There have been a few times in my life when I've done something that I wasn't expected to do because I was female. I was always surprised when I got that reaction, because I was just trying to do things that interest me.
Like when I was in high school. As they still do, in year 9 and 10, schools give you a choice of elective subjects. While I was interested in cooking and did that elective, I was also interested in metal work, so I signed up for that for a while too.
I was the only girl in the class, but got along really well with the boys in there. The girls, of course, gave me a hard time, but I didn't really care. I enjoyed it, and I did pretty well too (god knows what I ever did with the plumb bob that I made!)
And then when I had worked at the cinema for a while, I decided that I'd like to be a projectionist. I was fascinated with the projectors and the way the sound worked, and how everything worked so well together. Plus, at the time it was the closest I was going to get to working in the movie industry (I had vague ambitions of going into film editing, then directing).
When I asked about it, everyone told me that 'women aren't projectionists'. Full stop. They couldn't tell me why, except that the boxes of film were really heavy. They were, but only as heavy as a child. So managable.
Being the stubborn sort that I am, I
And, once again, I was good at it. I was really good at it. In a couple of years, I had been promoted to head protectionist, and was training everyone else.
Eventually, I got sick of the solitude. I don't think that was a necessarily 'female' problem, more of a 'Mel' problem. I like people. So I moved back downstairs into management (which I also did very well, thank you!), and then went off to uni.
Funnily enough, I'm now working in one of the most female dominated professions in the world. Teaching.
And today, on International Women's Day, I'd like to salute teachers. Especially female ones, but really every teacher.
As you know, I have moved away from the classroom. For me, it was too big an investment of my time, and most of all, my emotional energy. I might return there soon. But probably not to a primary school classroom.
Secondary teachers have to deal with ratty teenagers and all that's associated with them, but being a primary school teacher is hard work! You are responsible for a group of up to 35 students for a whole year. Their 'life' is in your hands for that whole year. If you don't get them where they need to be by the end of that year, it's your fault. You may have changed the course of their life.
It sounds dramatic, and it probably is (this is me we're talking about!), but sometimes it is like that. There is so much pressure from so many directions: the community at large, the principal, the education department, other teachers, the students, and most of all, parents.
But teachers do it every day. And all the teachers I know do it really well. And it's not just teaching kids to read and write, it's a whole lot more: social skills, appreciation of the world beyond theirs, art, music, performance, maths, manners, ICT skills, problem solving, critical thinking, environmental responsibility, science, languages, construction...etc. For some students, teachers provide their only smile for the day, a compliment, a meal...
I couldn't do it. It was too much pressure, too much responsibility. Perhaps because of Sam. But maybe it would have happened anyway.
So I take my hat off to everyone who can. So often, you're told what you're not doing right. Today I'd like to tell you what you are doing right. You're teaching. You're doing a job that everyone thinks they know how to do, but probably couldn't. Especially not for the money they'd earn for doing it.
Well done teachers. You are awesome.