Spotlight On: What Brings Teachers Joy

19 May 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 19 May 2023.

Last month, The Sunday Telegraph reported, ‘Teachers hate their job,’ citing unsustainable workloads, their inability to ‘cope’ and uncompetitive salaries, which has led to teachers ‘quitting the classroom in record numbers’.

When this article was posted on a social media site, many teachers expressed their objections, acknowledging the challenges but also expressing their joy in working with young people and the privilege of making a difference to children’s lives. The respondents appeared to count themselves in the four out of five teachers determined to remain in the profession where they feel they can make such a difference! 

A benefit of provocative headlines is the ensuing constructive discussion. One such conversation arose between a Queenwood teacher with more than twenty years’ teaching experience (mainly at Queenwood) and more recently trained members of the teaching profession, keen to set the record straight! Despite the contrast in their tenure as teachers, and conceding that teaching is not always an easy endeavour, these educators shared why they love their occupation and treasure working at Queenwood. They agreed that their work regularly inspires delight and fulfilment – so regularly that we refer to these as ‘moments of joy’!

So, what brings teachers joy?

At the recent Athletics Carnival, we witnessed how our talented athletes finished a very close race. There was only one winner, but the girls warmly congratulated each other before they walked off, arms around each other's shoulders. Queenwood has a high number of noteworthy achievers but even more notable is the culture of sharing pride and excitement as a community, with a unifying sense of accomplishment and School spirit. Celebrating others' achievements helps students grow in confidence, builds stronger relationships and cultivates a positive and supportive school environment. Students raising their peers on their shoulders is evidence that their social emotional development is flourishing. In our eyes, the students doing the ‘raising’ are achieving something equal to the girl on their shoulders. 

The same can be said about kindness and the accompanying attitude of gratitude and empathy. Acts of genuine kindness from one student inspire the same in another. No human being is perfect, including our students, but kindness becomes contagious. It becomes ‘cool’ to be kind when it is woven into the fabric of an organisation. The children who teachers ‘catch’ being kind are the ones we talk about in the staffroom and to our families when we get home.  Moments like this make us feel like we’re not the only ones teaching in the classroom, as the girls are also teaching each other.

We are inspired when we see the Queenwood Values (Truth, Courage, Service) in our girls, especially in times of vulnerability. It is challenging to lay ourselves bare and be completely honest, so when we see this already evident in the characters of our students, it is heartening. By telling the truth and taking responsibility, the girls acknowledge what it takes to grow and trust us to guide them. 

During lessons, we see our girls enter the ‘learning pit’ and persevere to achieve the task at hand. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, shifting from ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘This is too hard’ to the furrowed ‘crunchy’ brows with faces transformed into beaming smiles, followed by ‘Oh, I get it now!’ That culmination of endurance, patience and success is priceless, something teachers cherish and affirm. It is teamwork at its best.

And then of course there are the funny moments that bring teachers joy because they make us laugh; the honest outburst from a Kindy girl in Assembly, a Year 6 girl explaining the ex-Prime Ministers were all baristas (barristers) or that the Captain Cook statue at the gallery was the BFG. We also have the adorable nicknames the students give us, unfortunate but hilarious spelling blunders, and the in-jokes that make it hard to keep a straight face. 

It is a gift to share with parents the responsibility of shaping these wonderful minds and hearts and to watch our students grow from little girls in red shoes to capable young women ready to take on the world. Per Aspera Ad Astra means ‘Through struggles to the stars.’ This is what truly brings teachers joy, making the struggle meaningful and helping to push through the clouds so that the girls can see the stars they will reach for.