It’s 8:35 pm. I’ve just turned the final page of a book that everyone in education needs to know about, Teacher by Gabbie Stroud.
Usually I plod through non-fiction at a snail’s pace. Yet it was only three days ago that I bought the last copy at our local bookshop – a record breaking pace matched only when my fictional friends Harry Potter or Louisa Clark are nearby.
Teacher: One woman’s struggle to keep the heart in teaching is Gabbie’s story of a career she adored. From uni days thirsty for knowledge, to wobbly first steps in the classroom, as well as her very last, Gabbie shares a relatable and honest narrative of what life is like as an educator in today’s schools.
There are so many balls to juggle. Supporting children’s academic progress while nurturing the whole child. Being there for every student despite Warren demanding every ounce of energy. Giving your all to the job but also caring for your own children.
And of course there’s the more pressing juggling act, balancing what we know children need versus what the system asks of us.
In this passage from the book (page 250 & 251), Gabbie shares a magical year where she devoted time to the important things:
“I let myself fall deeply in love with my teaching, carving out time for the things I knew to be beneficial. I read to the children every day with funny voices – sometimes for half an hour or more. It was as though I was casting a spell on them, bewitching them not only with stories but with my voice, my eyes, my passion. I watched as they grew still, became entranced, and forgot about the world around them. We ventured together into dark, dark rooms, met hippos on roofs, danced like wild things, found magic for possums and took tea with tigers.
We started going outside more often, looking for maths in the real world and becoming curious about things like dripping taps and the length of shadows and the height of trees and the number of bricks it might have taken to build the walls of our classroom. We used chalk on concrete and put water in buckets and carried clipboards wand worked with pencils tucked behind our ears.
When a parent knocked on my door and suggested she bring in some baby chickens that had recently hatched, I smiled and said, Yes! And when a child asked if he could bring his puppy in to show the class I said, I can’t wait! And when another child brought in a book that she has read at home and handed it to me saying, I think our class might like this, I dropped whatever I was doing and sat the children down to read. I sensed with a deep, marrow-knowing understanding that the most important thing I could do for these children was to leave room for them. For their stories. For their lives. For their chooks.
This is the magnificence of teaching. And we’re losing it in exchange for standardised testing, grading, professional standards and endless new hoops imposed by those who have never known what it is to be a teacher.
Gabbie Stroud said “I can’t do this anymore”.
How many brilliant educators are we going to lose before things change? Our children deserve an education with room for them.