Keep it in your backpack

When I was doing my teacher training one of the things which we worked on was the notion of a discursive backpack. It was the recognition that everything which we come into contact with is viewed through the eyes of someone with a particular set of experiences, and those experiences (or discourse) were the main contributors to the perceptions we have. Wordy and not very clear, but perhaps it will be shortly…

At the moment I feel like I am at a massive crossroads professionally. Do I head back into the classroom as a full time teacher of History and ICT, or do I keep pursuing higher duties appointments? I am really torn.

Writing applications for positions that you are not committed to can be one of the hardest things to do. Finding the words to sell yourself to people who may know you and have their own perceptions of who you are can be a challenge, and then there is having the confidence in your own abilities to back yourself for the position in the first place. I have been working with teachers for quite a while now and I am about to hit the 5 year teaching mark… the danger zone. I have not seen this level of dissatisfaction with teaching for many years, and it isn’t confined to one school, state or sector.

Teaching is hard. Really hard. Or is it?

I wonder if it isn’t the actual teaching part of the deal which is the undoing of many good teachers. Dealing with paperwork and compliance issues, meetings, parents, reports and the like can be draining and takes away from the positives which come. And if you think that the abusive parent phone call about a child is rare, trust me, it isn’t. I actually really enjoy content or work program creation – finding engaging ways to teach things to kids who probably don’t want to learn, and then working with the kids to find out new things, but this shouldn’t be made harder by the system which is designed to support me.

But back to my backpack.

I came to teaching as my second career from a background in sales and marketing. My cultural understanding of what it means to be a teacher was framed by the teachers I had and the teachers which my children had in their early years (when I made the big decision to never be a primary teacher after a couple of years of helping in the classroom). I didn’t have a real picture of what it was to be a teacher, I had an understanding that it probably wouldn’t be all holidays and excellent pay, but I honesty didn’t expect it to be what it actually is.

My transition from Sales Manager to Teacher was relatively easy, the organisational skills which I used back then, I use to keep control of all the other things. Dealing with difficult customers, was replaced by dealing with difficult parents, students, colleagues and support staff. There were some things which I had to let go of. Deadlines for example. Now, they are more like aspirational targets (anyone who has run reporting knows exactly what I am talking about). People not having the skill set which I feel that they should… they are challenges rather than obstacles. It is all about how you frame your position.

There are times when it is useful to consider the experiences (or complete lack thereof) someone has had prior to coming into teaching. And then there are times, when they need to remember that you are looking at something from a different perspective – and keep theirs in their backpack for another time.


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