I didn’t grow up knowing exactly what I wanted to do in life. In terms of a career. To be honest, I never really thought past the end of high school with any certainty or seriousness. I just kind of assumed that once I became an adult I would have a job and earn money, preferably a lot without much-exceeded effort. As it turns out, that is not at all how adulting works … I was bamboozled!
After a few years (about six) floundering, avoiding and wallowing in self-pity, I finally realised what I had been too stubborn to see many years prior. Not only did I need a real life job, that paid me actual real life money, I had an epiphany as to what it was I could do … Join the family profession (there are six of us now) and teach. Five years later I am still here. A teacher.
Teaching is one of those unique careers where your client, the consumer, is an actual living breathing little human. Not a rational human either, who you see every so often for a brief exchange. But a human that has zero control over their emotions, a human who you spend seven hours a day, five days a week, ten weeks a term with. Roughly 1400 hours a year. Needless to say, over the entirety of that time, you get to know these little humans rather well. I don’t want to say you become attached because that is not it, invested I think it is more accurate, you become very much invested in their development. You support them as they learn and grow and help them develop into mature, capable, independent young people. You laugh when they laugh, feel their hardships when they feel them, become frustrated when they don’t see their worth like you do and try your absolute best to ensure they enjoy their 1400 hours a year in your care.
It is a massively rewarding career when you consider the positive impact you have on these young lives. It is also a massively pressurised career and for all the ups there are equally as hard lows. It is demanding, it is all-encompassing and as much as you try you never switch off. It is extremely stressful and at times it can be rather heartbreaking. It is hard work, long hours and, often, thankless. The workload and expectations keep increasing and yet the logistical capability of achieving these added requirements remains unchanged. Which is why it is a career where burnout is prevalent and the exit rate continues to steadily increase.
I am lucky enough to have found a little school in a unique corner of New Zealand, where balance is encouraged and staff welfare is a priority. We have a principal who is mindful of this, she supports us to pursue our passions and helps us to grow personally as well as professionally. So when I nervously approached her with my desire to travel in term one, I was not met with an ultimatum or a demand for my resignation but an honest conversation about my future, my priorities and how I saw my career in education progressing. I walked away feeling supported, valued and empowered to grow. I genuinely love our little school, the staff, the students, the unique culture and the community that surrounds it.
As a teacher, I always hope I am being effective and I hope I am doing a good job for my students. Often I feel the opposite, perhaps due to unrealistic pressures I put on myself, as I always feel there is more I could be doing and bigger and better ways I could be doing it. So to be granted leave for Term One really is a great feeling. It leaves me reassured that I am doing OK in my position, reassured that I am valued on somewhat the same level as I value being part of the school and community and reassured that they are happy for me to stick around for a little while longer. All of which is very special and a great way to end the year.
It also allows me the confidence to go and enjoy this experience with the security of coming back to work when I return, it allows me the confidence that the investment I have made over the past 18 months will continue to grow and develop in the near future and it allows me the confidence of knowing that I do not have to walk away from it all just yet … because dreams don’t work unless you do!