To sir with love: A shoutout to the teachers | HerCanberra

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To sir with love: A shoutout to the teachers

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This World Teacher’s Day (5 October), we look back at this heartwarming piece by columnist and author Emma Grey.

My son has had a string of remarkable teachers in recent years, all of whom have helped him contend with life after losing his dad halfway through Kindergarten.

One of these stand-out teachers, Mr C, recently left the school. He hand-wrote messages to his current and former students to say goodbye. Here’s my son’s:

What a journey this life is, hey? Thanks for sharing this little slice of it with me.

You’re walking a hard road, but maybe that’s just the way it has to be. From great pain comes great beauty, like the forest growing fresh once more after the ravaging fire. Keep creating, Ghos7. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

I was struck by how perceptive this was, about grief and struggle, about resilience and hope. There was no denying life continues to be hard. No platitudes. And acknowledgement of the importance my son places on creativity (he composes electronic dance music, pouring his emotions into tracks the way I pour mine into words and photos).

I have a handful of friends who lost a parent as a young child. A common theme amongst some of them is that many of the adults around them swept their grief aside with a ‘get on with it’ approach that left them hurting for decades.

My own best friend lost her dad while we were in Year 12, and it was only after she volunteered with the amazing grief education organisation, Camp Magic, that she was able to work through some of her emotions surrounding her dad’s death. There was no such support available back then.

How grateful I am that my own child is surrounded by adults who ‘get it’. Teachers who don’t run from grief. Who listen, encourage, nurture and tell it like it is. Hard. Horrible. Unfair. Desperately, desperately sad. But who also help extract from the experience the creativity that sometimes emerges out of tragedy.

At one point during our first lockdown last year, I was in tears during a phone call with Mr C. I thanked him for what he was doing for my son, and I apologised that a number of factors meant the teaching path couldn’t be easy. He shared with me that kids like my boy are the reason he got into teaching in the first place. It felt like falling, knowing there was a strong safety net to catch us.

From the safe vantage point of my bedroom the other day, I watched the kids of essential workers on their daily walk with their teachers.

‘There goes the front line,’ I thought. This was the group closest to being in harm’s way, with the least amount of choice in the matter. I admired every one of them, and felt so sad we as a species have found ourselves in this global predicament.

I received an email from my son’s current teacher at 6.30 this morning, while I was still asleep, outlining her thoughtful management of Father’s Day activities during online school this week. This is an annual low in our family and for many others, and her compassion runs deep.

This work is tireless, its impact enormous and my gratitude boundless. Across the country and globally, teachers have stepped up to carry our kids through the uncertainty of a pandemic. They’ve changed direction, wrestled with tech, forged connection virtually and met the challenges of educating anxious kids who were unprepared this disruption. Many of them have been doing this, while also supporting their own kids’ home learning.

We’d love to hear your stories and shout-outs for the teachers who are guiding a generation through what continues to be, for many of us, the biggest global event in our living memory.

Who do you want to thank?

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