Of being valued.

by Alex from Maybe ( ) Together

There are many things I find challenging.
Personally. Professionally.
We all know there are many things wrong in this world.
Do we fight the small things we can achieve or head up the big overwhelming urgent ones?
Maybe it depends on who & where you are.

I spent 7 weeks in Kalumburu doing my final teaching prac.
A remote community of 500ish people at the top end of WA.
Remote, remote.
Mission established. Mission left.
Chaos, trauma, disempowerment, domestic violence, trauma.
Every Gudiya doing what they can.
Coping. Everyone’s coping.

Working with children each day was a treat, a pleasure, a privilege.
You feel valued, useful.
Particularly these spirited, cheeky monkeys who run up to you in the street yelling “Miss!” arms outstretched.
Oh, the power of hugs.
For them. And for me.

That’s what keeps the school going, and I imagine, many teachers out there.
A sense of value from the children.
Sadly, autonomy in the education system is declining.
My (limited) observations seem to value your ability to do paperwork, scores on narrow-scoped tests and ability to tick off the curriculum.
The systems, quite simply, don’t value the teachers.
The paternalistic policies of control rather than empowerment.
Which, of course, is then mirrored in the classroom.

I know of so many amazing educators that have left.
And I think it’s to do with a sense of value.

I thrive in an environment that is dynamic, can-do, strategic.
Where one’s strengths and weaknesses are openly identified.
The strengths celebrated.
The weaknesses worked on.
I’ve seen these in social entrepreneurship, a well-funded arts organisation, a strong leader that empowers.
But I see it in few places at the moment from where I am.

Reflective practice.
Something to bring from an arts practice into the teaching profession that is valued.
The circular motion of finding what to work on next, what’s missing, what needs improving, what’s next.

As I sat crying in Kalumburu all I could think about was what I was doing wrong.
And that everyone around me was identifying my weaknesses too.
And how I just needed to suck it up.
But. What I actually needed, was validation.
Of my strengths identified to give me the strength to move forward.
To be valued.
Thankfully, I found it in a phone call to Perth.

I just think about children’s learning environment.
When they have no champion.
How do they cope?

Within 24-hours of returning to Perth, I find myself facilitating a discussion around independent artists’ sense of value.
The pinch of decreased funding in the small to medium sector is affecting us badly.
As we write about the ways organisations have supported us, I reflect it’s actually all about value.
Valued enough to be paid.
Valued enough to be consulted.
Valued enough for our time to be considered.
Acknowledgement. Validation. Inclusion. Celebrated.

Is this an Australian thing?
Our quickness to find the criticism, the weakness.
To cut down those poppies.
Where are the celebrations, the pats on the back, the time spent telling each other: you’re remarkable at this.

Perhaps survival is in finding these support networks outside of work.
In friends. Partners. Family.
Those people that love you for you.
(Queue: demise of community & rising rates of singledom.)

I would argue that in our evolving world we need to cultivate value.
Our systems. Our communication. Our day to day.
Things are bloody tough enough out there.

High fives to you.
You are of value. xx