When I Grow up I want to be……

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It only feels like yesterday I was sitting on the carpet of 1 Green’s floor in front of Mrs Brown listening to a story. I was 6 years old, as fresh as a daisy ready to embrace the world of learning. I was shy, reserved (I know shocking lol), apprehensive about what to expect. I cried from one day to the next when mum dropped me off, for at least the first couple of weeks. Eventually I learnt to trust the situation I was in. I loved my teacher. I loved my friends and before long I loved school. That little shy, reserved 6 year, who would enjoy playing make-believe teachers always asked herself the question….when I grow up, what do I want to be? I remember saying a hairdresser, medical receptionist, a nurse and a teacher was commonly spoken about!

It seriously felt within a blink of an eye, I was being asked that very same question by my high school’s Guidance Officer! This time it wasn’t a hypothetical question. I had to respond. I had a Qtac form to fill out! It’s such a huge time of life completing high school and then being faced with the big bad world. Where to from there? It’s been 16 years now since I answered my Guidance Officer’s question. I didn’t originally put teaching first, I actually preferenced nursing first and it wasn’t until I changed my Qtac form to primary education before second round offers were handed out, that my teaching journey was to start!

Going from a year 12 student, where I was school captain, everyone knew me I knew everyone to a university campus with many different age groups of people, was so daunting to begin with, but I was lucky enough to have a few friends from high school studying the same degree, which helped with some of the nerves. The first semester was the hardest. Learning the way of university life. Learning the expectations of assignment writing, research techniques, exam procedures….it was a whole new world which became a part of my everyday life for the next four years! I remember stepping in a classroom for the first time. I was only to observe and I had butterflies. Then in my third year it was my turn to teach for the first time. I was up to my ears in lesson plans, resources and activities and I loved it all! It was in my third year where I sincerely knew I made the right decision to become a teacher!

My final year at Uni was brilliant! I loved every minute of it! As each month passed by, the puzzle to this big picture was closer to being complete! I had a fantastic experience for my final prac, which I believe was the making of the teacher that I became and still am to this day! And if I thought I had butterflies in my stomach when I first stepped into a classroom as an observing prac student, they were nothing like the night before my very first day of teaching! I hardly slept a wink! I couldn’t stop thinking about everything. What was my class going to be like? Will I be able to cope? Am I organised enough? My very first day of teaching was nothing short of fantastic!!!! I was finally doing what I loved. A teacher with my very own class….who to this day will always hold a special place in my heart!

That day was 12 years ago now! My gosh how things have changed since then. For the first four years of my career, teaching was my everything! I lived breathed and ate it every chance I got…I didn’t have a choice at first, that’s usually what happens when you first start a job! The students became like my own and I had such a wonderful relationship with my fellow staff members, admin, students and parents of the community! From year to year I built on my skills, confidence and ability as a teacher. I took on roles and responsibilities that suited my strengths and always loved the challenge! Then I bought a house, then I got married, then I had my first baby, then I had my second baby, which took me to 7 years of teaching!

Like I said I loved being a classroom teacher. I loved educating, helping and supporting kids and challenging and extending the gifted. The bond between a teacher and their students really is something so special and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to experience that time and time again. But at 7 years I was faced with teaching special ed. Like anything it was a bit daunting at first, but within a few weeks, I knew this would become my new passion. I was ready for my career to take a path change and the flexibility when having little ones at home yourself, really came in handy. In such a short space of time I went from a class special ed teacher to a TAEA which in plain English meant I was at a small school 2 days a week and ran their special ed program. This job was brilliant! It allowed me to challenge not only myself as a professional, but it has given me many leadership skills that I still use to this day. It also helped me in the next role that I took on which was a behaviour teacher.

Being a Behaviour Advisory Teacher (BAT – teachers called me Nat the Bat lol) gave me a great opportunity to experience a different field to special ed, although dealing with a lot of the behaviour was very similar, the processes of each job is quite different. In this role I was also given several opportunities to experience a Deputy Principal role which I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt at this point in my career I was at the crossroads of deciding what I wanted to pursue….a Head of Special ed role or a Deputy Principal role….then I fell pregnant with my Mimi girl! Didn’t this throw a spanner in the works. We were all but convinced that we weren’t able to have any more children due to a thyroid problem that I had, turns out once I had half my thyroid removed, that completely fixed any problems conceiving!!!

Something changed in me having my third baby. My whole perspective on life, my attitude, it just all changed. I know that being diagnosed with a heart condition while pregnant had a lot to do with this. My focus changed. I always loved being a mum and being a mum was the most important job, but once I became a mum of three it was my only role in my eyes! When I had to return to work after my third baby, after having 13 months off, I didn’t want to be there. I’d lost my ‘teaching’ focus, my passion went missing and I really didn’t see it coming back anytime soon! But then I was placed back in a special ed role, with wonderful people and although it took quite a few months, I eventually found my way back on the right track again!

I’ve been back to work for 12 months now and I’m happy to say that my passion for teaching and learning is as strong as it’s ever been. I absolutely love my special ed role. I’ve gone from a middle to upper school teacher to a prep/1/2 special ed teacher and no matter what I’ve experienced so far as a teacher, I’ve loved every minute of it. Like anything there has been many lows which I’ve reflected on and learnt from, but a mountain of highs that I’ve been able to share and celebrate with many. Am I still the same teacher I was 12 years ago, hell no way! I’ve grown up, I’ve become a mother! I still have the same beliefs and philosophy, but I’m more compassionate than ever, more patient then ever and I have a better understanding of children, their parents and the world in which they come from. So many people are still pondering and reluctant to finish the sentence – when I grow up I want to be…..I’m happy to say that I’ve made a great career choice in becoming a teacher and wouldn’t have it any other way!

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