The nurse hat is quite a varied one – it can also be highly entertaining. On Friday, two of my colleagues gave the Year 6 students the "Healthy Body Talk." They got to discuss puberty with the children and what was going to happen to them. Some of the children looked pale and nauseous, some couldn't stop giggling. One boy's eyes were watering. Some of the boys came back from their talk and looked at me and their eyes got VERY wide and I could just imagine the different things going through their mind! Funny, funny, funny. Aside from the entertainment factor, we are a plaster (band-aid) dispenser and offering to cut off bleeding toes and fingers, we need to know how to deal with a host of health issues, from anaphylaxis to epilepsy – don't forget the illnesses you can't see, like Autism and Asperger's or ADHD. Those children need a different kind of nursing. Please, let's just skim over the children who feel ill and vomit or the playground mishaps where we need to know first aid to fashion a quick sling with the handy triangular bandage. Yuck.
The harder hats entail much, much more. We need to be psychologists. We need to understand the development of the child's mind and the motivations behind their own actions and their interactions with their peers. Not easy. The social worker hat is also a challenging one. We are intent on helping children maintain or build friendships or trying to give them the tools and skills to succeed socially now and in the future. It actually does break our hearts when children are picked on, bullied or just don't have friends. We wonder why, we question what we have done that hasn't helped the child, we wonder what we can do to
help them. These questions rattle around and around in our brain. Mostly it's "What can I do?" I find these hats the hardest because they go a lot deeper than the day-to-day issues. Parents also turn to us in desperation to help their child when things just are not improving. The only thing more heartbreaking than a child who is at his wits' end is a parent who sits in front of me, crying, because their child is unhappy. I often go home after those meetings and cry my eyes out.
Each and every teacher is some sort of expert in a field… there are writers, mathematicians, athletes, artists, musicians, computer geeks, and architects to name a few. Most of those skills are needed on a near daily basis. Thank goodness teachers are excellent collaborators and will often happily lend a hand to a colleague.
All of the above is in addition to keeping up to date with pedagogical research and information, professional development to make ourselves better and better and better teachers, and staying abreast of the uses of technology to improve the programme of teaching and learning. Don't forget, we actually need to teach at the same time. We need to know that these children know their multiplication tables and several different strategies to figure out their tables; that they know the parts of a narrative and can use their words effectively for impact and effect; that they can use the different reading comprehension strategies to understand what they are reading… it goes on and on and on and on… but that's the easy stuff.
Now, this is not a woe-is-me, my-life-is-so-difficult as a teacher. It is more than simply a job (to me.) I genuinely love what I do. The children make me crazy and irritate me sometimes, but that doesn't mean that I don't adore them… and get a whole lot of love, affection, respect and admiration back from those children. I feel the same thing for them – they are quite lovely and I am quite lucky. This post, about teaching is simply what our jobs entail. I know we get the long vacations, but don't be a hater. We deserve it… even if we some people don't think we do, tough. We've got 'em!
I remember my Grade 8 teacher helping my friends and I sort out a particularly nasty long-running conflict after school one day. As an adult, that issue with my peers was neither here nor there to me, just part of growing up, but at the time it consumed me – it was my life. Looking back, I can see how it affected my academic performance and attention in class. As a teacher I now know how difficult it was for him to have to deal with. I am forever grateful to him and how he handled it. In my teaching career, I've drawn on that experience more than once to help my girls sort out their issues. I've been lucky enough to have some amazing teachers in my time, all the way from kindy to my post-grad in Montessori. Those teachers wore each and every hat they could and they inspired me. I have worked with people over my past ten years of teaching who are also inspiring, energetic, and just amazing.
So… Happy World Teachers' Day to all the amazing, inspiring, wonderful, many hat wearing teachers I know and have known. Thank you for all that you do.
(Is it just me, or does anyone else find it funny that "World" Teachers' Day is celebrated on different days in various countries??)