I never wanted to be a teacher.
I certainly never wanted to spend my whole working life as a teacher. Yet, here I am, 25 years later and still teaching.
My life as a teacher has been rewarding, challenging and fulfilling. All a result of the fact I chose to teach; I chose to remain a teacher and my life with my family, friends and sport has revolved around my teaching career.
My life has been content because of that choice to be, and remain, a teacher.
It is time to wind up this part of my life.
It freaks my wife out to write this, but we have been talking recently about changing my career. I have given myself 2-3 years to consider my future before I am 50. I know it still may not happen; I have left things open to change my mind and remain in education. The term “God willing” has definitely been part of my language as well. I will go where He tells me to go - I haven’t heard or sensed ANYTHING yet!
I started this 5 part series challenged by an ABC report from February 2017 stating that teachers are leaving the profession in significant numbers - the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggesting 53 per cent of people who hold a teaching degree do not currently work in education.
And research conducted by the Australian Government in 2014 estimated that 20 per cent of education graduates do not register as teachers on graduating, meaning many teachers are leaving before they've even started.
The ABC have reported again as recently as April 2018, that the oldest profession – teaching- is no longer attractive. The Queensland Deans of Education revealed alarming drops in the first preference applications for this year’s teacher preparation courses.
Queensland has experienced an overall 26% drop. Alarmingly, the University of Queensland reported a 44% plunge. The Queensland University of Technology saw a 19% drop. The national trend reflects this as well. Australian Catholic University figures are down 20% for campuses in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre reported a 40% drop in 2017 compared to 2016.
The ABC article outlined the seven reasons why people no longer want to be a teacher. In fact, when I wrote this into a Google search, there were 7 articles on this topic alone. One article, from The Guardian, reports on the 5 reasons why people want to teach, but also 5 reasons teachers then want to quit.
Every one of the reasons mentioned in the articles is a reason why I will soon leave the education system. Principals, their deputies, their boards, parents and students should read these articles and do all they can to change the culture they allow to be created in their school. Listen and observe the teachers around you and what they do for the students in their care.
So why have I remained a teacher so long?
- I care. Many students have cared for me. Many parents have cared for me. Many colleagues have cared for me.
This simple plate of curry shows the care afforded TO me. And there could be many more photos like this. If only I had taken photos of the gifts, cakes and food from over the last 25 years. I still have a storage container of cards and letters from parents and students thanking me for being who I was called to be.
A mother brought this plate of curry into my staff room for ME. I have taught her daughter and known her daughter for 6 years- she will graduate in 5 months. I haven’t taught her daughter for 3 years, but we will always stop and have a chat to see how each other are going. This was the mother’s way of saying, “Thanks for caring Mr Modlin.”
- I teach because God has gifted me this ability and to do it well.
I believe my talent at being a good teacher comes from God. I can teach anything- except those Grade 11 and 12 Maths and Sciences (these teachers are brilliant!) I can build my authority and make the classroom safe and secure. Students know I can be firm, fair and friendly. Authentic relationships with the students in my care is what I do best. They need to trust me in my role as a teacher, then they will trust me as their confidante. Teacher first – mentor second – friend when they leave the place.
- I teach because I can make a difference.
Here I am with a group of students at their hike up Mt Coolum- they are Grade 9- this is their “goodbye to adolescence, welcome to adulthood climb.” I can make a difference to each one of them and hopefully point them to Jesus. When students let me into their world, and I let them into mine, change happens. Change happens to me, change happens to them. Each one of these students need encouragement, need someone to listen to their stories, their thoughts and their jokes. Some of these students may need me one day to listen to their pain, their hurt and worries. They need good, male teachers in their life. I can be one of them. I believe I have been one of them.
What a great opportunity I have been given to have a chance (and the time!) to write about my last 25 years as a teacher. Thank you, readers, for reading this series.
Thank you to my students, parents and colleagues I have shared the last 25 years with. There are a few years left in this old teacher’s head - don’t say goodbye to me just yet! I look forward to finishing it with some great staff and students here on the Sunshine Coast (God willing!).
Thank you to my sons who have seen their Dad a lot; particularly with those 12 weeks of holiday a year. They have also missed their Dad dearly when he has coached other kids, helped other kids with their homework and assignments, taken other kids on ski trips, hiking, camping, four-wheel driving, fishing, surfing and any other number of outdoor activities you love. They missed their Dad when he was too tired to mentor or listen to them because he had expended so much emotional energy and time with other kids.
Thank you to my wife. The best teacher I know. The mother of my children and my biggest supporter and encourager in my ministry of teaching. I am a better person and teacher because of Belinda.
Thank you to Jesus. The greatest teacher and storyteller. The man I want my students to know and follow. Just like I did when I finished high school at 17 and chose to follow Him.
Thank you to my God. For all those arguments we’ve had about teaching and wanting to quit and leave. Thanks for always bringing someone across my path to remind me of my value to the profession. I look forward with great anticipation to what God has in store for the next 25 years!
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found at