I have just finished 6 glorious weeks of holidays and now I am back at work. I can still feel the apprehension in my stomach as the days ticked down to the new school year starting. What would 2020 bring? What new adventure would I go on? Or whose story would I inevitably be brought into or slowly suffer alongside with? I have now started my 12th year of being a teacher. In my short time in the profession (longer than most actually) I have taught a number of disciplines, I have coached countless sports teams, been to many state competition carnivals, frequented school camps, gone on school ski trips, the list goes on. I have truly experienced the teaching profession and the hours it entails to ensure I am doing a meaningful and good job. And as the hours mount up each week it sometimes leaves me exhausted.
The things weighing on my heart
The school holidays are a very welcome respite from the sporting and academic chaos that I am involved in, and as much as I love school camps and coaching teams, they take time away from my family, but as tired as I get with my chosen career, I love it. But there are things that weigh upon my heart, things that at times I struggle to know how to deal with, things that I struggle to know how to navigate.
Each year not only brings opportunity and adventure, but it usually brings me a new batch of students whom I have never taught before and the sad reality that a significant percentage of them, didn’t have a great 6-week break. Most of those don’t really get a break and for them, school is a refuge from the hell they go through on a daily basis.
As a year coordinator, I am usually privy to sensitive information about my students. Their stories are a window into explaining who that student is and why they act the way they do. I have heard stories that no one needs to hear. I have heard about events that no child should ever have to go through. As I look through the new lists of students that I will teach, I notice that more of them are from broken families or have experienced untold tragedy. Parents divorced, sometimes there is a court order, sometimes there is a note to contact police if their dad shows up on campus, sometimes the guardian for this particular student is their grandparents, sometimes a note saying that their mum has stage 4 cancer. Some students are broken because the people in their life who should have cared for them are broken, and students who are broken because life dealt them a bad card and will lose their parent sometime soon.
My real passion
I have always seen my greatest strength as a teacher in pastoral care. Sure I am entrusted by my employer to prepare my students academically, but my real passion is the kids, and being a positive role model in their life. Most days I am heart-broken because of it. As I come home each night to a loving wife, and three kids who I would give my life for, a warm and safe environment, I am saddened that for some of my students their experience will not be the same and the hell they started the day off with will continue until they get back to school the next day.
What does it mean to be a teacher? It means to be a light in the darkness, it means to be a shoulder to cry on, it means to be someone that can be trusted, it means to be a safe haven, it means to be a parent to someone else’s child, it means to give up your free time, it means to sob in your car after work, it means to laugh and rejoice in your students success, it means to be an encouragement in their moments of failure, it means to be someone else’s world, it means responsibility.
A lecturer once told my cohort of 4th year trainee teachers, the day you wake up to go to work, and the students are no longer your priority, he told us straight “Do those kids a favour, and leave the profession.” Years later I reflect on what he said, and my job means that I will need to give out of everything that I am, to be who I need to be for the kids that I teach. I find it hard and I find it emotionally exhausting and honestly there have been times where I have been emotionally weak to the point where I almost gave up, but each time I get that way the Lord reminds me of the influence that I can be, the reason why I became a teacher in the first place.
A student once said to me after I had taught him for 5 years, “Sir you are a better dad to me, than my actual father ever was”. As tragic as that comment was, I know his comment was one of thankfulness and hope. His dad failed him and I am glad that I was there to show him what it was to be a man and be someone who that ex-student can always look up to and trust.
My job is worth it.
I have never been able to do this in my own strength though. I truly believe God has led me into this profession, my journey into teaching is another story and it is he who constantly sustains me. In my experience these past 12 years I have seen his strength through my weakness. Amongst all the pressures on teachers these days, it is no wonder teachers burn out and leave the profession, God willing if I can continue to be someone’s refuge from their life of hell, I will keep fighting for them.
Jarred is an HPE and Mathematics teacher on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he is married to Haley and has three beautiful children Chelsea, Nathan and Ryan.