Reflections on Teaching

You know that old chestnut, ‘Those who can’t do, teach’?  It riles me. More than riles me; I feel the heat in my belly, even as I type.

But I have a confession: I used to think that way. When I completed my Bachelor of Arts, at age nineteen, I was loath to consider teaching. I was naïve and I thought I wanted a more glamorous vocation. It took years and life experience to recognise the flaws in my thinking. I do not have the temperament for those more glamorous occupations; I do not enjoy networking or ‘talking the talk’. I like to always be authentic and I’ve only recently realised that I was meant to be a teacher; that it makes me feel truly purposeful. Working in education is a great privilege and a wonderful pursuit for those who are fascinated by the human condition. Writers and teachers have a lot in common. They have to have a lot in common to be good at what they do.

Teaching is an exercise in improvisation because human behaviour is unpredictable and learning psychology is nuanced and complex. For all the lesson planning and forethought, you’re dealing with small humans and anything can happen. You must be skilled in the art of humanity to tune in to the mood and engagement level of your little learners. I don’t always do it well, but sometimes I do, and when the planets align, and small people are learning, it’s hard to believe I get paid to do what I do (when I collapse in my bed at 7pm, I remember why…).

Primary school teachers need to be generalists. They need to facilitate learning in English (grammar, semantics, comprehension, writing, spelling, reading), mathematics, science, technology, arts, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social skills, emotional skills. But they also act in loco parentis, managing behaviour, emotions and classroom dynamics. They’ll purchase clothes and food where necessary; even provide shampoo and a hot shower if need be. It’s not just a job.

I was raised by teachers. I work amongst them. And I know a secret: good teachers, are a special and unique breed. I’m not even half the teacher I want to be: it takes time, and endless reflection and professional learning, but I think I’ve got the makings, and it’s where I want to direct my energies for a while. So, my blog posts might be few and far between, and I imagine I’ll churn out fewer short stories, but Passion No.2 deserves a guernsey. Don’t get me wrong, I will continue writing, but it will probably be quietly, behind the scenes, without very much engagement in the online world. It’s where I’m at right now, but maybe over the school holidays I’ll have more opportunities to read blogs and pop in to Twitter and Facebook. Thank you to the Perth writing community (especially Louise Allan, Emily Paull, Glen Hunting, Amanda Curtin, Annabel Smith, Susan Midalia, Marlish Glorie, Richard Rossiter, Natasha Lester and Dawn Barker) who have always made me feel so at home.

6 thoughts on “Reflections on Teaching

  1. You’re a dedicated teacher, Kristen, and a good mother, too—that’s two full-time occupations already! ‘The Quickening’ can wait, but your family can’t. As I’ve had to tell myself often, there is no hurry. I look forward to continuing our friendship in whatever capacity that is.

  2. Thanks for this post and the lovely acknowledgement, Kristen. I have always, always considered primary school teaching as being that of a HIGH OCTANE OCCUPATION! So much energy and patience is required. And seems like teachers are always “oh show” i.e. always attending to someone’s needs. Always having to appear in control, and to having the answer for everything! And in a way, I don’t believe you’ve chosen teaching over writing, as your teaching experiences will feed into your writing. One day, I know, I’m going to be reading an amazing novel about a child, or children, and which has been written by former teacher — Kristen Levitzke.

  3. Teachers are important and special people, and were the reason I loved school and books and writing. You are one of those special teachers who inspired children like me. What you do is important. Lots of love.

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