Yesterday evening was the traditional Yr10 graduation at our school, and today, I noticed I felt like a deflated balloon. It is often like that, the end of the school year. During the last few weeks, we gather momentum, and when all ‘important’ tasks are completed, when we finally can slow down, I feel empty and restless. Maybe this feeling is a bit stronger this year because we happen to have a graduated tenth-grader at home.
This is also the time of the year when I start reflecting on the school year. So here is what I think:
Once again, I can say that being a teacher is at least as much about learning as it is about facilitating learning. This year was no exception. Some of the things I learned are related to the content of the subjects I teach (which is one of the things I love about being a teacher), or the skills I try to help the students develop, but other are more personal, for example, what do I really stand for as a teacher?, what are my priorities, and how can I better deal with challenges for the benefit of my students without overseeing my own needs to stay mentally and physically healthy?
It is often said and written that the role of a teacher has become more demanding, and in many ways it has, but I also think that we need at every moment to stop and think what is the most important task we have at hand and not try to do everything at once. Yes, there are certain areas where we have absolutely no competence and it feels often quite frustrating to stand there and not know what to do, but maybe that is exactly what the point is. We don’t have to have all the answers, we can’t have all the solutions, but by being present, listening, and observing, we can see what the needs are and ask for help, suggest, and refer to those who have the competence.
I learned that the intentions behind the systems that are in place to support children and youth have good intentions, but that because each child is different, each case is different, these systems often come too short. I have unfortunately observed the lack of a holistic approach to challenges and/or issues children and their parents face. This has been at times frustrating and even heartbreaking, but my job is to keep supporting, be there for my students, and keep trying.
I need to do what I preach: be okay with making mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
Lastly, and maybe the most important, I have learned that even though I am passionate about my profession, my job cannot be my priority. My priority still needs to be my own health so I can function in a positive way both at home and at work (maybe better said, first at home and then at work). I do not help anyone by being overwhelmed, stressed and tired.
I think society needs to take more responsibility for children. We need to go back to the principle of a whole community taking part in the upbringing and development of children. The ball is constantly sent between parents (who said they have all the answers just because they gave birth to the child?) and the school, and different instances when necessary, but how about neighbors, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and so forth? I know friends, neighbours and family often stay at a ‘safe’ distance to avoid conflict, or not to add more stress to their own life, but we have to acknowledge that we all have different personalities, skills, and experiences that can benefit a child. We need to accept each other’s help. We need to see our own limitations.
Ask almost anyone in the street how important the well-being of children is for them, and I would guess almost everybody would agree that it should be one of the priorities in society, still, we leave this important role to parents and the school hoping that when needed, support will come from systems that are gradually getting overloaded with work. So, governments too need to invest in children by prioritizing schools, the professional development of teachers, and the systems that are supposed to help children develop to their potential.
When it comes to my goals for the next school year, here are some. Ask more, listen more, and talk less (I have this one every single year. I’m not there yet 😁 ). Remember to be open-minded. I see the age gap between my students and me growing, and thus the way we perceive the world, our experiences, what is important, etc. Stay true to what I believe are the most important tasks I have in this role. Not allow my job to eat my personal life. Be okay with making mistakes, apologize, and move forward.