It is the first day of the holidays here in New South Wales and I like all other teachers am tired. I am in need of a break and some much needed rest and relaxation. I have blogged before about our need for holidays and how important they are for reviving both body and soul. Yet the story I am about to tell you has been playing on my mind today. I was at my usual choir rehearsal of Thursday night, as well as a practice we gathered together to chat and share a few drinks. I found myself in a conversation with a group of teachers. There happen to be many teachers in my choir, I’m not sure if that says something about choirs or teachers!
One of those in the conversation was what I shall term a ‘mature age’ first year out teacher. As she described her state of mind, it was obvious that she was not just tired, not just in need of a holiday but in need of so much more. She described how she was teaching a primary grade in a largish school on a one year contract. She described how she had been given this grade with no program to follow, no paperwork to assist her and no support to guide her. Where was her master teacher, her mentor I asked? Where was her class program? Where were the records that described what the grade had completed the previous year? Where were the sample student workbooks or computer files to guide her?
She almost had tears in her eyes as she told of other staff who were too busy to bother and perhaps too stressed to care what went on in her room. How she had not even been given a timetable. How she knew the theory but had no idea how to bring it all together in her classroom. How she was awake until late into the night worrying about planning her days and preparing her lessons. How she had no-one to turn to, no-one to help. How she was thinking of dropping out, of leaving the profession already. It was obvious to me that she was committed and cared about her students. Yet she felt alone and desperate.
I do not know if the situation she is in is an oddity or an isolated case. I suspect not. What I do know is that she and all those like her are the reason the message about TeachMeets and Twitter have to get out into the wider community. Why if you are reading this it is your duty to come to a TeachMeet near you or better till host one yourself. And if you do please bring along a teacher for which it will be new, a teacher who has never heard of twitter, who maybe who has no idea how to network and who may be in danger of falling through the cracks.
After all, they might one day be struggling to do the best they can, to survive and grow as a teacher and they might be teaching your children.