Friday, 7 October 2016

On Being a Teacher

Despite presently being employed in a teaching post, teaching was never, not even remotely, on my radar as a career option while I was growing up. Being an underpaid civil servant did not seem like an appealing, or smart, occupation.

In some ways I was right. Teachers are taken advantage of, constantly exhausted, under valued by the institutions, parents and students, and paid not nearly enough for the incredible impact they should - and do - make. I was also wrong. Teaching, it appears, is not an occupation at all. For most it isn't even a choice. It's a calling that, sooner or later, if it is yours, catches up with you.

For me, the first signs came in my final year of university while completing my Sport Science degree. We had to do a teaching module as part of our course. I realised then already that teaching comes in many forms (including parenting). At the end of the course my lecturer came to me and said, "Mej. Hendricks. Hoekom swat jy nie onderwys nie?" (translation: Ms. Hendricks. Why don't you study teaching?) I looked at him as though he was mad, and in no uncertain terms told him that was not something I ever wanted to do. He smiled at me in all his wisdom and said, "wag net. Jy gaan 'n onderwyseress wees" (translation: just wait and see. You're going to be a teacher one day). I was horrified, but because I liked him, I smiled and thanked him before walking away.

Less than three years thereafter I found myself lecturing sport science, and little over that years after that, while pregnant with Zac, I was making it official by studying for a teaching degree. I have no idea what happened, I just knew it was something I had to do. Like it had been part of me all along.

This week we celebrated World Teachers' Day. And while I may not be comfortable in my own teacher identity (let's be honest: when you're the PE teacher, it doesn't matter your qualification/s, everyone still think you're just a avid sportsperson), I am so very grateful for all of mine. I could not put into words all that I have learnt from them over the years. They have challenged, guided, inspired and pushed me. In many ways, they are responsible for a large part of who I am.

I feel like I never thanked them enough. It's not that I wasn't aware at the time. Perhaps I just didn't realise then how much time, dedication and effort they were putting in outside of the hours I was seeing them. I know now that they must have sacrificed being a soccer mom/dad to attend school sports; missed out on time with their families while they were finishing marking scripts or preparing a lesson; relied on their spouses to do another solo night so that they could attend school functions. And yet they were still able to make me feel like my education - and I (as a person) - was an important part of their lives.

Teachers need to be celebrated! They are responsible for encouraging the questions of inquiring minds; for inspiring the dreams of entrepreneurs; for honing the skills of all professionals. They really have made all the other occupations possible.

I imagine that for many more years still, I will wonder what I'm doing in this profession. I'm a self-confessed process person - great with systems, less great with people. I have anxiety which means that I'm significantly affected by my emotions. I'm type A personality which means I need things to be done immediately, professionally and correctly. I'm in my mid-thirties which means I understand nothing - and probably disagree with everything - this generation of children are going through. And yet here I am. I have to believe, though, that this is part of the bigger picture; part of God's plan - not only for me, but in His revelation of Himself as well. And if I can impact one life, in even a small fraction of the way my life has been impacted by my teachers, I would have done something significant with mine.

To all teachers (read: pastors, instructors, guides, mentors, parents and good friends): Thank you! xx

1 comment: