Do we need a variety of teaching experiences?

I’ve only ever taught in one school. A public school. And that school is in a middle class part of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. In fact, about 95% of Sydney’s Northern Beaches is middle class. The kids aren’t rich but most of them don’t struggle. My school is a wonderful place to work. It’s a community school where students come to spend time with people they enjoy spending time with – their friends and their teachers. The students wear their uniform correctly, have access to technology at home and in their pockets. Most of them have two parents that love them and care for them, even if they’re not always under the one roof. Quite a lot of them wish to go to university when they finish school.

This is my eighth year at the same school.

Yesterday whilst I was training after school with our teacher fitness group (our instructor is another teacher and she trains us for free – we teachers are not affluent) some of my colleagues were talking about other schools they have taught at. Their stories were full of unruly students, frightening encounters with parents, lessons solely focused on behaviour management and sad stories of poverty and neglect. I didn’t have any story to contribute. I just listened. They told of how teaching in other schools – in ‘real’ schools – had shaped how they taught. They told of how they appreciated the safety and calm of our school. They told of how hard it is out there for a lot of teachers, working in environments where learning isn’t a priority for a lot of students and their parents. I just listened.

Driving home – exhausted from running up and down stairs and boxing above my head – I started feel guilty for having not experienced a ‘real’ school. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are tough students at all schools, there are troublesome parents and students who are quietly suffering from difficult family lives. But that’s not the majority and these situations resolve quickly in most cases.

So who am I to write this blog and profess to know what works in schools? I can’t. Who am I to visit schools and present on how to teach English? I’m no one. I guess you’d call this a crisis of conscience. I feel guilty for my lack of experience and I do hope that confessing this will mean no one reads this blog as being written by someone with an answer to anything. I do hope no one has ever read it as that anyway, haha … all this blog aims to be is the reflections of a kid from the beaches working out how to teach her classes as best she can.

These are the ramblings of a teacher working in a beautiful school full of beautiful teachers and beautiful students. They don’t wanna learn all of the time, but they do know learning is good for them. That goes for the beautiful students and the beautiful teachers.

I dunno … do we need a variety of teaching experiences?

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4 thoughts on “Do we need a variety of teaching experiences?

  1. It’s all about context, right? Don’t we teach the kids how important context is? Every little bit of learning we do as teachers is always filtered through the “Would this work in my context?” question. I too am in a pretty different situation – a public, boys, regional boarding school. No other one like it in the country!!!

  2. Such honesty is usually cathartic for the soul. A crisis point is sometimes a catalyst for change. My teaching experiences at difficult schools definitely has shaped my life experience. It can be extremely rewarding and soul destroying at the same time.

    Your mark on the students you have taught is important and you must still ask yourself does it matter which students we touch? In our Aussie education thinking all students are entitled to a good education.

    All the best in your hard thinking. Kathryn

  3. Hi Bianca, I do teach at a tough school (for 20 years) and before that I taught at an easier school (for 12 years). How tough or easy it is doesn’t change our focus – engaging our kids in the joy of learning and providing them with an education that shapes them into the wonderful citizens they have the power to be. We may need to use different methods but our goals are the same, and your contributions through the blog inspire thinking – I always get things to think about when I read your blog and as misschop says, we filter the ideas through our own contexts and tweak them to work for us. That’s why the conversation continues!

    • Hi Lyn,
      I like your response. I think possibly with easier schools, teachers have the luxury of teaching content and skills, whereas in tougher schools, they get to teach more holistically in some ways, producing, as you say, ‘citizens’. In affluent areas, the ‘citizen’ bit seems to be mostly taken care of. In tougher schools, behaviour modelling, habit changing, and helping young human beings on the path to self fulfilment and improvement are part of the education process. When I read Bianca’s blog I think of all the potential for teaching in a semi-perfect world.

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