Just a teacher

I have a PhD. I used to be an academic, doing research and lecturing at tertiary level. I am a published writer. I have done pro bono communications work with Oxfam Australia. I have worked with the Australian Breastfeeding Association. I enjoyed all of those things.

Now I am a teacher, and it fills me with a passion and joy I can barely describe. Like any job it can also take me to the edge of exhaustion (oh, on a daily basis!) and the pit of despair, but overall I am more proud of what I do now than I have ever been of any work I’ve done in my whole life.

When I was interviewed for this job I was asked what a great day at work looks like for me. A great day at work is when I see a student suddenly get a concept that has been eluding them, and I know I have helped them get there. It’s when I feel as though I have helped. Whether it’s with a difficult programming bug, or thinking about tricky life choices, when a student asks me for help that’s when I know I have a purpose. It’s when I know I can make a difference.

Yesterday someone said to me that saying I was a teacher was running myself down. She saw it as the lesser of my abilities. Yet this is the most challenging, diverse and rewarding job I have ever encountered. I have the power to inspire, to challenge, to motivate and to build up a student’s self esteem. Of course, I don’t always hit the mark. Sometimes I leave a lesson walking on air, feeling as though I have done everything I set out to do, but more often I walk out thinking of a hundred ways I could do better.

And then I get an email, as I did last week, from a parent who tells me that her son describes me as “one of the most amazing teachers he has ever had”. Or a student tells me that even though she’s no longer in my class, she views me as her “go to” person when she does not know what to do. That’s when I know that whatever goes wrong, whatever I am not quite doing right yet, I am in the right place. I am making a difference.

It puzzles me that anyone would say I am “just a teacher”. I don’t understand the origin of the contempt with which teachers are often viewed. Even before I became a teacher I knew that teaching was an incredibly difficult job, worthy of respect.

I work harder than I have ever worked before. But I am also happier than I have ever been before.

I am privileged to work among an amazingly talented, dedicated and passionate group of teachers. I know that not all teachers reach those heights – like any profession, it has its highs and lows. But I am so proud to be counted among them – to be one of them. I am a teacher, and I still get a thrill every time I say that.

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