All too often, school staffroom banter consists of comments made by well-meaning staff wishing away those exact people whose job it is for us to serve. That one kid who, without which, your class would be perfect. That other kid, who’s “a waste of space”. Those parents who do Nothing (capital N purposefully added) to support your teaching efforts, or, worse still, actively derail them.
But do these educators ever stop to remind themselves that without these selfsame students and their families, we’d be out of a job!?
Those ratbag pupils and their annoying helicopter parents? They’re our clients. Because of them, we never get bored at work. Because of them, we are always motivated to research the latest best practice. Because of them, we gain a sense of purpose and fulfilment in our lives. Because of them, we can put food on the table. And because of that misbehaving, quirky little evil genius in the back row, we can never be replaced by robots.
But when do we ever hear of teachers giving thanks?
I think that much of teacher discontent, disenchantment and disillusionment stems from our own feelings of helplessness. And that comes about directly because of the way that students are seen as problems that need fixing. We put limits on their achievements, as well as our own.
Focusing on all of the negative aspects of our career, especially on the efforts you put into a labour of love that goes unrecognised and unappreciated, is draining.
If we shift our perspective from “helping” to “serving”, however, suddenly our role becomes renewing. We garner a newfound respect for the strengths that students already bring to the table. Through humility, compassion, and gratitude, we can help our clients to grow. To learn. To understand themselves. To find their way in the world.
Don’t get me wrong. Debriefing with your colleagues about the crazy things your kids did yesterday is important. Talking to someone who “gets it” is healing. It’s our own form of therapy.
What I propose, however, is that you every now and again remind yourself of what these kids also offer you. What they make possible.
For, sometimes, it’s only when you imagine what your life would be like without something, that you truly appreciate it for the precious gift that it is.
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