How the hardest hour of my week gave me a new appreciation for teachers

Helping out at your child's school is likely to give you a new appreciation for teachers.
Helping out at your child's school is likely to give you a new appreciation for teachers. Photo: Getty

When I was a kid, having my mum or dad come into my school to help out was a spectacular treat. I hadn't reached the age where my parents were embarrassing; on the contrary, I thought they were rock-star level cool.

When mum or dad came into school, whether it be to play guitar during singing time or help supervise arts and crafts, it made my day.

It was this memory – plus the incessant pleading of my youngest daughter – that made me volunteer to help with a weekly kindy computer class. I felt noble and virtuous. I may have deliberately avoided every P&C meeting to date, but I was still doing my bit.

As it turns out, 'doing my bit' would prove to be much harder than first anticipated. In fact, my hour of computer work with K-Brown* has given me fresh admiration for the teaching profession (and much gratitude that I didn't pursue a career in it!).

The first challenge of computer hour is assisting 22 kindy kids to 'log-on'. Sounds simple enough. But the dexterity and coordination required to hit, 'control', 'alt' and 'delete' in the right order makes it akin to brain surgery. Seriously.

The upshot of the 'control', 'alt' and 'delete' debacle is that K-B's teacher, Ms Brown*, and I spend the first 10 minutes of the class running round the room helping one kid after another while the rest of them wave an arm in the air, wailing for help as if their lives depend on it.

Logging on complete, the next challenge is negotiating a word document, a challenge I have been taking for granted for quite some time. But it turns out that changing font, text size and colour is actually some sort of witchcraft. I demonstrated by typing my own name and turning it from 'Arial' to 'Comic Sans' and the kids gasped as if I have turned cheese sambos into fairy bread.

It gets frustrating pretty quickly, especially when you can see another 20 hands waving for help out the corner of your eye. The kids get irritated too – they know that you can play games on computers; they think that changing font and text size is pointless. After an hour of demonstrating it I begin to agree.  

There is another challenge. The children in K-B have a collective flatulence problem. This isn't too much of an issue in their airy classroom, but once inside the windowless computer room, their combined emissions quickly create a toxic atmosphere. I learned the hard way that taking deep breaths is not a good coping strategy.

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I'm not cut out for teaching. I don't have the same patience as Ms Brown. She seems to take it in her stride, barely a flicker of frustration registers on her face. Meanwhile I'm talking through gritted teeth, mentally counting the seconds until I can escape.

But I grin and bear it. I see how happy my daughter is, and I love the way her classmates greet me like a long lost friend (even when they wilfully fart in my face). It's worth it. And although it feels like eternity, it's only an hour out of my week. It's the longest, hardest hour of my week, but it's a drop in the ocean compared to the effort of the teachers who work their socks off for our kids.

Will I sign up again next year? Yep. Teachers need parents and carers to pitch in where they can. It's a community effort after all.

But now that I know what's in store, I'll be bringing along an air freshener. 

*Names have been changed