'Great pay and 12 weeks holiday.' An open letter about what a teacher really does in a day.

Dear Diary,

I made the mistake of reading the news online this morning, an article about teachers caught my eye. Then I read the comments. Depressing!

Twelve weeks holiday. Great pay. Start at nine, knock off at three. What’s so hard? Toughen up. Quit being so damn wimpy!

I wanted to reply but didn’t have time, had to get into school.

I met with Gideon’s folks before eight this morning. He’s my student with ASD. They’re worried about him – he’s not making friends, doesn’t have the skills. We spent an hour in discussions and ended up agreeing that a ‘social development plan’ would be the best way forward. His mum was frustrated. They have NDIS funding that could pay for someone to create this plan and implement it – but NDIS money can’t be spent ‘at school’. As it is, Gideon’s school funding allocation is already stretched. Have to meet with Mum again tomorrow after school to start drafting the plan. Must remember to email Gideon’s speech pathologist before then.

Little Miss Eleanor came in late to class this morning, disrupted a very focused writing lesson. Proudly announced Mum had had the babies! Eleanor showed us pictures and Dad cornered me, recounting the excitement of the past few hours. The class started talking about twins; “how do you make two babies at once, Ms Stroud?!” Eleanor’s dad launched into a speech on splitting eggs and DNA. My entire writing lesson was derailed, which isn’t a problem but tomorrow there’s going to be a bit of pressure. The students have to produce that sample for assessment before the week’s out.

Watch: Teachers translated. Post continues after video.

Anyway, I’m glad we took that moment to celebrate Eleanor and her bubble of joy. At recess there was a call, one twin was struggling – Mum and bubs were being airlifted. Dad was coming to collect Eleanor. I was to find her on the playground, wait with her in the office and prepare her for the news. How do you burst a bubble of joy? How do you reassure a child without making promises you can’t honour? Oh and the way she looked at me. Will mummy be alright, Ms Stroud?

I fumbled through the maths lesson. I’d meant to grab resources from the Maths cupboard at recess but didn’t get time; had to improvise with a packet of packet clips and shoelaces! I was starving and busting for the loo. I kept thinking of Eleanor and her family. It wasn’t my finest lesson. It took me ages to figure out why young Derrick’s answers were way off track – he’ll need a follow up lesson tomorrow.

At lunch I had my usual confrontation with Austin (that boy from Year 6). If he would just wear his hat my life would be so much simpler. Today he told me that I was discriminating against him, said I was anti-spiked hair – that I was hairist.

‘I’m pro-hair,’ I told him. ‘And I’m pro-baldness too. What I’m really fighting against is skin cancer, so if you could either put your hat on or sit in the shade area, I’d be grateful.’


‘But I can’t play cricket here in the shade,’ he said. ‘You’re anti-sport, aren’t you?’

It’s a circular argument that grew old two terms ago but I have to tread carefully. His parents came to see me last month. They suggested I was victimising their son. Victimising. Sometimes I wonder if I should get the number of a good lawyer.

Listen: Why Gabbie Stroud broke up with teaching. Post continues after audio.

I ate a quick lunch in front of the computer, documenting my exchange with Austin, creating a template for Gideon’s plan and uploading reminders about the excursion next week. I still need online permission responses from more than half the class.

After lunch I had a really powerful lesson planned. It’s part of a series of lessons that are about empowering kids to recognise when they’re feeling unsafe. I know I teach this lesson well, I’ve delivered it many times before.

‘Sometimes,’ I said gently to my students, ‘even people we know… and love… people we think we can trust… they can do things that make us feel unsafe.’ Their little faces were watching me so earnestly. ‘So that means that we really need to listen to our body and recognise when our body is telling us that we’re not safe.’

‘I always know if someone’s going to hurt me,’ Marty piped up. ‘I know who the baddies are.’

‘Really?’ I made a funny face and asked him to explain.

‘You gotta know what baddies look like. Baddies wear black capes and they have black masks over their eyes.’ He grinned at me. ‘I’ll never get hurt.’

His innocence and vulnerability was the perfect reminder of how critical this lesson is. I pressed on, detangling this idea of goodies and baddies and focusing the lesson on the early warning signs our body gives us.

And then Sadie said something that took the breath right from me.

‘Ms Stroud, I’ll tell ya what it feels like when someone does something wrong to you. It makes you feel gross.’

The way she said it, the way she looked at me – her chin jutting out, her eyes daring me to disagree and her voice – her little voice – edged with anger and disgust. I felt tears and nausea arrive at once. Had to remind myself that I was a teacher, that I couldn’t indulge every feeling.

Of course the bell went shortly after that and I was hustling everyone home and rushing off to staff meeting. But Sadie’s words are haunting me and I have to be in at school early tomorrow to meet with the Principal to discuss it all. I’ll keep busy until then – I’ve got Gideon’s plan to draft up and I need to email that speechy. There’s the never-diminishing pile of marking and the ever increasing pile of admin. Plus I need to prepare some work for Eleanor – last I heard, they’d be in Sydney for a while. And I suppose if I find myself at a complete loose end, I can always work on toughening up – quit being so damn wimpy.

Read more from Gabbie Stroud:

“It’s not a school’s job to teach your children resilience. Teachers are busy enough already.”

‘The frustrating moment when I knew I had to give up on teaching.’

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