I have always suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember. My memories of childhood are happy but also tainted with anxious thoughts and reactions to these thoughts. I grew up in a time when anxiety was not fully recognised let alone openly discussed.
My transition for primary school to high school exacerbated my anxiety. I found myself extremely overwhelmed trying to complete this next step in life. My mornings before heading to high school were spent suppressing the urge to vomit (due to my nerves). More often than not these fight-or-flight instincts came with me to high school, forcing me to take cover in the school garden while I dry retched.
Day to day tasks at high school were a struggle. I had to push through all my negative self-talk to complete the simplest of tasks. Anxiety was with me everywhere I went but there was also someone else with me, a remarkable teacher (let’s call her Mrs M).
I was introduced to Mrs M on my orientation day. She was to be my homegroup teacher, someone that I could check in with on a daily basis. From the get go Mrs M recognised that there was more to my “first day” jitters. She quickly became a constant in my life, a constant that was needed more than I would ever recognise at the time. She provided me with constant support, constant education and constant mentoring; a balance that is no easy feat.
As a support she saw me through some of my most horrendous anxiety attacks. She knew that there was no talking me through these attacks once they took hold, instead she found ways to address the cause of the attack immediately. She then connected me with the right people who helped me to recognise what I was going through and set me on the right path.
As an educator, Mrs M rocked. She had a passion for all things maths and science. Even these were not overly my thing, her love for them radiated and you could not help getting caught up in it.
As a mentor Mrs M guided me into fields that previously my anxiety had encumbered me from. It took years until I recognised what I was truly capable of but Mrs M had obviously seen this early on and worked tirelessly toward getting me there. By the end of my high school days I was a happy student who embraced all the social aspects that school life had to offer, making the transition into the big, wide world that little bit easier.
Behind every powerful girl there is a collective of powerful teachers. Great teachers somehow manage to recognise the magic in an individual and then get that individual to acknowledge their magic and use it.
Influential and effectual teachers come in all different forms, from a primary school principal that teaches you the depth of leadership to a high school drama teacher that fosters your passion for entertaining people. I have been lucky enough to have several significant teachers in my lifetime but Mrs M is the one that stands strong in this girls’ memories.
Today marks the celebration of Teachers’ Day. Two days are actually earmarked to celebrate these fabulous people, the other being 5th October (World Teachers’ Day). But today on the 27th October, here in Victoria, we also celebrate all that teachers do.
So let’s thank all the Mrs M’s out there. Thank the teacher that made a difference to your life. Thank the teacher that is currently making a difference to your life. Thank your Mrs M.
Inspired by this day I did something I should have done a long time ago. I tracked down Mrs M. I had previously always put it off, thinking it would be too difficult. It wasn’t. Twenty years on I was able to share with her all that had come about from her support, mentoring and education.
Thank you Mrs M! You were the pretty powerful teacher behind this pretty powerful woman and for that I am forever grateful.