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A Life Journey Begins – How and Why I Became a Teacher – Michael Graffin

A few posts ago, I asked my readers if they had a story about how and why they became a teacher.

Michael Graffin from

A Relief Teacher’s Journey, @mgraffin sent me an email with his story. It was first posted on What Ed Said.

Thanks Michael!

Here it is:

A life journey begins …

About seven years ago, I was the Year 12 Academic Dux of my school, and I had no idea about what I wanted to do with my life. My teachers wanted me to become an engineer. My parents thought I’d make a good teacher.

My journey began as a work-experience student at my local primary school, where an encounter with one particular child would change the course of my life. This child wasn’t the nicest, brightest or most well-behaved kid in the class. He was small, academically weak, and not particularly well-behaved. Unfortunately, his teacher’s management approach consisted of yelling and sending him to time-out in the storage alcove at the back of the class, his “second home”.

Even then, this struck a nerve; and I made a point of working with this kid in his little time-out space. To this day, I’ll never forget the look in his eyes as I helped him with his maths. At that point, I knew: I was going into teaching to help those troubled children who other teachers had given up on.

I was only 17, and I was going to be a teacher. Little did I know …

I excelled in my university studies, yet I entered teaching ill-equipped to cope with the practical realities of teaching. While I took steps to rectify my glaring weaknesses, more than anyone will ever know, I spent my first year and a half of teaching feeling disillusioned, bitter, incompetent and isolated.

Things got better …

I was a relief teacher – free to learn from my mistakes, develop my classroom management skills, and take risks in my teaching. It wasn’t an easy road – I got knocked around on many occasions, but I came to appreciate the opportunity to observe and reflect on experienced teachers’ practice in different schools.

But they haven’t always gone to plan …

I was appointed to my very first class – without warning, on the first day of the 2011 school year. Sadly, the position lasted a mere six days. There was a staffing reallocation, and my class, ‘Room 11’, was no more. My students were split up, and I was moved into a temporary, eclectic teaching and support role.

It took me a long time to recover from this crushing disappointment, but I became a stronger, more mature teacher for the experience. I may not have had my ‘own’ class, but for the first time in my life, I felt like a teacher. I had my staff badge, my own keys, and the freedom to quietly experiment with ICT. I wasn’t an outsider. I was part of a community.

I’ve learnt and been through so much, and I’m moving on …

My journey wasn’t meant to be easy. It’s been one wild ride. Yet, with the grace of God, I’m still here. I’m not quitting. Why should I?  My experiences have helped me better appreciate my family and my PLN (Personal Learning Network).

Now, after rediscovering my passion for teaching, I take a great deal of comfort from @coolcatteacher’s recent reflections:

The greatest teachers often have the greatest obstacles to overcome. The greatest shames … You don’t really see the pain. You don’t [see] the heartache …. as they experience their own humiliation and failure. They are there.

I know.  I see it.  I feel it.  I refuse to believe it is all for nothing.

One day, I will teach a class of my own. For now, it’s time to move on.

Perhaps, one day, I will become a great teacher.  I certainly hope so.


Thanks again Michael,

I think you are already a great teacher!

Do you have an inspiring story on how and why you became a teacher? Send it to me, and I’ll post in on SITC.






  1. Debbie Coats's Gravatar Debbie Coats
    June 6, 2011    

    Dear Michael,

    If definitely sounds like you have the makings of a really great teacher. The fact that you cared so much for that first child you observed, tells me that you have the caring nature needed to be a good teacher. I hope you land that first job and will have the chance to do exactly what you were meant to do. I have taught for 26 years and have loved every minute of it……… well almost every minute! LOL Good luck! I am sure you will find the perfect job soon.

  2. June 8, 2011    

    Well, I suppose a few thankyous are in order.

    Sam, thanks for reposting this. I didn’t expect it to be published here, but it’s been fascinating to see how many people in my Twitter PLN actually read your blog.

    Debbie, I really appreciate your kind feedback. My teaching journey has been a struggle at times, but I’ve come to enjoy it. Like everything, it has its ups and downs, but its the ups which make it all worthwhile. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. It’s greatly appreciated.

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  1. Test » Well, It’s My Story … on September 15, 2011 at 1:56 am
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