Negative gearing

Negative experiences in life produced a drive in me to not only prove my detractors wrong, but also prove to myself that I could do it too

There have been many times in my life when others have told me that I would never amount to anything. That as a teacher I was average, or mediocre at best.

Never was this more difficult than in the last school at which I taught. And so profoundly was I impacted by the long-term harassment and bullying of one head teacher that I never want to teach in schools again. TAFE provided a safe place to heal, and my amazing head teacher gave me the opportunity to really teach in a creative and innovative way. Very different from others in my section. As a result, the students have achieved outstanding results and will get into the university courses of their choice.

There have been volumes and volumes of people who have written on this topic and I join the chorus. Really negative experiences in life produced a drive in me to not only prove my detractors wrong, but also prove to myself that I could do it too.

Some students who came to TAFE have the same story. Broken people who are wanting to put the pieces back together. The outcome of success comes not from being given everything on a silver spoon but through genuine achievement found in hard work, perseverance and a desire to improve oneself. Feeling connected to others is profoundly important to success. Having a team of friendship group that not only values you as a person, but is also happy to cajole, push and stretch you can produce a more significant result than if you are going it alone.

Henry Ward Beecher, a 19th century American Congressman who fought for human rights and the continued abolition of slavery sums it up nicely; "We should not judge people by their peak of excellence, but by the distance they have travelled from the point where they started".

Working and interacting with people day in day out puts teachers in line for criticism and analysis of their work. It's hard maintaining professionalism when that criticism is unfounded. It's hard to remain unaffected by it. But it can't define you as a professional. Some criticism can be warranted and helpful for growth. However, criticism that's truly negative and personal can be soul-destroying.

There will always be bullies. These behaviours are passed down from one generation to the next or are reinforced by social groups and peers who wish to have power over others. I can't be defined by this any longer.

Not all students will pass all the time. I'm not oblivious to that fact. Learning is never wasted. My journey is by no means over. But to move on, I draw on the strengths gained from past hurts. As a result, I have more confidence in my abilities to teach and to assist students than ever before.

This is an edited version of a post that was originally published at Techno in the Classroom on 11 December 2014.