I don’t remember what day it was when I sat outside the Principal’s office.
The door was closed so I still had time to decide if I would run, or stay. The choices were simple enough. But what was behind each choice, made it hard to decide. To run was to give up – but to stay was to commit to something bigger than I’d ever done before.
It started with a dream
When I was five years old I made a decision to be a teacher. It was a dream that would continue to haunt me.
I didn’t think of ambitions the way other girls did, switching from Air Hostess to Nurse on a whim. I just didn’t think about it at all. If I couldn’t be a teacher, I didn’t really want to be anything. And at that point in my life, becoming a teacher was a long way from my reality.
By the time Year 10 was drawing to a close, I knew what I didn’t want to do, but not what I wanted to do when I walked out the gate for the last time..
There were four logical options:
- working in a bank
- become a secretary
- finish senior school and go to University.
Nobody really talked about the fourth option. Besides, the nearest (Catholic) school that provided the last two years of secondary education was twenty miles away.
Nursing and banking were the most talked about options.
I didn’t want to do either – and I certainly couldn’t imagine being a secretary, cooped up in an office all day.
Leaving School was the only option
Tears flowed on the last day of that school year. We said our goodbyes and drifted apart.
I didn’t look back. And I didn’t look forward.
When I applied for a job in a local Department Store, the manager gave me a maths test. He commented on my quick responses, but the questions were just too easy. And I started work immediately.
Pretty soon I was promoted to the office. I was the newest employee and the youngest. My promotion upset a lot of older women. But I kept my head down and learned the new skills I needed.
And somewhere in that post-school year I met my future husband. He was in the Air Force. But what would you expect when you live in a military town?
He walked into my office one day and I immediately read the look of sadness on his face. He had been posted interstate. And they’d given him a little over a week to be there.
We got married in that week. I was eighteen and he was twenty. It all seemed perfectly normal to us.
Before we knew it, we were a family of four. I was twenty-one and was coping with a new baby and a two-year old. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t that hard either. I just did it.
When I look back I can see how I just took everything in my stride.
After four years interstate we were posted back to my home town. We worked hard and bought our first home just before our youngest child turned five.
The following year, my daughter would start the same school as her older brother. And the school was about a block and a half from our home.
I had no reason to be at home all day while my kids were at school. It didn’t make any sense. What would I do with myself all day?
The dream that had been cocooned all those years somewhere deep in my soul, started to emerge. Just little bits at first, you know – like ‘what-if’s’:
What if I could:
- go to College now?
- do my teacher-training?
- graduate as a teacher?
But the dream kept trailing off. There was always the But…
‘But, you need to finish secondary school to go to College’.
There was a night-class about fifteen miles away where I could finish those last two years of school. But how could I not be there for my family at night? That just wouldn’t work.
I was talking about the ‘but’s’ at my daughter’s Playgroup that week and someone asked why I wouldn’t just go to our local high school?
The Principal’s Office
Christmas came and went and the new school year began. I settled my son into his new school year and my daughter into her Kindergarten year.
As I sat outside the Principal’s office at my local high school that day, my future was in his hands. I thought about the commitment I needed if I was going to make this work. And I wondered if I had the strength to do it.
When I left home at eighteen there was no fear. I just did it. Even having children at such a young age didn’t scare me – I just did it.
So why was I so terrified now?
The door opened…
I could barely think of what to say, but somehow blurted out “I want to come back to school”.
Mr Pope obviously hadn’t had too many requests like that. In fact, he had to leave the room to make a phone call – and I suspect it was to District Office, seeking permission to enrol a twenty-six year old.
He finally returned, and he had good and bad news. I could enrol, but I would have to wear the school uniform and follow school-rules – including no jewellery. In hindsight, I think he used that as a possible deterrent. But it didn’t work.
On Monday morning I arrived at school in the regulatory uniform, as I did for the next two years. And I only wore my wedding ring on weekends and holidays.
Most teachers had no idea I was married.
I figured that out when one gave me a permission note for Sex Education. I explained that I probably didn’t need that class. She knew there was a married student on campus but she didn’t know it was me. I guess that’s because I looked more like a seventeen year old than a twenty-six year old.
At the end of the two years I bought a new dress for the Formal (Prom).
It marked the end of the struggle of juggling two jobs – supervising my kids homework, and then doing my own once the kids were tucked up in bed.
But it was mostly a celebration of my strength. I’d managed to hold down the two jobs – oh wait, make that three – I was a wife, too.
I knew by then that College was going to be a lot easier. For a start, I didn’t have to wear a uniform, I could wear my wedding ring everyday, and there were some days when I wouldn’t have lectures.
After three years of College, I graduated as a teacher!
And that was the start of my very long teaching career.
As I sat outside the Principal’s office on that day long ago, I had no idea what the future would be. I only knew I had a dream to be a teacher and nothing was going to stop me.