I’m not sure why I wanna write this post, or what good it’s going to do for anyone once it’s written. I guess I’ve just always seen this space as a place where I can reflect on things, share my confusion, or just say stuff that I’m feeling, or I’ve experienced. These things are nearly always related to my job – being an English teacher – and I think this post is too. Just, it’s different.
I feel the need to write something about Stephanie Scott. I’ve typed that name into Google about 15 times in the last few days. Her death feels like it’s personal to me, in a way that goes far beyond the usual voyeurism of media drenched tragedy. I tell myself it’s because she was a teacher, and we teachers are like a secret society who sometimes have falling outs, but who always band together. I tell myself it’s because she taught the same subjects as me – English and Drama (although admittedly I haven’t taught Drama since I was 26… the age she was when she was killed) – and that makes me feel even closer to her, even though (of course), I didn’t know her. We English teachers in NSW – yes, the state matters – are a tight crew with some magical, intangible connectedness… is it Belonging that did that to us? I don’t know, it seems silly to say it but it kinda makes sense. The ETA Facebook page has had a number of tribute posts for Stephanie, with so many responses… a Dickinson poem that just really was beautiful. And then there’s the fact that she was a young woman… and it feels like that’s the biggest reason I’m feeling this cos it holds the other two reasons together in my experience.
This post has no direction, as my grief for a woman I didn’t know has no direction. I feel false to use the word grief because it’s too personal, too intimate, but I don’t know how else to describe this constant like, erm, bleakness that I’ve been carrying with me since news of her death broke. I remember being 26 and being a newish teacher (at 26 she had more teaching experience than me, as I only started teaching at 25) and just finding it exhilarating and overwhelming and always being ‘on’ – never not thinking about my classes and stuff. She was like that too, because you have to be when you’re a young female English teacher. It’s all consuming and so emotional that you can’t explain it to anyone – maybe only other young female English teachers. It’s that commitment to her craft that saw her at work on a Sunday. It just crushes me to think beyond that. So, yeah.
I don’t know how I can help Stephanie’s colleagues cope with their loss. I’ve heard about the put a dress out idea which is beautiful, and the books idea too. I think I’ll send some books. I thought maybe I could send copies of the books I’ve written, or offer some professional learning to the staff – how fucking lame is that? I just feel completely useless. So instead, I wrote this. It’s not for her colleagues – cos just like with Stephanie, I don’t know them, but my god I feel helpless for them and their deep grief and shock – it’s for my messy brain, and perhaps just to say to any teacher reading this that we need to stick together, and just acknowledge that we’re all here and working and it’s OK to be overwhelmed and sad and scared when shit is shit. I’m especially concerned for the female teachers who, like me, might be feeling less confident, less safe and just a bit lost. I keep thinking about how trusting I’ve been, (and why shouldn’t I?) with strangers or casual acquaintances within my workplace and begin to doubt myself and my choices. And I get angry. Very. Angry. So anyway. We shouldn’t need to be and I just feel pissed that a young educator has been taken from us. One of us – an English teacher. She was one of us… and it’s shit and I just wanted to say that because it’s affected me. My thoughts continue to be with her family, friends, colleagues, and students but they’re also with my fellow teachers. Stand together and strong. Please.