I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to establish strong relationships with my students and their families. I see my students all day, everyday which means I am advantaged over my peers whom spend at most 4 1/2 hours per week with each class. My challenge in my current role is to find ways to support my peers in developing great relationships with their students despite not spending extended periods with them.
Whilst it may be easy to justify the depth of my relationship with my students as determined by the extended period which I do get to spend with them, I think this certainly helps but is not the sole component. We can spend countless hours with people and never develop trust or connections as I am sure we have all been witnesses to in schools or workplaces.
On a personal note, it reminds me of the relationship my mother developed with my children. I moved from my family home in Darwin, to Adelaide at the age of 15 to pursue sporting aspirations. As the youngest of three children, my mother found this difficult and I know it meant at times she felt a sense of helplessness with me being so far away.
I settled in Adelaide, and though work took me elsewhere at times, Adelaide remained home and I returned to my birthplace rarely, keeping in touch with my mother generally through weekly phone calls. My relationship with my mother was always close and whilst my older sister needed the daily phone contact (also living interstate) we maintained our strong connection and I never questioned why we didn’t need more.
With the birth of my daughter, my mother fell in love again just as she had done with my niece (her first grandchild) two years earlier. Being “Nanny Faraway” meant the (pre digital) camera was rolling out film to be processed in duplicates with a set to be sent north as soon as they were developed. Drawings and letters soon accompanied the photos as my first born took to creating masterpieces!
“Nanny Faraway” soon became the creator, ghost writer, co conspirator and director of the “Tricky Fairies”. These “Tricky Fairies” wrote to my daughter about all the amazing things they had seen her do (information gathered and bestowed upon said fairies through conversations between myself and my mother). The “Tricky Fairies” left special gems and tokens (crystals, trinkets and small toys my mother sent down via mail to be “planted” in the garden) and also played tricks on her (me hiding things, or rearranging items in her room). It was a full time job keeping up with my mothers Tricky Fairy business!
My second child arrived two years after his sister and the first grandson for my mother. More joy, more excitement and now the “Tricky Fairies” had another focus. More letters, more tricks, more trinkets! This continued throughout their young lives. My children would build houses and playgrounds for the fairies from lego and toys. They would write letters and ask them questions. My daughter would leave tiny pieces of paper for them to write on and create tiny little noughts and crosses games for them.
Nanny Faraway would ring and they would both be desperate to tell her all the things the “Tricky Fairies” had done. It filled her heart with joy, it filled me with joy and those two little children were swept away in magic and fairy dust!
My mother was diagnosed with cancer when my son was 2. She was given 18 months at best and whilst they began a radical and invasive treatment regime, this was to prolong her life only, not to cure her. My siblings and I endured a rollercoaster of emotions, desperately, selfishly wanting our mother to be afforded old age and angry that our children were to lose her encompassing love, compassion, generosity and spirit. My mother remained strong, never complained, blamed or showed anger at any time. She was hurting though, and to this day it stills wrenches my insides when I recall her sadness as she confessed that she wanted more time with her grandchildren. She wanted my son to remember her, to see her face and know it when we talked about her in years to come.
My mother recieved her radiotherapy treatment in Adelaide as there were no facilities in Darwin. This meant that we could spend time with her, though for periods due to the risk of infection, the children were unable to visit. My mother surpassed her 18month prognosis and received ongoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy for several years. Throughout this time, the Tricky Fairies continued their antics and when we visited Darwin her garden was a tropical haven for all things fairy and magical. My children spent many hours hunting for and discovering things the fairies had left (often things that we never intended).
My mother passed away 5 years ago. I miss her terribly, especially around celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries and of course Mother’s Day. My children remember her lovingly and we talk about her often. The time she spent with them was short, but my goodness it was precious and memorable.
My mother taught me that we don’t need to spend hours together to achieve enduring relationships. I will always try to make the most of my time with students, however short, to look them in the eye, listen and hear what they have to say, be honest and compassionate . It will only ever reap benefits. I will also remember how little time we need to have a huge impact on the young people in our lives.