Teaching The Awful Truth,People dream of having their own class. It was once my dream too. Never again. Sometimes your dreams aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. My dream turned into one hellish year that has turned me off wanting my own classroom, forever!
My teaching journey has had its ups and downs. I started off doing Supply Teaching as I didn’t get a job straight out of university. I busted my butt volunteering at schools to get my foot in the door, going to meetings and school discos, putting in way more effort than any supply teacher is ever expected. It got me plenty of work, but not my own classroom that I so badly desired.
Finally, I got my break from a very unexpected school. I had been doing lots of work at a local school I loved. I was desperately hoping as the year was ending that I would land myself a job for next year. The Deputy asked if I wanted to work at her husband’s school in the neighbouring, low-socio economic region. I was hesitant, but she convinced me to give it a go, might open doors, all that jazz.
I arrived at the school, ready to dodge bullets, when I was pleasantly surprised to see an old netball buddy was the Deputy Principal. Within a few days she had me lined up for a Grade 3 class for the following year. I was stoked and shocked at how quickly I got a job, all because of who I knew.
I was super keen and excited to take on this infamously challenging class. I wanted to make a difference in these young kids’ troubled lives.
Sadly, the reality was a little different. Everyday was like a battlefield in my class. I had eight boys wreaking havoc. Throwing chairs, knocking over tables, running away, yelling, swearing and fighting. Unfortunately lots of these kids had so many issues going on at home, that it was near impossible for them to come to school, ready to learn.
I tried hard every day to come up with engaging, meaningful lessons. I used interactive whiteboard activities for Literacy and Numeracy, brought in a worm farm and vegie garden for Science, dressed up, and made a time machine and other props for History lessons. I had individual, group and whole class rewards plus a fun rewards corner to enjoy. I spent a fortune on resources and would stay up to midnight planning and be back at school by 6:30am. As the majority of the class were below average, I offered free tutoring in the mornings, but only one or two students ever showed up. I put my all into that class and put my relationship and social life on the back burner.
I was the only Year 3 teacher so had no support or colleagues to share the workload with. What surprised me most was how much I had to come up with myself. I was creating Maths and Science tests and all I could think was “Why am I reinventing the wheel? Surely this has been done before, by people more qualified than a new grad?” Reading records would take forever and as soon as you got through the whole class, (which took even longer with a class you can’t leave unmonitored for more than 30 seconds) it was nearly time to start retesting again. I was given a mentor, who was a teacher the same age as me. She was amazing, but often too busy with her own workload to help. I felt so alone, drowning, like I could barely keep my head above water.
I knew teaching was a tough gig, but I never imagined it to be that hard. I can still remember a few distinct moments when the kids brought me to tears. One time, when they questioned my sniffles and leaking eyes, I told them I was allergic to the dog that just went by (impeccable timing for a dog to stray through the school). Once I was having a standoff with a student who had pulled the cord out of the phone as I was trying to call the office. The neighbouring classes were at assembly so I was trapped with this mini-antagonist, whilst holding his arm firmly to coax him to let go, unsure on how this was going to play out. Another time, worn down by months of rude and exhausting behaviour, I just walked into the class next door and said “I can’t do it”.
Often on my 45 minute drive to work, I would imagine my car crashing. I didn’t want to hurt myself, I just wanted an excuse not to go to class that day. Now that, is not a healthy state to be in when you are having thoughts like that.
I was new to teaching and never claimed to be an expert. I took on any advice suggested to me. The behaviour teacher who had worked with them for years, threw up her hands and said she had exhausted all her strategies. What hope did I have when she was an experienced specialist in the field?? Just quietly, I think the poor woman may have chosen an earlier retirement because of my kids.
Unfortunately, I am far too young to retire, but those kids did push me away from my desire to have my own class. The thing that upset me the most was that there were some beautiful students in that class, yearning to learn, but were constantly disrupted. But I can hold my head high, knowing that I kept showing up, day after day, trying to make a difference to educate these kids. Unfortunately some of these kids have such complicated backgrounds, making it hard to break through. Teachers aren’t to blame, you can only do so much. I just hope I made more of a difference to some of those kids lives than I feel I did.
After that year, my husband and I took a break for 18 months to travel the Americas. When I came back I returned to Supply Teaching and loved it. I got offered a class at the local school I had wished to work at years before. I reluctantly took it. I felt it was an opportunity that most teachers only dream of so I would be silly to it pass up. I worked for a week before finding out I was pregnant. I decided I didn’t want the workload and stress while I was growing a human, and quit. People thought I was foolish, crazy, lazy but as soon as I did it, I felt relieved and content.
Sometimes I think that perhaps if I had of stuck it out it would’ve gotten easier. But I also hear so many teachers telling me how hard it is these days. Seeing how stressed and worn out they are. Questioning me on Supply work to see if it’s something they should switch to. I love what I do now. I’ve realised Supply is my thing and I’m going to stick with it, for now.