A story about Jill

There are some students (and classes) that you can not wait to get rid of. You do everything in your power to never teach them again…. And then you get them for three years in a row.

Then there are other students who mean something to you and you have a soft spot for. I had the biggest soft spot for a student called Jill. I became a year advisor and she was one of my little munchkins, I never actually taught her.

My first memory of Jill was when school had just started for the year. She was wearing a uniform that the school gave her, but her hem was not sewn up and embarrassingly long. I had to work out a way to get it sewn up. I never thought that would be part of my job description. Couldn’t she just get it done at home? I had to teach all day so there was no way I could do it myself. I used safety clips to temporarily pin it up and eventually convinced an extremely kind SASS staff member to sew it for me. Jill was happy.

She used to chat to me all the time in the playground, before she realised it was not cool to talk to teachers. “I’m moving in a few weeks. I’m going to have to change schools. They have found a unit for us.” Us was her family, her mum and younger siblings. They, I assumed, was a government department, or maybe a charity organisation. “That’s great, but we will miss you,” I replied. 

She kept coming to school every day. She never moved. She was friendly and smart. She won an award at presentation day. After some initial teething problems, she made lots of friends.

She was rarely in school uniform though. The school had provided uniforms, but Jill would not always go home to the same place every night and they would get misplaced. There was a very strict uniform policy and enforcing it was by far my least favourite thing as a year advisor. If a student was out of uniform they got a uniform pass, that is, if they had a note from a parent, otherwise they had to pick up litter.

Jill would refuse to pick up litter, once I forced her to do it during roll call time when there was no other students in the playground. It was horrible. She would never have a note from home. We made a deal, she would come to me in the morning and I would write her a uniform pass, no questions asked. She came almost every day, that is until she stopped caring.

Jill had many problems at school. I had no training to be a year advisor, apart from one day of professional development that taught be almost nothing. I did not know what to do with her. Most of her problems got dealt with by the higher powers in the school. I just tried to be a friendly face that she could talk to.

She would often complain she was hungry. The school did give lunch money in emergencies but it was a pain to organise. Sometimes I didn’t have the time, because I had a million other things to do, I just gave her my own money. I would then feel guilty because I knew this was absolutely not allowed under any circumstances.

I wanted more than anything to see Jill finish Year 12 and to congratulate her at the ceremony. I thought education could change her life. She only made it until the beginning of Year 10. She told me she was pregnant. She got kicked out of home. She stopped coming to school.

She returned one day, not to go to class, but to organise a place for her at some sort of alternative learning centre. She was too young to drop out of school. She appeared stoned. “I had a chicken pie for breakfast,”she told me. “It was so good, my baby loved it.” She pulled up her top and asked me if I could notice her bump. I stared awkwardly. I could not notice anything. I had never seen a pregnant bump before. I wasn’t even confident she was pregnant.

Since that day I have not seen Jill again. I never found out if she was really pregnant. I never heard if she had a baby. I don’t know what happened to her. I just hope she is OK.

Obviously Jill is not her real name.

Flower Sustayable Me

So when are you going back to work?

I admire working mums that return to the workforce so their brains do not turn into mush. I admire working mums that return to the workforce to pay the bills. I am grateful for the feminist movement that has allowed women to have both a career and family and do anything they want. But do I want to go back to work? Heck no.

At this current stage of motherhood, I would love to be a stay at home mum for as long as financially possible.

I am in the teaching profession. I am lucky in that I have a permanent, full time job. I am currently on maternity leave for a year, and then I am entitled to take another year off.

You hear comments every now and then along the lines of “Teaching is such a child friendly career, it will be awesome for when you have a family.” From an outsider’s perspective sure. 9 to 3, school holidays off, you will be around all the time for your children.

From my perspective, teaching at a competent level takes effort and time. You write programs, plan lessons, create resources, search for resources that could be useful, create assessment tasks, mark assessment tasks, the curriculum changes and you start from scratch again, write reports on students, write reports on yourself to prove you can teach, have lots of pointless meetings etc.

You teach mostly from 9 to 3, when do you do the rest of the stuff? At home, in the afternoons, in the evenings, on the weekends, in the school holidays. If you don’t do it then and take a well deserved break, you feel guilty. On top of this there is the physical and mental exhaustion of dealing with up to 30 teenage girls (for me) in a confined space. Also, if you appear to be a competent teacher, they give you more work and more roles, because you look like you could handle it.

I know all jobs can be hard but damn, teaching can feel full on (I’ve only had one profession so can’t compare). I feel burnt out and that totally sucks. I trained five years to be a teacher! Some of the time I love my job. I love the relationships I have built with my colleagues, the camaraderie and sharing (bring in performance pay and that will be at risk). I love the rapport you develop with your students, well the ones that aren’t total dicks. I love when my class is engaged and learning important stuff about the world and Science. I once got a whole class hating on Tony Abbott because I showed them a clip of him talking about climate change, haha, that was not intentional (it was). Anyway what was the point of this post?

That’s right…. going back to work. I find having a baby stressful at times. I find teaching stressful at times. I find driving to work through Sydney traffic stressful all the time. Combine those three and I think I would implode. So I am very happy to be a stay at home mum and get a break from work. I will focus on my baby, get my shit together and then rethink this work situation in two years time perhaps.

My desk at work is on the left. This side of the room was sick that day so the rest of the staffroom cornered us off. Can you see the pillow at the front? I probably used that to nap in my free period because I was so tired and sick. This picture makes me miss work.
My desk at work is on the left. This side of the room was sick that day so the rest of the staffroom cornered us off. Can you see the pillow at the front? I probably used that to nap in my free period because I was so tired and sick. This picture makes me miss work.
I love 'Teacher Memes' on facebook. This is one of my favourite memes of theirs.
I love ‘Teacher Memes’ on facebook. This is one of my favourite memes of theirs.