In 2014, Gabrielle Stroud was a dedicated teacher with over a decade of experience. Then the education model shifted, Naplan was rolled out and suddenly Gabrielle was prevented from doing the very thing she prided herself on: teaching children according to their individual needs, fostering their unique talents.
This a snapshot of her story.
After I returned from duty on the seniors’ playground, I was thinking about the incident I needed to document, the worksheet I forgot to photocopy, the lunch I’d need to make for Sarah. I was ignoring the weight in my chest, the feeling that my heart was bruised.
My students waited outside our door, but then there was a new drama because Allan lost his tooth – really lost it. It had fallen out and gone missing. A lost lost tooth. A great tragedy.
The children consoled Allan and admired his bloody mouth.
“Let’s have a look,” I said and I studied the red, gummy flesh of his mouth. I gave him a tissue and he sucked on it for a moment before revealing his mouth to me again. There was a perfect gap where the tooth had been. I could even see the tiny hole of the root. Allan’s face was sad. What good is it to lose a tooth and have nothing to show for it?
“I think you look so much older now you’ve lost a tooth,” I said, turning him slightly so his peers could confirm.
“You look like a old man,” Owen told him.
“A bit like a vampire,” another one said. “With all the blood.”
“I haven’t lost any teeth,” Olivia said miserably.
“Will the tooth fairy still bring me a coin?” Allan asked, his face pale and stressed.
“Yes,” I said. “This has happened before; the tooth fairy understands. But what we should do is write a letter to let the tooth fairy know about your tooth.”
At that moment I decided to abandon my Maths lesson. I moved to the computer and brought up a blank document and projected it onto the screen. Together, as a class, we wrote to the tooth fairy and explained all about the lost lost tooth.
“You should write: We don’t know if he swallowed it,” said Jock and I was surprised. Jock was yet to write a word for me. “Write that, Mrs Stroud. We don’t know if he swallowed it or dropped it.”
I typed their ideas and their words. It was new magic in my classroom and I saw the stress leave Allan’s face. Saw the engagement in my students’ eyes.
Gabbie speaks to Mia Freedman about falling out of love with teaching on No Filter: