School is out! To celebrate this and my somewhat early retirement from the profession, I had a little gathering at Harry & Frankie, one of my favourite hang-outs in Port Melbourne. The evening was wonderful and has left me feeling a little nostalgic.
Without a doubt one of the most amazing things about being a teacher is the strong bond you form with your colleagues. School spirit is a magical thing; the friendly competition, the banter and the support are really very special. Our long suffering non-teaching partners can often find it difficult to hang out with us in a group, as we can’t resist a debrief about our day. So much sharing of best practice and resources actually goes on in our social times. Even teachers themselves have to draw a line in the sand sometimes and make a conscious effort to not talk about school.
‘It’s a tough job but….’
Teaching is a tough job, and one of the main reasons for this is the unpredictable nature of each day. Dealing with hundreds of hormonal children, each with their own issues, means that every day is different. The good times, those moments when you know you have made a difference to a young person’s life, are priceless. However, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Some days can leave you reeling, anxious and sad. The roller coaster of emotions is exhausting and the responsibility weighs on you heavily.
Having a crew of colleagues that face the same challenges everyday is essential. It is no wonder that by sharing our collective experiences and supporting each other that strong friendships are forged. Strong and lasting friendships. I am still in contact with colleagues from my first year of teaching and I met one of of my bridesmaids at a previous school. Two of my best friends in Melbourne met each other and myself whilst completing a gap year in a British prep school. We often reminisce about the old times at ‘The Manor.’
Being assigned to a house is kind of like donning the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter. You might end up in the best house for sport or academia. On the other hand you could end up in that house (all schools have one) that rarely wins anything except the sympathy vote. Either way, you feel compelled to avidly support ‘your’ house creating some fantastic banter with your fellow teachers in the other houses. After a few years inter-school competitions are also interesting, when teachers find themselves torn between their affiliation to their current school and affection for previous schools or colleagues.
‘Out for the frying pan, into…’
Reflecting on my teaching career and new endeavours has brought to my attention some parallels between the two. Firstly, our interrogations of winemakers so far have highlighted that wine is also a tough yet rewarding vocation. It has been made very clear to us that it is not the path to take if you want to get rich. However, as my first choice was teaching, money is clearly not my motivation. Like teaching, it can also be very unpredictable. Instead of being controlled by teenagers, it is at the mercy of the weather amongst many other factors. In these times of climate change concerns, that must be a source of great stress, not to mention bush fires, pests and changeable financial markets.
Over the months leading up to the present day, we have had the pleasure of meeting lots of winemakers. In the Barossa Valley we were told that the Australian wine industry is quite a close-knit community in that most of the major winemakers and vineyard owners know, or are at least aware of each other. Though it is a competitive industry, we have been shown nothing but support for our future plans. Everyone has seemed only too happy to tell us their story or describe the joys and challenges they face. On wine tours, wineries often suggest other vineyards to visit and wines to try. Everone seems so proud to demonstrate what they do. My local wine bars, Harry & Frankie and The Graham Hotel, have been very generous with their time and information. I feel supported before I have even started.
In conclusion, teaching and viticulture do not seen as random as you might at first think. The sense of support and community spirit are very similar. I am really looking forward to mingling with more vintners and vignerons, passionate about what they do.