In preparing for my upcoming trip to my hometown of Wagga Wagga to present my Teacher Resilience and Wellbeing workshop, I found this story on the Daily Advertiser website by Olivia Shying reporting that a big old gum tree has recently been removed from my old school, Wagga Wagga (formerly Technology) High School. This news got me feeling quite sad.
Wagga Wagga High School was a bit of a concrete jungle, so I can remember having great appreciation for every tree and every patch of grass. While I can’t be certain I know the exact tree, I definitely have memories of recess breaks spent sitting under a tree, eating a pack of Chickadees (those bright luminous yellow puffy chips that were the cheapest in the canteen). Or waiting for friends under the tree before sport time.
Is it the tree I carved “Dean 4 Amy” into? Is it the tree that my bag was thrown into? Or the tree I hid behind to avoid a certain bully? Or the tree under which Alana, Alison and I laughed and laughed as we birthed hysterical character voices (some of which still live on today!)?
The gardens and outdoor areas of school are really like silent memories. The classrooms and buildings always come to mind a lot quicker, but I think when I visit the school in a couple of weeks, I am really going to notice the different gardens and the absence of a few trees. I don’t think I will get a chance to meet any of my old teachers (will there still be any left after all these years?), who form a lot of my other memories about the school – on the whole spectrum of inspiring to … well, not-inspiring.
It has been around twenty years since I have returned to Wagga. I imagine a lot of things are going to be very different. I am really looking forward to getting to know it afresh through the stories and experiences of the teachers I am going to meet in my workshop. I’m sure a lot of what I hear will remind me of how teachers in Wagga experience many of the same things that teachers do in the other places I have been. But there is always that different edge to the story – the specifics of a school culture; the influence that a town’s parks can have on how teachers relax and exercise; the things teachers take an interest in because their students are interested in them.
So this trip is going to be one of discovering about what resilience is for the current teachers of Wagga, and, I am certain, a discovery of the roots and foundations of my own resilience.