"We're exhausted, we're worn out, and we'd like to be appreciated a bit more."
Those were the words of NSW Teachers Federation representative and Southern Tablelands teacher Patrick Kennedy.
Teachers from across the Southern Highlands and Tablelands walked off the job on Wednesday, May 4.
While no rallies were held in the Southern Highlands or in Goulburn, teachers were encouraged to head to Sydney to protest, while rallies in Bomaderry and Queanbeyan also took place.
Mr Kennedy was just one of the teachers who joined the teachers' strike.
"It's not something we did lightly. The community needs to know we're not doing this selfishly," he said.
"It seems a shame that we can only say it's wages... when there are so many other things that are making our day so difficult.
"At the rally, they talked about the difficulties of getting counsellors in the schools, and because we can't get counsellors, we spend a lot of time counselling ourselves.
"Unfortunately, none of us are qualified for that. We do what we think is right, and we try to encourage, help and bring the kids back into the fold, but we're not experts at it.
"There's a lot of extra stress and a lot of extra welfare work that we're taking on. Teachers are finding that stressful and draining and, and at times, it's very confronting, and it can be quite a difficult task."
Mr Kennedy said the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown and homeschooling had increased teacher stress.
"The first lockdown I found extremely stressful," he said.
"It felt like whatever we did wasn't enough. We were putting the work out, and we weren't getting any replies from our students, and we're putting more work out to the point that the parents are telling us that we're overwhelming their kids.
"I didn't know anything about Google Google Classrooms until the first day of the pandemic."
As an NSW Teacher's Federation representative, Mr Kennedy was aware of a school that had lost 30 teachers in two years.
"Teachers are just walking out because they feel unsupported," he said.
"It's heartbreaking. It's demoralising.
"I'm at the end of my career, and I've taken on the federation job because the young people need protecting. They need a brighter future than what they're looking at.
"We're very conscientious, and we do care about our kids, and we do have sleepless nights about the success of the people we teach.
"You can't put that in writing and make it a banner for a protest. Sadly, all people are hearing is that we're complaining about money."
For Mr Kennedy, teaching was his dream job.
"It was the job I dreamed of when I went to school, but I didn't think that I'd ever get the opportunity because I had to leave school when I was 16 and do an apprenticeship," he said.
"I always wanted to be a teacher because I had some wonderful teachers who were an inspiration to me.
"I was lucky enough to get onto a program where they were retraining tradesmen 20 odd years ago, and I put my name in and got selected.
"I never regretted it."
He said for people in the teaching profession, it was a vocation for those who love it.
"The thrill of teaching is something special. The thrill of sharing knowledge and seeing the penny drop in to see children, walk out the door and beaming and say thank you," he said.
"It makes our day it makes it all worthwhile. But that's not where our problems are coming from. It's a tough job at the moment."
NSW Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said the premier Dominic Perrottet had failed students, their parents, and the teaching profession.
"We took industrial action because we care deeply about the education that every child in every public school receives," he said.
"We protested outside Parliament House because we cannot accept the crippling teacher shortages that are costing our children opportunities to learn, costing them their future.
"Despite our teachers' best efforts, hundreds of classes are being combined every day.
"Thousands of students are being left in playgrounds with only minimal supervision on a regular basis. To say their learning is being disrupted is a massive understatement.
"One of the most fundamental roles of a government is to ensure there is a qualified teacher in every classroom with the time and support to meet the needs of each child.
"Acting on uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads is the only way to stop more teachers leaving and to attract the people into the profession we need to fix the shortages. This is an investment in our children's futures."
Journalist at the Southern Highland News.
Journalist at the Southern Highland News.
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