I really enjoy the engagement on social media, and as a teacher, I am active on Twitter and Facebook. This week, somebody posed a thought-provoking question:
What is something that seems obvious within your profession but the general public seems to misunderstand?
The responses varied, from people who work in medicinal marijuana fields talking about the misconceptions of addiction, to teachers waxing poetic about workload, some valid and interesting comments that I enjoyed reading. My comment was that it was hard to be a gay teacher in many places. It was an enlightening read and I’m sure we all learned a bit about one another through it. An additional question was posed to teachers, which was about school camps – are there perks? Do you do them? Are you paid time in lieu?
As an experienced upper school teacher, I have been on 4 school camps, including one that was interstate. Only on one occasion was I paid time in lieu (one day) and after each camp, I came home sick, overwrought, and unable to give any of myself to my family or side projects. I was subjected to eating food that had been touched by a chain smoking chef who wore no gloves between smoking and serving and the water supply was brown. When I expressed my concerns, I was essentially told to buck up or teach Year 1.
It all came to a head in 2015 when I requested leave to start our family at an IVF clinic. I was told that my needs were not medical (despite documented surgeries for fertility related conditions), and instead, my lack of fertility was social. I was given an ultimatum – find another job or put off parenthood. I started looking for a job almost immediately and was unable to find another until 18 months later. When I eventually ended up in the non-religious schooling sector, I found that I was able to be more open and access the leave I was legally entitled to. I fell pregnant the first time with a 2-year-old frozen embryo. Amazing what a lack of stress can for your fertility – social indeed.
This discussion opened up a whole train of thought that I hadn’t previously considered. If you have flexibility and leave entitlements open to you as a heterosexual employee that aren’t afforded to your gay peers, you are uniquely privileged and any comment you make about extra responsibilities are spoken from a place of privilege.
Ultimately, I am glad I moved on. There is no way I could have raised a family in a mentally healthy way and been the wife my partner deserves under the burdens of stress I was experiencing. Being frustrated and medicated is a scourge that nobody deserves, gay or straight.