• For most of the year, it’s easy to take teachers for granted. (Digital Vision)
It’s back to school this week, and back to sanity for many parents. Ian Rose reflects on the thankless job of teachers managing classrooms of kids.
By
Ian Rose

1 Feb 2018 - 4:01 PM  UPDATED 1 Feb 2018 - 4:01 PM

Right about now, up and down the land, there is a spring in the heel of many a put-upon parent, their hearts singing hallelujahs.

 For, after forty long days (and with a six and an eight year-old to keep entertained and from maiming one another, you bet I was counting every one), the end of the summer holidays is here, and school is finally back in. Alice Cooper should write a song about it.

 This seems an opportune moment for us to tip our hats to teachers.

 For those of us who have struggled with our own kids over these holidays, how they do what they do is a mystery to stand beside the wonders of the universe.

 For those of us who have struggled with our own kids over these holidays, how they do what they do is a mystery to stand beside the wonders of the universe.

 My son, having reluctantly navigated his prep year, is entering grade one. His new teacher, Mrs W, will be expected to manage the needs of twenty-four five and six year-olds, of wildly varying levels of literacy, numeracy, emotional development and independence.

 Among them, there will be a few with one type of developmental disorder or another, maybe diagnosed, maybe not.

 My son has autism of the high-functioning kind, his behaviour not disruptive nor his needs special enough for the school to gain funding for an aid.

So Mrs W will have to devise strategies to support him, to learn, just as Mrs H from prep did before her, where and how to sit him to keep him engaged, when to access his “special interests” (currently spiders) to support his learning, and when gently to set them aside.

 I’ll try not to be one of those parents, the scourge of teachers everywhere, who micro-manage every stage of their precious offspring’s progress, who look to have a little chat every other day, just to raise a concern or two, or help out with a suggestion, but, hey, I’m only human.

 Chances are, years from now, I’ll have forgotten all about Mrs H and Mrs W. But my son never will.

 Just as I can still summon the face and voice of Mrs Cross (who never was), who convinced me that my comic-book series on Henry and his magic boogers (he could travel in time when he ate them) was just about the funniest thing she’d ever read, and Mr Cox, who helped me stand up to the bullies when I changed schools in grade three, so the teachers guiding him now will remain etched in his memory.

 And the memories of his classmates, not to mention those who came before them, and those to follow.

 That’s some responsibility.

 As far as I can tell, responsibility is something teachers take in their stride. They turn out for working bees, run after-school clubs, supervise excursions, all the while keeping a close eye on the delicate social dynamics that are as much a part of the learning as all of that reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.

 For some, though, all this responsibility, and the emotional pressures that come in its wake, take too heavy a toll.

 While the Australian Journal of Education has recently questioned claims that up to fifty per cent of Australian teachers are leaving the profession within their first five years on the job, attrition rates remain cause for concern.

 Especially as student numbers continue to grow.

For most of the year, it’s easy to take teachers for granted. This week, at least, let’s reflect on just where we’d be without them.

 For me, that’s exactly where I’ve been for much of these past forty days. Right on the edge, tether pulled taut to twanging.

 Mrs W and all – hats off, thank-you and hallelujah.

 

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