People move in and out of our lives. Some stay a long time, others drift in, and stay just long enough to get to know us, before drifting out again. But it is the people who inspire us, regardless of how long they stay, that make the biggest impact. It doesn’t matter how you define inspiration, it’s what it does for us that matters.
And speaking of definitions, Inspiration is defined as: “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. Or, it can be “a sudden brilliant or timely idea”. R Kay Green in the Huffington Post looks at inspiration in terms of: “… what inspires us most are ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. We appreciate when someone has the ability and willingness to be selfless, creative, innovative, or just dares to be different”. I can think of a lot of public figures who could make it onto the list of people who inspire us, but that’s another story, for another time.
Who Inspires Me?
If daring to be different defines a person as inspiring, then all of the students I taught, qualify. My students were different, and yet the same as any other child. Different, because each had a disability that might have made them look or act a little different. The same, because they, like all kids, wanted to learn, and enjoy life. They inspired me every time they achieved a goal that the rest of us take for granted. For them, most things required a lot more effort and perseverence. I was, and still am very proud of them all.
And if ordinary people, doing extraordinary things fits the definition of inspiration, then the teachers I worked with are my inspirational heroes. Anyone who says that teachers only work from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon, has never known a teacher. Just ask the family of a teacher – they’ll tell you. When most of us have settled down at night to watch our favourite show on television, teachers are marking papers from the day’s lessons. When we decide it’s time for bed, teachers are planning the next day’s lessons. And they do it because they love what they do – providing quality education for the next generation, to prepare them for life. They want the best for every child.
From Beach to Bush
Some of the hardest working teachers I know are the ones who gave up the comfort of city-life and headed to the country.
Teachers in schools in Central Queensland, and beyond, may have given up their city-living comforts, but they gained so much more in return. When teachers choose to teach in schools away from cities, they become part of a larger family, they endure, and give all they have to the community. And after three years, if they haven’t met the love of their life (a lot of them do), they return to the city, and are never the same again. They have a maturity and ‘can-do’ attitude that is hard to beat.
In that small country town, there was no office-supply store at the end of the street, or department store on the corner; resources were made out of whatever was available. Teachers shared what they had, and gave moral support at times when immediate family was needed, but was not there. They took care of each other. And they made friendships that would last a lifetime.
Some Teachers Never Went Back
Of course, there can be an added bonus for heading out west. Many of the single teachers who left the city – found love in the bush – usually in the form of a single farmer or fellow-teacher. They may have driven into the country town, unattached, but certainly didn’t return to city life, unattached. And for the ones who met and married farmers?, well, that country town adopted a new family, and they are still there, raising children of their own.
But most of all, teachers worked tirelessly for every student they taught. I’m not saying that city teachers don’t work hard, they do, but country teachers seem to do more because of the isolation and because they are so much a part of the community. Teachers become a central part of the town they choose to call home, even if only for a few years.
- at the football game on Saturday afternoon cheering on the local team, especially the junior teams
- training students for the Opti-minds competition during lunch breaks
- driving students to the Opti-minds competition on a Sunday in August – leaving town before daylight for the two-hour drive
- with the students all day at the Opti-minds competition – encouraging and supporting them
- at the annual Coal Festival, manning the food stall – or with the kids, on the back of the decorated truck (don’t even ask about Risk Assessment!; it’s all good – trust me)
- supervising Homework Club, and tutoring, after school
- teaching photography classes after school, and supervising the Disco night
- at the local campdraft or river festival – helping out and cheering on the participants
- in front of the grocery store on Saturday morning, selling cakes they’ve baked, to raise money for a local cause or the Coal Festival Entrant
- at every fundraising event held by the Parents & Citizens Association
- communicating with parents
- at school on weekends to prepare for the coming week, and planning lessons late at night
- missing family and friends in the city, but still giving everything they have to their new community
- busy making new friends, and being part of a much bigger family
- learning from each other
And Inspiration Is?
The country-service teachers I worked with who immersed themselves in the community; gave so much of themselves; made the country their home for three years or more, and changed the lives of so many people.
When I think back over my long life, I can think of moments of inspiration. Sometimes, the inspiration was the student standing in front of me, who had just achieved what we didn’t think they would. But mostly, inspiration was reflected in the eyes of the teachers who called Central Queensland their home. They were the ordinary people who did extraordinary things.