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Graduation Speech by Suzie Espie-Chal

Like many of the teachers sitting in this room I didn’t leave University with teaching on my radar. I left Victoria University with a passion for media and determined to find myself in the hot editor’s seat at a NZ editorial publication. 9 years and 2 careers later I find myself extremely satisfied having grown on a personal journey and working in a job that reflects that. A job I am extremely thankful for and never ever find boring.

To give you some context, I spent 4 years syndicating international celebrity paparazzi photos to numerous national and international magazines. I would hold bidding wars between editors and hike up prices to make huge sales. I would schmooze, wine and dine and talk about the latest celebrity scandal.

Following that I spent a couple of years as a working sole charge out of NZ for an Australian Home Rental business. I spent my days designing collateral, negotiating budgets, attending sunny conferences- and although outwardly it should have, none of this satisfied- I was trapped no matter which way I looked.
After 4 years I grew tired of pretending that meeting financial targets was stimulating or inspiring for me. I couldn’t keep up the façade that the latest exclusive sale of a Victoria Beckham image was something I cared about.

Don’t get me wrong, the travel, hotels and jimmy choo served my early to mid-twenties very well, but every 14 hour flight I found myself reminded that the glitz was funded by a career that was suffocating. I couldn’t deny that I felt very strongly about contributing to people – standing up for the underdog- giving something to people that they could take away and use to make their journey in this wild world better. And so my venture into education was born.

We were told at teachers college that to be teacher you have to love children. But I know now that is not enough.
It’s about being a supportive team member and meeting deadlines. 
It’s about communicating with parents and reassuring them when they are worried
It’s about early morning band practises and dusting shelves. 
It’s about lists and auditions and turning on sound systems. 
It’s about preparing, planning, research and design. 
It’s about timetables, folders, data entry and analysis. 
It’s about buying fish tank filters and holding goldfish funerals. 
It’s about searching for backing tracks in the perfect key and becoming very familiar with Karaoke world on iTunes. 
It’s about trying your best to hold it together when the cockroach you find in your desk drawer tries to eat you alive

Thankfully- this colourful list of tasks all serves a very important purpose. They contribute to a role where you can support the young person that walks into your classroom each day with wide eyes. Eyes that are hopeful and excited and full of ambition, or eyes that are, tired, weepy and say ‘today I need you to just understand that the fact that I made it to school today is all the achievement I can manage’.

This past two years I have been reminded, and reminded myself something very important. I have been reminded that the relationship that you develop with your students makes all the difference. I have learnt that children knowing that each day they have somewhere safe to go where they will be appreciated, valued and understood, is important. Whilst positive shift in a child’s learning is so vitally important also, I have learnt that if you get the first step right, the bond, then the learning will come more easily.

I wish I could say that I have been consistently good at this over the last two years, but I have been learning, and as we all know learning is so often preceded by making mistakes.

I have watched a mimicked the behaviour of so many incredible staff members from this school over the past two years.
I have watched how you balance home life with your work life, and in teaching that is not an easy feat. I have watched you guide and support one another when you didn’t always agree. I have seen people sharing ideas and being extremely generous with their time. So many of you have been generous to me on this teaching journey and I’m really thankful.

Specifically I would like to thank Wayne, and my two tutor teachers Marion Clark and Leanne Siaki.
Marion- you helped me so much, and you were very influential in my learning to love children. You taught me that it is ok for a grieving, sick or miserable child to skip handwriting for a day and just sit on the couch for a while until he/she feels a bit better. Thank you for the coffees, rides home, listening ears and many gifts.

Leanne – I will never forget the day that you showed me how you organise your weekly planning. It was like giving Usain Bolt the perfect pair of running shoes and from there I was really able to get stuck into teaching, and balance my life more carefully again. I am also very thankful for the many useful, fun resources you gave me. Most importantly for me, you restored my confidence in my own ability to do and teach maths effectively. You showed me fantastic strategies that have carried me through teaching some of those more difficult maths stages.

Wayne – you took a chance on me and gave me opportunities that I am extremely grateful for. You allowed me to shine in the areas that I was particularly skilled, and let me learn privately and at my own pace in the areas where I needed to grow. Thank you for my job and for defending me when I have needed it. Thank you listening to what I say and for respecting me enough to trust my decisions.

I have made great friendships at Matipo that I treasure. Now I am off to take a short break to venture into one of the hardest jobs there is – motherhood!

Thank you again to the staff, children, parents and teachers that have supported my two year journey to becoming a registered teacher. I wish you all a very safe and relaxing holiday.

Thank you.