Heartbreak and Triumph.

Alyce is the Deputy Principal at Palm Beach-Currumbin State High School.

Sometimes it hurts

I wrote this article more a month ago and haven’t sent it in for fear it was far too emotional for a professional educator. Recently one of the staff sat in front of me in tears sharing the same story, and so my friends I share it with you.

As an administrator of a Senior Secondary School I deal with my fair share of teenage heartbreaks, run ins with the law, family disputes, breakdowns, tantrums, and all out wars. And this occurs mostly in one day. I have a battlefield of staff fighting the good fight handing out tissues, putting plasters on wounds, mediating, policing and generally giving a leg up to anyone willing to lift their foot.

We do this work day in and day out for one purpose. To enable young people to access their right to an education targeted at their full development.

But sometimes, despite all our efforts, we fail. And when we fail, it hurts. I hurt.

The heartbreak comes with every individual we loose from the education system. The sinking pit in my stomach when for the 15 th day a student is uncontactable with parent’s phones disconnected and no address. The anxiety caused as other students tell stories of the kid who walked out the school gate and chose to never return. The sick feeling as I walk past the young girl in the hallway high as a kite that I know will be excluded under our state school system for selling drugs on site.

Prior to these occurrences we’ve likely had years of intervention, hundreds of parent contacts,stakeholder meetings, daily check-ins, daily check outs, psychologists, drug and alcohol therapists, academic tutoring, careers counselling and the list goes on. We’ve built relationships with these kids, we genuinely care for them and we are invested in their future. But every now and again, it just doesn’t work.

As a leader I don’t speak openly of this. In fact I would tell myself this is but a small percentage of my job that should be largely be focused on academic performance indicators, curriculum management, pedagogy, state testing, community engagement, staff performance and branding. I would tell my staff to lift their head because for every one student we lose we save ninety-nine. I know my priorities as a school leader, I know the odds of our work and the positive outcomes we produce, I know that in some cases these same kids will land on their feet. But, it still hurts.

From one person who understands to another- it’s ok to feel hurt. It’s that feeling of hurt when a kid disengages from you that makes you a good school leader. It’s that question in your mind of what else could you have done that means you are the right person for the job. It is the day that this happens and we don’t hurt that we should fear.

So for now dear educators, keep hurting, for through the other side of the hurt is the passion that makes our profession grand and your contribution mighty.