproot their child mid-year and plonk them in your class. Or, and most importantly, the funding and/or skill level of SSOs for special needs students isn't great enough to attract the support they really need to be successful. It is becoming more equitable but this is a gradual process.

And where would I send my own future children?

This is awkward because it is up for discussion, but having worked in both sectors, I hope that one day I'll send my own child to a denominational school who have their heads on straight about theology. Probably a Lutheran school.

What about writing reports?
I'm a teacher. Writing and reports doesn't phase me, just the 99% of my colleagues.

Do you know _____ who taught there in the nineties?
No.
I was 13 in 1999.

Young people these days are out of control/have no respect/don't listen/stuck on iPads...
I wonder if whole generations of people have been saying these things? Probably. There is always going to be some new spin the media will put on how to manage the behaviour of children, but really, there is only so much teachers can do. Everyone else needs to accept that.

And, the one question that I'm rarely asked, but should be. Would I still be a teacher, if I had my time again?
Honestly... I don't know.
I've wanted to be a teacher since I was thirteen, and then flirted with the idea of working with young people in recreational settings. But I've done both of these things now, and I'm not convinced either were really the best choice for me.
What would I do instead though? I often say how much I loved working at Bi-Lo and could have quite happily worked there forever, but that's not entirely true. I was always destined for uni, but learning about reading strategies and how the mind works never enthused me the same way it did my peers. I've thought about a career change, but I keep being talked out of it. The only thing I really love to do is write and I'm not even great at that. Good, but not great. Not to mention the current employment opportunities - nil to none.
If I did it again, here's what I would do. I would go to UniSA (a real uni) and study a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English and Marketing and then undertake post graduate study in teaching. In the end it did take me five years to complete my course anyway so I really wouldn't have lost too much. But then again, hindsight.


I do like teaching. I'm not too grumpy. I like mornings. I don't drink coffee to stay sane. I can write reports quickly. I can use a Mac and Windows. I am theatrical. I like decorating. I am a teacher.

No, I haven't been called in to work today. Obviously.