Saturday, February 9, 2013

Saturday Sayings

Today I'm linking up with Tammy from 

for Saturday Sayings.

You may have seen/ heard this quote before, but I chose it today because it sums up the sentiments that pointed me towards a career in teaching. It is the statement that drives what I do, and I want it to continue underpinning the educational choices I make in the future.

So, I have to make it clear, I am not one of those I-always-knew-I-was-going-to-be-a-teacher types. In contrast, I had to spend quite a few years soul-searching before I realised that teaching ticked all the boxes for me. It was never in my plan!

After feeling disenchanted with the system, I left school early at 17. At that stage, I was working at a little country supermarket, making just enough money to fund my weekends. The rest of the time I slept. I was one of those teenagers. After a few months of this, I moved to the capital city to be closer to the action, where I was a promotional model (cigarettes, alcohol, skincare, ice cream, car races), signed people up for Amex cards (I only lasted one day at that one!), then took on a traineeship with an optometrist. 

At 19, after a 6 week trip to Europe, I saw that there was much more in the world to be explored. So, I moved to Alice Springs in Central Australia, where I worked as a (bad) waitress, a hostess at the Casino, then a gaming attendant, before moving across to the adjoining Convention Centre. I started there as a waitress, then got offered an Administration Assistant position, and then eventually moved up to a Banquet Sales Executive role. I thought I was pretty special. My job had 'Executive' in the title, and I was only 21.

It only took a year or two before the 'shine' of wearing business suits and dealing with big businesses began to wear off. So I arranged leave without pay and took off to India for three months. I had a friend with an uncle who was a Catholic priest, who knew an Indian priest who he put me in touch with. Within three months of my first email to Father Prasad, I was living in a very rural and remote part of India. It was unbelievable. I sat outside each night and watched children skip and dance and jump and play in the church courtyard. We had the only TV in the village, and it was rarely used. This forced people outside to socialise. These people had nothing financially, but it was obvious that they were way richer than me. They had community. They knew each other and they cared about each other. I wanted that. My culture had led me to believe that money was the key, but their culture taught me that life is about relationships.

Before I went to India, I really thought I could save the world. I thought I could make a difference and do something big to turn things around for them. It was quite confronting to realise that, with 1.1 billion citizens in India (at the time) I simply could not grace each of them with my benevolence. Haha, I really thought I was special :p 

After a time, I realised that grand gestures like I had wanted to make were really overrated anyway. What mattered was how I had been able to touch individual lives. And I hadn't needed to throw my money around to do that. Visiting people who weren't normally visited, smiling at people who were outcast, holding the hands of people considered as 'untouchables'. Small gestures.

These things certainly did not change the world, but I saw that they had the potential to change something. My aim had been wrong. So instead I decided to change the world for one person, one person at a time. I hope you'll understand if I don't share the exact details of my 'one person' with you, just because it was a very special experience for me that I hold close to my heart.

After three months, I trundled back home to Australia. One of the first events I organised after returning was an off-site dinner for a large truck manufacturer. It cost $80,000. For one night! I think there were only about 200 people in attendance. The disparity with my Indian experience was enormous. I simply could not continue devoting my life to participating in such a ridiculous waste of money while there were people, friends, over in India who could barely afford to feed and clothe their families. 

So I quit. And began two years of total confusion. I couldn't work out how I could make a measureable difference to anyone. When I went to India, I didn't have anything of value to give. Just my dorky smile :p I wanted to have some sort of expertise to share with the world. I wanted to be of use. 

So I got a job with the Government :p Haha, it wasn't the solution, I just needed to buy time.

Eventually, I applied for university. Following the idea of changing one person at a time, I almost settled on Psychology as a degree. I considered the super high incidence of depression in the Western Hemisphere, and thought I might be able to use my experiences with teenage depression to help others through it.

Then I had my epiphany, (less eloquent than the above quote): 'Rather than fix people, I want to try to prevent them from becoming damaged in the first place!' I recognised both the community support networks and the resilience that children possessed in India which had been been lacking in my own childhood, and which I thought may have had the power to prevent my own depression. How could I ensure that children would have a supportive community member in their lives, and healthy self esteem?

I put down Education as my preference on my university application rather than Psychology, and now I cannot imagine being anything other than a teacher!

The quote's relevance to my practice today is that it reminds me that what I do is important. Every word that leaves my lips, every casual glance, or sigh, or gesture, has the potential to affirm a child's worthiness or to dismiss them as unworthy. It's not as cruical for kids who have a strong family background, but for those who don't, school can become a place which fills those gaps or makes them bigger.

I have to remain conscious of this fact, and aim to give my children more affirming moments that raise their self confidence than negative dismissive ones. I see my role as a teacher not only to teach reading and writing and science and maths and arts, but to give each child a solid foundation of self confidence and worthiness on which to build their unique personalities. 

Thanks for reading this far! I know I've gone on a bit :p I'd love to hear your story of how you came into teaching too, especially if you had a roundabout journey like me :)

Have a great week!


  1. I've enjoyed hearing about your journey. It has brought you to a very special place and realization. Your students are blessed that you have a heart for not just their education but also for their lives. Thank you so much for adding your thoughts to my Saturday!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  2. Wow, what a journey you have been on! You have seen and experienced a lot already in life. Thank you for sharing your story!
    Conversations in Literacy

  3. What a great story.I enjoyed reading about it.I too was not one of those "always-knew-I-was-going-to-be-a-teacher types." But I certainly am glad I am today. Your post reminds me that what I say and do can make a difference. Even if it's just for one child.
    First Grade @ Storybook Cafe

  4. I loved reading your story! I refused being a teacher for as long as I could, even though it's in my blood- a family business if you will. I love the quote as well.

    Everyone deServes to Learn

  5. What a variety of experiences you bring to teaching! You are very brave and I know that shows up in your chosen profession. There is no calling more noble than helping children learn and grow.

  6. That was an absolutely fascinating piece of reading. You are a person rich in experience and living, you chose an alternate path that has truly enriched you. I am so fortunate to have 'met' you in the roundabout way I did! Much success to you, Kirra.

  7. What a fantastic story and so well told. :-)
    Isn't it amazing how one chance encounter or even random conversation can change the trajectory of our lives!
    Thanks for sharing so eloquently,


  8. Wow, amazing! Loved reading your story! I wanted to stop by to let you know I nominated you for the Liebster Award because you ROCK! :) Stop by and check it out!