Not About The Money

I lost my job yesterday. I work as a casual relief (substitute) teacher in a special education school. On Sunday, our state government announced that schools would be closed from Tuesday. It made sense. We were due to finish for two weeks of school holidays at the end of the week anyway so it’s only an extra four days. And I’d be happy to view it as that except that in the current environment, nobody actually knows how long this will last. Three weeks, six weeks, six months? It’s the unknown that gets to you.

Permanent and contracted staff will continue to be paid. Casual staff will not. I was booked in to replace a teacher for the whole week but that’s now ended. Should schools remain closed after the holidays, teachers will revert to the online provision of a program. How that works with high needs special education, I don’t know but what I do know is that online teaching will not require casual replacement teachers so there will be no work until the schools open again.

I’m luckier than others. I know that eventually, when this crisis is over, schools will reopen and my work will return. Others will not be so lucky as extended lockdowns send businesses to the wall. We’re also in a pretty solid financial position so we will survive the loss of income. I know I shouldn’t complain.

But here’s the thing – it’s not about the money.

I love my job. Work is my happy place. My students fill my heart and soul with joy and satisfaction. It’s the loss of this that has me feeling weighted down and my heart aching.

What will I miss?

I’ll miss

  • the utter joy on faces as I play my guitar and we bop along to Daydream Believer or Down On The Corner
  • the hysterical giggles when I sing all the funny voices for the different emotions in If You’re Happy and You Know it (angry and sad are favourites – that my students find my singing a song while crying as hilariously funny is slightly disturbing)
  • the literal tears of pride when a student achieves a learning goal for the first time
  • the cheeky and mischievous grins
  • finding that new way of doing something that means a student has a better day
  • the cheerful greetings as I walk around the school – as a CRT, all the kids know me and I know the name of every single one of them
  • working as a team with my Education Support co-workers, the true rockstars of special education
  • singing made up songs while pushing a swing to give a student with difficult behaviours a happy play time
  • all the feels – when my students are happy, sad, angry, upset, proud, unwell – they touch my heart so deeply

And I worry. I worry for the students for whom school is their safe space, the only place they receive what we call ‘unconditional regard’ and are nourished in body, mind and soul. I worry for the parents forced to give up work to care for their child every day and the financial impact of that and the lack of respite they will receive from the intensity it takes to care for a special needs child.

I know I am luckier than so many others but sometimes you just have to acknowledge that pain in your heart and what is causing it. I am grieving and the only thing that will fix it is a return to the job I love. It will come but it’s likely to be a long and challenging journey to get there.

How are you bearing up under the conditions imposed to combat COVID-19?

Stephen King quote on change

The No. 1 Buzzword Schools Love And Parents Hate

Is your child being bullied by other children? Your school has a fix for that. Is your child struggling to understand mathematics? Your school has an answer for that. Is your child having trouble getting along with the class teacher? Your school knows what’s wrong.

So what is this magical cure-all?

Resilience.

If your child is being bullied, they just need to be more resilient. If your child is having difficulties with mathematics, they just need to be more resilient. If your child is not coping with the class teacher, they just need to be more resilient.

Schools love to use resilience as an answer to anything. Yes, children need to learn to be resilient. Unfortunately, the true meaning of resilience has been lost in the easy fix-it of putting any problem back on the child.

These days, the use of resilience in schools has come to mean:

“I really don’t want to have to deal with those kids’ parents. Can’t your child just put up with it?”

“I really don’t have time to go over everything again. Can’t your child just work harder?”

“I really don’t want to adjust my teaching methods to suit your child. Can’t they just get along?”

When my eldest child was seven years old, I went to pick him up from school and a parent informed me there had been an incident during a Physical Education class and I should go and talk to the supervising teacher. Apparently my son had screamed and cried at a group of boys who had been teasing him about his skipping abilities.

The teacher’s advice? “He just needs to be more resilient.”

What this teacher didn’t know and obviously didn’t care about, was that my son had been subjected to teasing by these same boys every day for several months. We had not reported it to the school, preferring to work with him to help him navigate and deal with the situation. We knew he would encounter difficult people all his life and we were trying to teach him strategies. Clearly, on this day, he’d had enough. Who could blame him?

It always astounds me that the kind of treatment our schools expect small children to endure in the name of resilience, were that same treatment to be meted out to a teacher by colleagues, would result in disciplinary action against the perpetrators for harassment.

Too often schools seem to think that being resilient means a child should not feel anger, sadness or frustration. But that is not the meaning of resilience. Resilience does not mean that we do not suffer hurt, confusion or doubt as a result of a situation. What it does mean is that we go on and try again, even when we do.

“Why do we fall down, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”  – Alfred, Batman Begins

A resilient child gets up and goes to school each day even while knowing they will be teased. A resilient child sits down to do their mathematics homework even while knowing that it will be difficult. A resilient child continues to try and communicate with the class teacher even while knowing they will not be understood.

I look at my eldest son now, ten years later, and I see a young man who loves school and has a large circle of friends. Has he got to this place by compromising who he is? By hiding his true self so as to fit in? By ignoring his feelings? No. He is still the same beautiful, quirky, sensitive soul he was when he was seven. He has just given the world time to recognise that and accept it.

That is resilience.

Resilience

 

 

HOME button Able Theme small