Ai­dan k

Parenting - - Family Matters -

Chang­ing jobs is noth­ing new for Ai­dan Richards. In the past, he’s had a record deal and a shot at a ca­reer in the mu­sic busi­ness, done some desk­top pub­lish­ing, been in pub­lic re­la­tions, and worked in the com­mu­nity with The Sal­va­tion Army. Each of those jobs pro­vided a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge, and Ai­dan says it’s the chal­lenge that drew him to teach­ing. He’s spent the past four years in the class­room teach­ing sec­ondary school English and Clas­si­cal Stud­ies, and is also a stu­dent dean.

“I’ve al­ways loved do­ing new things,” he says. “This time, I really wanted to do some­thing that would work well for the whā­nau.”

The fam­ily in­cludes his wife Cherie, sons Dy­lan, 7, and Toby, 5, and one-year-old twins, Ad­di­lyn and Ry­der. In the same way he be­lieves be­ing a par­ent has made him a bet­ter teacher, he’s made a big ef­fort to make sure that be­ing a great teacher hasn’t made him any less of a par­ent.

Af­ter a full-on year of study­ing and work­ing part-time, Ai­dan got a job at Ran­gi­toto Col­lege on Auck­land’s North Shore. He quickly dis­cov­ered the re­wards of work­ing with teenagers.

“It sounds like a cliché, but I really did want to do some­thing that made a dif­fer­ence,” he says. “Teach­ing is all about build­ing re­la­tion­ships and that’s some­thing I can bring to the job.”

He says a bit of life ex­pe­ri­ence and par­ent­ing skills make it eas­ier to understand his stu­dents. "You know that just be­cause some­one is grumpy, it doesn’t mean they are a bad per­son,” he says. As a par­ent he has also learned that the pos­i­tives of each per­son­al­ity type brings com­pli­ca­tions with it as well.

“I truly be­lieve that teenagers have a valid voice and have im­por­tant things to say. We have some really good con­ver­sa­tions.”

Ai­dan says it makes his day when a stu­dent grasps a new idea and runs with it, or opens up and shares an idea in class.

One of the chal­lenges of his first year of teach­ing was jug­gling the in­ten­sity of the job with the de­mands of fam­ily life. “I would come home af­ter be­ing pa­tient and good-na­tured and hu­mor­ous all day, and one of my boys would do some­thing mildly an­noy­ing and I would snap. I re­alised my own boys didn’t need an ogre just be­cause I had been at school all day. “

Since then he’s made an ef­fort to make his job as fam­ily-friendly as pos­si­ble. “Teach­ing is one of those jobs that’s con­stantly on your mind – you’re al­ways think­ing about what you need to do and what you promised you’d do for some­one. It can con­sume you, but that’s where you have to be care­ful, be­cause if you’re con­sumed, you have noth­ing left to give.”

Now, he starts the year off by show­ing his stu­dents pic­tures of his own four chil­dren, and ex­plain­ing that while he will give ev­ery­thing he can as their teacher, he does have an­other side to his life as well.

“I ex­plain that when they ask me if I have marked their es­say the day af­ter they have handed it in, I will say, ‘No, I haven’t. I was hang­ing out with my kids.'”

It has turned out to be a win-win sit­u­a­tion with his stu­dents not only get­ting more em­pa­thetic, but also be­ing pre­pared for ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion where they will likely be in a class of hun­dreds, com­pet­ing for a lec­turer’s at­ten­tion.

“There’s al­ways some­thing to do and some­thing to mark and I love see­ing the progress they are making. But I also love go­ing home and see­ing my fam­ily.”

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