Five years ago, I had just finished my HSC, got that hard-earned ATAR and had been accepted into my dream course at university: teaching. People – including teachers – questioned why I wouldn’t pursue a higher-paid, more “noble” career in medicine or law, when I had the marks to be ‘so much more than a teacher.’
They failed to realise that it wasn’t my marks, the money or the status that made me passionate about teaching. There was a fire in my belly that many people take a lifetime of job-hopping to find. Teaching was what I was born to do.
While my four years at uni came with their own personal challenges, I flew through my degree with great marks, prestigious awards and offers for post-graduate study. Teaching was going to be a breeze – or so I thought.
In late December 2015, I was one of only 30 per cent of graduate teachers to be offered a permanent position in a government school straight out of uni. I was so grateful, knowing many teachers wait their whole careers for a look-in at permanency. I packed up everything I had and moved away from everyone I loved to start my career in the country.
I spent weeks categorising cool lesson ideas on Pinterest boards and meticulously cutting, pasting, folding and hanging classroom decorations. I spent hundreds of dollars from my casual summer job on books, pens, folders, scissors and glue. I moved the desks on my classroom about 12 times before a student even sat in them. I spent hours upon hours planning for the year ahead, completely overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of me.
By the time I started school, I was nervous, tired, but most of all, excited. I threw myself in the deep end and rode the high of first day adrenaline for as long as I possibly could.
I was the first to school and the last to leave, working more hours than I thought were humanly possible. I watched my colleagues in awe, trying to figure out how they managed to find time for a husband, wife or child, when I barely had time to keep a plant alive. I had nightmares about being late to class or letting my students down. I worked hard at building rapport with those around me and prided myself on flashy PowerPoints and home-made worksheets. I spent hours in airports, travelling to courses and conferences on a monthly basis, coming back to school filled with fresh ideas and grand plans for positive change. I was determined to make a difference. But it came at a cost.
I became so preoccupied with my job that I forgot to look after myself.
I didn't have any friends outside the gates of school. I often settled for a menial cup of tea for dinner because I had 'too much work to do' and 'didn't have time' to cook a proper meal. I passed up exercise/sunshine/contact with humans to type up programs and download resources. I couldn't watch a movie or read a book without deconstructing it. I couldn't look through Instagram without screenshotting lesson ideas, or scroll through Facebook without seeing posts that reminded me of my students.