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Taking a Moment to Reflect

Sarah found some time recently to reflect on her experiences and what inspired her to get into teaching. 

As I sit here and reflect on moving to the UK from Australia, taking the leap, living the dream I’ve had for over 5 years, and broadening my career proficiency and practice, I cannot help but think how I got here in the first place and strip back to the whole point I am here in the first place. Teaching.

Coincidentally just last weekend while sitting watching TV the movie ‘the Dead Poets Society’ came on. My husband flicked the channel over but I said ‘No, I want to watch this.’ This movie, I believe, is one of the greatest movies about teaching, and one I first watched after having being lent, and encourage to watch from one of my own teachers. This was coincidental, even freakish you may say, because just a few days later the same teacher, mentor and friend, passed away from his brave and unfair battle with cancer.

A lasting impression

Such a shock, especially being all the way over here in England, so far from my small, country, hometown in Australia where he taught, lived and was loved by a whole community, young and old. I was so saddened by the news, I felt the strong need to share our memories and grieve with my close high school friends. I called a few of my friends to see that they were okay and to share tributes and memories to each other of the upmost respect that we all held for this incredible man.

The threads of tributes didn’t stop there. Facebook after Facebook status of ex-class mates, older students, younger students, students who hated school, students who loved school, students who were only students at the school for a short period of time, students who went through the school their whole schooling life, fellow colleagues, people from my community, people from the local football netball club, history lovers, sporting partners, long distance family members and even people who only knew of this man. One of my close friends came up with the idea of ‘inboxing’ everyone on Facebook to ask them to change their profile picture to the ‘Saint Kilda Football Club’ (Australian Rules) logo in honour of the passion he had for his favourite team, and boy did it take off! I am still gob-smacked and I know many others were also, to see social media flooded with tributes and ‘Saint Kilda’ logos. It literally gave me shivers.

What made him stand out?

It then made me think why were there so many people were inspired by this man? The answer was quite simple, yet there were so many reasons. He truly cared for people. Yes he was a fantastic teacher, one of the best I’ve ever seen and had the pleasure of being taught by, but he was much more than just a teacher. He was a mentor, a supporter, a coach, a family man, a friend, a father, a husband, a grandfather, someone you wanted to stop and talk to down the street, someone who would truly listen to you if you needed to talk.

As a teacher he was inspirational. The passion he had for history, geography and French was incredible. He taught outside the square, inspiring you to learn and giving thirst for knowledge even if you were that student in class who really did not want to be there. He involved everyone and made every student feel as though they belonged there and that he cared. Truth be told, he did.

Someone who believed in others

My ‘group’ of fantastic high school friends that I am still as close with as I was in high school 7 years on, weren’t the ‘popular students.’ We didn’t breeze through high school unscathed. In fact some days we really did not want to go to school in fear of being bullied or talked about in an unpleasant way. There were few teachers that believed in us and our number one believer was this teacher. We had all been through various tough times in our lives and he saw the potential we had, yet the lack of confidence. My friends and I truly believe that he was the one who helped us to get where we are today, and I know that we weren’t the only ones he helped. He taught us that we could do anything we wanted, but went one further and believed we could. I know many teachers that ‘say things’ but don’t often believe in them. What made him a great teacher was you had no doubt the belief he had in you. It wasn’t just in school but even after school he would keep in contact and want to know what you were doing and how you were.

I still have the letter he wrote to me after being accepting into primary teaching at university. He wrote how proud he was of the success I had in high school academically, in various extra curricular activities, sporting and socially, and how he admired the sister I was to my older disabled brother who passed away when I was 16, who he had also taught throughout his high schooling. He shared the same passion for the same football team as my brother, and I remember him wearing his ‘Saint Kilda’ tie to his funeral. Something my brother would have loved and another sign of his thoughtfulness. He also wrote, and I remember him constantly, passionately getting in front of the class, fists pumping and theatrically stating how it’s the ‘one percenters’ in life that count. When you think you have given it your all, give it that extra percent! How true his wisdom is.

What it means to be a teacher

Teaching in a class the other day these inspiring words came to me. The students were really not responding to me and I felt as though I had given it everything, but then I remembered the extra percent. I gave it one last burst of my energy and you know what, they responded to me. It was so rewarding and I am so thankful for the wisdom I had been given from my own teacher.

To be a teacher is to connect with children, be role models, allow them to trust you, be inspired by you, remind them to constantly look at things in a different way (whether it quite literally be by standing on desks), instill confidence in them, provide them a thirst for knowledge, equip them for life and most of all believe in themselves. Even though I may be on the other side of the world, my role, my responsibility, as a teacher does not change.

The last thing he wrote in his letter to me and something he proudly stated often, and something I will hold close as I teach tomorrow while my community back in Australia, his ex students, friends, family, and anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him say goodbye at his funeral, was that teaching is the best ‘job’ in the world. ‘O captain, my captain…’ (Dead Poets Society) how right he is. I can only aspire to be a great teacher as he was to me, and so many others. 

Sarah is an Australian primary school teacher who has recently made the move to the UK. She works for our Chelmsford branch. This is Sarah's debut blog and we look forward to her next one.

Tags: Sarah, Australian-trained, Chelmsford, supply, primary, teacher, reflections

Category: Australian Teachers

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