A Teacher’s Story

In this guest post, Michael Graffin , a young Australian teacher, shares his story…

A life journey begins …

About seven years ago, I was the Year 12 Academic Dux of my school, and I had no idea about what I wanted to do with my life. My teachers wanted me to become an engineer. My parents thought I’d make a good teacher.

My journey began as a work-experience student at my local primary school, where an encounter with one particular child would change the course of my life. This child wasn’t the nicest, brightest or most well-behaved kid in the class. He was small, academically weak, and not particularly well-behaved. Unfortunately, his teacher’s management approach consisted of yelling and sending him to time-out in the storage alcove at the back of the class, his “second home”.

Even then, this struck a nerve; and I made a point of working with this kid in his little time-out space. To this day, I’ll never forget the look in his eyes as I helped him with his maths. At that point, I knew: I was going into teaching to help those troubled children who other teachers had given up on.

I was only 17, and I was going to be a teacher. Little did I know …

I excelled in my university studies, yet I entered teaching ill-equipped to cope with the practical realities of teaching. While I took steps to rectify my glaring weaknesses, more than anyone will ever know, I spent my first year and a half of teaching feeling disillusioned, bitter, incompetent and isolated.

Things got better …

I was a relief  teacher – free to learn from my mistakes, develop my classroom management skills, and take risks in my teaching. It wasn’t an easy road – I got knocked around on many occasions, but I came to appreciate the opportunity to observe and reflect on experienced teachers’ practice in different schools.

But they haven’t always gone to plan …

I was appointed to my very first class – without warning, on the first day of the 2011 school year. Sadly, the position lasted a mere six days. There was a staffing reallocation, and my class, ‘Room 11’, was no more. My students were split up, and I was moved into a temporary, eclectic teaching and support role.

It took me a long time to recover from this crushing disappointment, but I became a stronger, more mature teacher for the experience. I may not have had my ‘own’ class, but for the first time in my life, I felt like a teacher. I had my staff badge, my own keys, and the freedom to quietly experiment with ICT. I wasn’t an outsider. I was part of a community.

I’ve learnt and been through so much, and I’m moving on …

My journey wasn’t meant to be easy. It’s been one wild ride. Yet, with the grace of God, I’m still here. I’m not quitting. Why should I?  My experiences have helped me better appreciate my family and my PLN (Personal Learning Network).

Now, after rediscovering my passion for teaching, I take a great deal of comfort from @coolcatteacher’s recent reflections:  

The greatest teachers often have the greatest obstacles to overcome. The greatest shames … You don’t really see the pain. You don’t [see] the heartache …. as they experience their own humiliation and failure. They are there.  

I know.  I see it.  I feel it.  I refuse to believe it is all for nothing.

One day, I will teach a class of my own. For now, it’s time to move on.

Perhaps, one day, I will become a great teacher.  I certainly hope so.

Michael blogs at A Relief Teacher’s Journey.