Teacher: One Woman’s Struggle to Keep the Heart in Teaching

Gabbie Stroud

Teacher: One Woman's Struggle to Keep the Heart in Teaching
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Teacher: One Woman’s Struggle to Keep the Heart in Teaching

Gabbie Stroud

In 2014, Gabrielle Stroud was a very dedicated teacher with over a decade of experience. Months later, she resigned in frustration and despair when she realised that the Naplan-test education model was stopping her from doing the very thing she was best at: teaching individual children according to their needs and talents.

Her ground-breaking essay ‘Teaching Australia’ in the Feb 2016 Griffith Review outlined her experiences and provoked a huge response from former and current teachers around the world. That essay lifted the lid on a scandal that is yet to properly break - that our education system is unfair to our children and destroying their teachers.

In a powerful memoir inspired by her original essay, Gabrielle tells the full story: how she came to teaching, what makes a great teacher, what our kids need from their teachers, and what it was that finally broke her. A brilliant and heart-breaking memoir that cuts to the heart of a vital matter of national importance.

‘Gabbie’s story needs to be shouted from the rooftops. She very eloquently shows us why and how education needs to change… Teacher made me laugh and cry. I loved it!’ - Kathy Margolis, former teacher and activist. 

Review

Education and teachers are political footballs like no other. Politicians regularly stir up controversy about teachers’ daily working lives: their (excessive) wages; their (generous) holidays; their (misdirected) classroom focus. Parents, understandably anxious to get the best for their kids, are sometimes easy targets for ‘quick-fix’ plans.

Gabbie Stroud’s Teacher plunges you straight into the working life of an Australian teacher. Stroud paints a vivid picture of the chaos, hilarity and occasional futility of a hardworking contemporary classroom at the mercy of a disconnected bureaucracy. The kids, as per usual, are a troubling riot. Stroud uses their antics to ask some big questions about what education is and what we might want it to be. Her reflections on her own upbringing and education, however, make this all more bittersweet than polemical.

Stroud has to simultaneously extend engaged students, support struggling students and determine where on that broad spectrum the rest of her 30 students sit. She has to help all the students with special needs without enough Education Support staff. And just when she’s getting a handle on these issues, she has to watch some politician’s pronouncement on TV and realise all the solutions she’s come up with are not feasible anymore. It’s a maddening dilemma all teachers will be familiar with.

Directives from above about mandatory standardised testing are an increasingly common and often completely pointless part of the teaching day. These farcical rituals can become a ‘last straw’ moment for many teachers already putting in extremely long hours. Stroud herself ultimately left teaching in frustration at the NAPLAN and My School regime.

Teacher is an engaging and charming cautionary tale about where we’re headed as a society. If you’ve ever envied a teacher their holidays, this exposé will make you glad you chose a 9–5 job.


Chris Dite works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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