Country town

Day Nine – UBC – Inspiration

Day Nine – UBC – Inspiration

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.

They are:

  • 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.

Who, or What Inspires You?

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July UBC – Day Six – Was I Stronger Than I Thought?

July UBC – Day Six – Was I Stronger Than I Thought?

You never know how strong you are until something goes wrong. When life throws all it has at you, you can either crumple, or stand up to it. I found out I was stronger than I thought. There was a year in my life when everything came apart – it just slowly unravelled, and by the end of the year I knew I had to do something drastic. Without going into too much detail, the problem centred around the job I had at the time. I was a teacher, but I had taken on a promotion position that involved a lot of stress. It’s funny with teaching; you go into it for all the right reasons, but the only way to progress to higher ranks, is to leave the classroom. And in my usual non-planning way, I kind of fell into the promotion situation – temporarily at first – and then for the long haul.

Stress is a Killer!

Along with the stress of the job, I had a few personal things happening as well. It was complicated, and it was really bad timing, but, when are problems ever well-timed? I loved the core essence of my job – the kids – but coping with the other things that make up the sum of what keeps a school going, is hard. Anyone who knows a teacher, knows what I’m talking about. Could I handle another year of stress? Could I handle even one more day of stress? The answer was a resounding, No!

As One Year Ends…

As the end of the school year came hurtling towards me, I  knew there were some tough decisions to be made. There were a few options – okay, they weren’t brilliant, but they provided a faint light at the end of the tunnel. And I was reasonably sure it wasn’t the light of an oncoming train. The first thing I knew for sure, was that at least for a short time, I needed to walk away. Scanning the online job portal became my morning routine for a few weeks. I scoured the pages of jobs, always finding an excuse for not making the call that could take me away from it all. Days turned into weeks, and the situation suddenly had urgency. Then one morning, I made the call that would change my life. Central Queensland needed a teacher for six months. If I could talk my way into it, this could solve two problems: I would be back in the classroom, and I’d be away from the stressful situation of my current position. Six months was all I needed. Because I already held a permanent position at my current school, I had to do a lot of talking to swing the temporary transfer. Government departments are so technical!

Moving On

The Principal understood my position and had actually suggested I take leave, so he was happy to endorse the move. The problems I had faced were the result of some serious mis-management issues, mixed with a shot of bullying. By the time the Principal became aware of the full extent of it, it had gone too far. My motto throughout life had always been: I can handle this. But I had slipped to one of the lowest points of my life, and would have contemplated resigning from the job I loved, if I hadn’t made the decision to take time-out, instead of leaving – with with my soul and spirit in tatters. This was one time when the I can handle this motto, failed me. That year was tough, but so was the emotional roller-coaster I felt as I packed up my car, ready to drive the 677 kms to a place I had never been. The trip would take close to eight hours and my car was packed to the rafters, with everything I imagined I would need for the next six months. Yes, I even had my trusty old Espresso coffee machine on the back seat. Thank God I had the foresight to pack it, as I was to discover that good coffee was nowhere to be seen on weekends and late-nights in the tiny town I was headed for. Accommodation was part of the deal, so I only needed the small stuff. My teaching resources accounted for every other available space in the car. When I couldn’t squeeze another thing in, I headed out of town. But first, a coffee with my best friend. We met at the coffee shop on the brink of the motorway; the motorway that would lead me to one of the biggest changes of my life. Saying goodbye to my best friend, the one who had been my closest ally for the past year, was hard to do. But, I reminded myself that it would only be for six months.

Leaving the sun and the surf behind…

On The Way

As I turned the car onto the highway, a wave of terror descended on me. What could I have been thinking? Was I serious? Yes, it had been a tough year. But, driving eight hours into the unknown? Was I crazy? My mind started doing a juggling act between the lesser of two evils. I kept driving. Ideas rushed through my mind, one after the other, each posing valid arguements, for and against. I kept driving. At one point I almost gave in – I almost turned around. But then, thoughts of the most stressful elements of the past year took hold; I maintained the position of ‘straight ahead – keep going – it will all be okay. I kept driving. Within days of arriving, the new school year began and I knew I had made the right decision. It was like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. From the first day at my new school, I felt like I had come home. The effects of the previous year weren’t easily shaken off, but it did get better. It took at least six months to be able to breathe easily again, and fall asleep without fear of nightmares.

Six Months, And Then….

Oh, and the six months? By June, my new Principal asked me if I could arrange a permanent transfer. That was one decision I didn’t have to think about. I picked up the phone and rang my past Principal – he was happy to sign it off. And the six months? I stayed in that tiny town for five years, and met some amazing people. In my second year there, I was asked to step back into the Administration role, and I was ready for it. That same year, parents and administrators from the six schools I serviced as part of my role, nominated me for a national teaching award. I felt very undeserving, but honoured, and made it into the final round. There is absolutely nothing like a country town and country people to restore your faith in yourself. You just have to be brave enough to accept the challenge of surrendering the known, in exchange for the unknown. I did it! And it changed my life!
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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 4 comments