parents

An ode to kindergarten teachers, who change the world one child at a time.

“Mummy, you can talk if you put your hand up but you have to listen”.

That was the earnest advice my five year old shared as I scooted out the door last night. I was enroute to her kindergarten class for an information night with her teacher and her classmates’ parents.

I sat in her colourful classroom, at her little desk, in a teeny tiny chair, not ideal for a fully grown adult (let alone a fully grown adult sporting a 32-week bump), transfixed.

Despite having started school just three days earlier the classroom walls were already decorated with photos and artwork the kids had made. Each of the students had made a start in the little work books they will spend the year filling out.

As I took all of this in, I hung off her teacher’s every word.

As she spoke about everything from readers to the class mascot to friendships to library books to drop offs to assemblies, my heart melted.

Her words were imbued with warmth, humour and passion. She fielded our various questions with patience and in each of her answers her sage wisdom about what school-starters want and need was patently obvious.

And when she explained why she wouldn’t dream of being anything other than a kindergarten teacher – with genuine delight? It was game over.

I realised I was observing that magical breed of teacher, the kind who changes lives. The kind of teacher who sparks imagination and connection. Who understands and appreciates five year olds. The kind of teacher who transfixes the little people in her midst and gives them the best possible start to their schooling lives.

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And I was overwhelmed with gratitude. By how lucky my five year old and her classmates are. By how lucky we are, as the parents of these children. By how lucky we are that in a big public primary school teachers like this exist.

Australia’s education system has its failings, there is no doubt about that. But even in a system that can be – and must be – improved, there are bright spots.

And they come in the form of brilliant teachers dotted around the country. They are rarely celebrated publicly because their achievements and contributions are hidden in classrooms, but they are public heroes. National treasures.

If you were lucky enough to be taught by one, you will understand this. If your child or your niece or nephew or godchild is lucky enough to be taught by one, you will understand this.

In my daughter’s kindy teacher I recognised my own from a public primary school in northern NSW almost three decades ago. I was lucky enough to be taught by an experienced, delightful woman whom I adored and can still readily recall.

These magical teachers deserve our admiration, our gratitude and our respect because their capacity for changing lives is endless. They work for love – not money – in an overloaded, under resourced system to make our kids lives – and our future – better.

To kindergarten teachers around Australia, thank you. You are changing the world, one child at a time.

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