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.”