Thursday, January 13, 2011

Girls can do anything, so why teach?

I remember as a teenager the sign that used to appear inside the train carriages that said ‘Girls can do anything.’ I think it was a TAFE advertisement to get girls into courses for trades. I remember the girls at school talking about how they could do anything. And, the implication was, why would a girl want to do mothering, or become a nurse, or a teacher? We had the world at our feet. I remember a friend of mine, a friend who was ambitious in the arts (as I was), a friend who has had a successful career in the arts and has lived and worked for many years in New York (as I haven’t), a friend who told me that if I wasn’t going to be a ‘somebody’ I couldn’t be her friend (we are no longer friends), a friend who did not go on to have kids (as I did), well I remember this friend saying, when we were at high school, that teachers had premature menopause.

Well, now I’m pre-menopausal and I’m going to become a teacher.

This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, reconciling myself with becoming a teacher. The implications of that. The fact I have resisted so long with the path that has been bloody obvious. The issue of teachers having lower status in our society than they should have. I’m thinking that after being a stay at home mum for eleven years, so far, there is only one way to go in terms of social status and that’s up.

I believe that teachers deserve more respect. I believe that it is a job you can bring yourself to, your intelligence and creativity (and you don’t need to wear a suit, which was the reason I gave my father, when I was a teenager, why I didn’t want to study law). I believe a good teacher can make positive changes in society. And, as with mothering, I can work at improving the status of teachers from within. And I believe it is one of very few jobs that fit with having a family. Yes, we can talk about how we could change the hours of work, or of school, and that school holidays could fit better with working life. (Why do we take six weeks out in Summer? We don't need the kids to bring in the harvest. And it means we are stuffing the rest of our lives into a shorter working/school year.) But that sort of change isn't about to happen in my working lifetime.

I’ve spent most of my life dabbling in the arts and now I can use that knowledge and creativity in a way that is meaningful. And I’ll know where my paycheque is coming from. I may even reference the work of my ex-friend who now designs for the New York stage.

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