Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire – William Butler Yeats
I have been feeling teary all day today. Yesterday the Principal at my son’s school (who was also his infants teacher for his first three years at school) announced that she will be retiring at the end of the year. I must have looked stricken because she rang me last night and left a message asking if I was ok, and came over to my house this morning to have a chat with me before school started. See? I’m getting teary again.
Not only has she been a fabulous teacher and a dedicated, capable Principal, she has also been a seemingly never ending font of patience, kindness, wisdom and humour for me personally, as well as the staff, members of the P&C and school community. To say she will be sorely missed is an understatement.
When I think back on it, Heather is just the latest in a long line of wonderful, dedicated teachers who have made a difference in my life. Mr Foster was my teacher from 3rd class to 6th class. He was kind and encouraging and endlessly patient. I cried when he left too, and refused to give the new teacher the time of day. Stupidly loyal; that’s me
In High School, I loved all of my English and History teachers – Mr Argue, Mr Pankhurst and Mr Carline. Mr Argue was (and possibly still is) the singularly most patient man I have ever met. He singled me out for special attention when I was in Year 9, got me to read classics like Catcher in the Rye, and then took the time to discuss them with me. My love of classic literature was born right there; a love affair still alive to this day. Mr Carline had a neatly trimmed white beard, an infectious laugh and rode a big BMW road bike. He teased me about my name, calling me Sarah-Sara; when I came first in Year 10 English, he said that it was about time someone who deserved it came first. Mr Pankhurst told my mother at a Parent/Teacher night that I was such a talented writer he would like to show his writing to me. He never did – but wow, what praise!
How do I thank these wonderful teachers? They were not my friends or my family – so when they paid attention and encouraged me it seemed to mean more. Every time I back myself, every time I follow my dreams, every time I write a blog or finish an assignment or write a report – that is my way of saying thank you, thank you for believing in me
I didn’t go to an expensive private school, just my local public school. The quality of the school and the education it provides does not necessarily increase with the amount that you pay for it. Any third world country can create an educated elite – it is the measure of a truly advanced society that can educate its entire population. Public Schools do that.
To go all political for a moment, our State Government has announced massive cuts to education – 1.7 billion dollars worth. I don’t even want to go into what kind of government takes money out of education. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Of particular concern is the increased vulnerability of our tiny rural school in the hands of a government in a cost-cutting mood. In the balance ledger they call their brain, it would be cheaper to send 20 students into the large primary school in our nearest town than to keep running a marginal school.
But at what cost to the community? The school brings young families to the area and keeps them here when times are hard – because as we all know, good schools are hard to find. The Bear and I have thought many times of leaving, but we stay because of the school where our son does well and is so nurtured. But if you take the school away, what do you have left? Nothing worth staying for, that’s what.
To be fair, this is all conjecture; just possibilities rattling around in my brain. Still, before it’s too late, I wanted to write this as a big thank you to all the great teachers in my life. If you are a young teacher just starting out and wondering what the hell you have got yourself into, know that you have the potential to play a big part in the inspiration of your students. I hope you stick with it, because the world needs good teachers – always has, and always will.
So, what about the teachers in your life? Who are the ones that stay with you?