This week, a colleague asked a good question: Why do you work here? In this school? Let’s say you take the ‘get paid’ part for granted so … why here?
Very briefly – our school is a Big Picture school. Personalised, interest-based, project-based learning with solid pastoral support in small classes called Advisories. Some of you (would) absolutely love the approach, some would be aghast. That’s perfectly fine.
We are in the third poorest suburb of the whole metro area (no, wait, ‘low SES’). We are a ‘hard to staff’ school. We get kids we can’t say no to. Name a social problem we (probably) have it. Ours is half social work, half what would folks in other parts of town call education. And yes, we also do some pretty cool and meaningful stuff with our kids. Dedicated staff and leadership, no question about it there.
Recently on Twitter, there has been a bit of an explosion of ‘memes’ about how everything we do, and should do, as educators is for children. How we are there for children before anything else. How we should ‘forget our comforts and be there for the kids’. Well, yeah, like my colleagues I went into teaching for the money, fame, bossing people around and not giving a damn about them little ones.
So … why do I work here?
Yes, I like aspects of Big Picture … but it ain’t something to get out of bed for. “In education, everything works somewhere, nothing works everywhere. Context matters the most.” (thanks Dylan William)
Yes, of course I care about the kids, sometimes too much and at the expense of my own sanity. We all do that, a bit of what Brookfield called ‘self-laceration’ is a given, especially in a school like ours. Shoot me but … that’s not who I mostly turn up for work for every morning. Kids come and go, steady stream of them.
I looked around the staffroom at second break today. Friday, only week two of term 3. People’s faces drained. Tired from juggling so many balls, dealing with so many issues, teenage dramas, parent screw ups, ethical dilemmas, not to mention the ‘small shit’, as my colleague put it today, of procedures, forms, network issues, phone calls, PD etc.
This is who I turn up for. My colleagues.
The people who have my back and I will have theirs, any time of day. The people whose work is a constant struggle to be ‘good enough’, endlessly complicated by things we can’t even know or articulate and the ‘small shit’. We share the tough times. We bitch, we moan, we sigh but we also laugh, share, wonder and pull together, cover for and support each other.
I’ve never been a fan of education ‘for oneself’. Despite all our differences in our teaching philosophies, backgrounds, political persuasions and more, we, the staff, are a shinning example of a collective that educates, works and learns for ‘the other’.
I hope some of it rubs off on the kids we work with. It if does – we have done our biggest job.