Day In The Life: Primary school teachervideo

A rewarding job: Jeanette Starr teaching her year 2 class at Hastings Public School. WHEN you send your child off to big school, there is an expectation that they will be cared for, loved and taught the important life skills.
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To enable this, you need some of the most compassionate people the world has to offer. You need a teacher.

I recently spent the morning in the classroom of Jeanette Starr, a teacher of 31 years who is also a dear friend of my family.

Not only is Jeanette a wonderful teacher at Hastings Public School, she has all of the genuine traits needed to guide this country’s future through school.

During my brief visit, it didn’t take long to appreciate just how hard a teacher has to work.

Your day starts at the top of the gate, greeting parents (who become friends) and students, who look to you for answers on all things.

With a vast curriculum to follow, and with a class containing no less than 21 yeartwo students, we got to work quickly.

As it is with most kids, listening wasn’t exactly a rule that was adhered to, meaning your patience is tested early in the day. Under Jeanette’s guidance, I gave the kids a spelling lesson.

They all excelled, but there were plenty of interruptions and still a lot to cover.

Hands-on experience: Journalist Matt Attard played teacher, delivering the students a spelling lesson.

“Teaching has changed a lot in those 31 years,” Jeanette said.

“There is a huge curriculum. It’s changing and we have gone to the Australian standards and national curriculum.

“This year is the first time we have implemented the new history syllabus, focusing on Port Macquarie’s past and present, which is really interesting.”

The biggest change between 31 years and now is, without doubt, the technology.

During the lesson, a tub of iPads were delivered much to the delight of the school kids. Seven and eight year olds who knew their way around these devices better than both Jeanette and myself.

“Ten years ago we had just started with the interactive whiteboards. Technology has played a huge part in how we teach our children these days,” she said.

The kids get to use an iPad once a week, but the somewhat ‘old-school’ Mrs Starr likes to focus on other areas.

“I still believe that kids need to be able to read and write. Four days a week that is what I like to focus on,” she said.

“The kids love using technology and bringing the whole world into the classroom.

I taught a child from Japan in a year five class, he was straight from Japan to here, three years ago.

“One of the first things I asked him was what the technology was like back home. He said there was no technology at all, only a blackboard.”

After spending some time on the iPads, the students were tasked with using homemade play doughthey had made with Jeanette weeks earlierto build 3D shapes.

As a teacher, Jeanette and her colleagues have little break during the day, patrolling the playground seven out of 10 lunchtimes for a fortnight.

This is in addition to weekly meetings.

“Being a teacher isn’t easy, but it’s a very rewarding job. Kids still need love, they still need lots of compassion,” she said.

“Don’t have sympathy, have empathy. Make sure you are still their boss – be their friend, but be their boss first.”

With so much change going on within the classroom, with programs, the curriculum and what teachers are expected to achieve, it still takes a very special person to be a teacher.

“The job keeps getting bigger and bigger, but I love teaching. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t,” she said.

“I love all the kids and that is important, if you don’t like kids then you shouldn’t be a teacher.

“You spend a lot of time with the kids and get superconnected with them. That’s what is really hard.”

Keeping that mix of compassion, patience, ensuring the lesson is taught and the curriculum is followed is very hard.

Although it was just afew hours, my morning in the classroom was enough to convince me of that.

“Even the more difficult students, they deserve love. I say harder the kid, the more you got to love and understand,” she said.

“I hate when people assume kids have a bad home life. I think some kids are born the way they are and their home can influence them, but it’s what people make of life – good choices, good decisions, equity.”

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