The Teachers of QENDO

Edited by Dannielle Stewart

When I was fifteen years old my favourite subject was biology, not only because I loved all things science, but because my teacher was one of the best I have ever had. His passion for teaching was such that he aimed not just to help us pass exams and make it through high school, but to create critically thinking, scientifically literate citizens of the world. He never told us what to think, rather how to think, and think for ourselves. He was also the first person to ever mention the word endometriosis to me, and suggest that I might be afflicted by it, to tell me that I deserved better than pain, and that I needed to realise it. He is my proof that teachers can truly shape who we become, change lives, and inspire us whether be we fifteen or five.

At QENDO we are blessed to have a number of wonderful teachers at various stages of their careers as part of our team. This Queensland Teachers Day we would like to take a moment to thank all teachers for their service, and explore the amazing feat that is being a great teacher with endometriosis.

Kristen Doyle, Fundraising Coordinator
Kristen has been a teacher for nine years, beginning her career teaching kindergarten before moving to primary teaching. After spending her first year riding the adventure that is relief teaching, encountering anything from PE teaching to a year six class, she found herself teaching prep and has been there ever since.

“I have so many incredibly fond memories of my early schooling,” Kristen says. “My teachers, in my eyes, were the most amazing people on the planet. They were warm, caring, but firm, and seemed to know absolutely everything. They made me love learning. I just wanted to give that back to other children. Make them feel like they could do anything - be anything”.

Kristen describes the joy teaching brings her stemming from the fact that every day is different, and things that seem mundane to others can be exciting and day-brightening in her classroom - like a child finding an insect in the playground or learning to tie their shoes. “It takes a lot to be able to hand some power over to the children like that. Showing them that their interests or curiosities are just as important (if not more) as reading and writing”.

Kristen was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2016, having surgery three days after her 28th birthday. She experienced symptoms for years, including back pain, gastrointestinal problems, and long cycles. Her story will likely resonate with many of you, the doctors who brushed her off - including one gynae who laughed and stated it was “highly unlikely”she had endo and refused to do surgery; calling her mother after appointments in tears because once again nothing was found. Not only was endometriosis found, with adhesions between the back of the uterus and the stomach, but later Kristen was also diagnosed with adenomyosis.

Teaching can be a challenging job at the best of times, but endometriosis adds yet another issue to face. For Kristen the greatest challenge can be always being on, even when the pain is killing you. “22 little people need you, need your enthusiasm, need your guidance. Some days I just want to curl up in the corner with my heat pack and occupy the children with colouring in or some mundane task but I never let it effect me or the way I treat the children. It is exhausting ‘playing teacher’ when you feel like your inside are being torn apart. Apart from that, my biggest nemesis is the tiny prep chairs. As if I didn't have lower back pain enough!”. Sometimes it can be hard to confide in colleagues, and Kristen admits there are days where she smiles even though she feels like passing out, and the phrase “you don’t look sick” is something she is very much sick of hearing.

Kristen’s self care tips for other teachers include a good quality wearable TENs machine, heat packs and peppermint tea; and, more broadly, becoming an advocate for your own health. She encourages other teachers to avoid falling into the trap of being the perfect pinterest teacher - kids learn just as much without those Insta-worthy activities. “Great teachers teach from the heart, not from the newest laminated bunting!”

“As mentally and physically draining teaching is, I wouldn't do anything else in the world. It is the most rewarding and satisfying job that I cannot recommend enough”.

Isabella Gosling, Dalby EndoMeet Coordinator
Isabella is in her second year of teaching, currently teaching year one students. Passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people through education, Isabella says the most rewarding part of her job is the connections and relationships one forms each day with students and their families, and knowing that you are making an impact on their lives.

Isabella was diagnosed with endometriosis and adenomyosis at the age of nineteen, after experiencing symptoms since sixteen. Despite only experiencing a three year gap between onset and diagnosis, in this time she saw three specialists, none of whom gave her the answers she needed. Upon finding the specialist that diagnosed her, she found not only these answers but the support and continuity of care required. “It was such a relief to be able to identify the reason behind my pain and symptoms, and know that I wasn’t crazy,” she says.

Still early in her teaching career, Isabella has had to learn how to overcome the challenges that come with endometriosis while at work. “Needing to use the bathroom at limited notice!” she says, is one such challenge - overcome by an “amazing” teacher aide and teaching partner. “When you gotta go, you gotta go!”. Being on her feet all day can also pose a challenge, especially when lower back pain is a marked symptom of her endometriosis. “Supportive shoes are a must where possible. I love Frankie4s!”.

For other teachers, Isabella emphasises the importance of self care. “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. Her favourite way to relax after a long day is a bath with anything from Lush, and gentle stretching. Self care is as essential in her work as professional development, to be one’s best for others one must first be one’s best self.

To close, Isabella leaves us with her favourite quote: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s just not! - Dr Seuss

Erin Clinton, Support Worker

A teacher for sixteen years, Erin has taught across a variety of year levels and this year teaches prep - a change she welcomes, despite the big jump from teaching year six last year. Erin can remember wanting to be a teacher since she was a child and comes from a family of teachers and nurses. “I would line up my dolls and teddies and teach lessons on a little blackboard that I owned,” she says. “I love working with children and helping them to learn and grow and to become confident in their own abilities”.

Erin’s ideal classroom is one where she builds a sense of community, a place where students thrive; her class is a family. She enjoys getting know every one of her students, finding out how they learn best and developing their sense of success. Her biggest challenge in the classroom is often time = an imbalance often exists between curriculum expectations and time. “Teachers have so many other roles than just teaching a curriculum..this lack of time can take the creativity and student directed learning out of the classroom, which is such a shame”.

Erin has experienced severe period pain since her teens, back when she assumed - like many of us = that the pain was normal. She was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis in 2010, and has since had two ablations, an excision, and a bowel resection. Her last surgery proved complicated, with lesions found around a major artery; she is now undergoing Zoladex in preparation for her next surgery to resect endometriosis away from this structure - Erin says it would be an understatement to suggest that she isn’t looking forward to yet another procedure.

Even after greater media attention around endo, Erin still finds it a challenge that people do not understand her illness and often tell her she doesn’t look sick, and ask her if she’s “all cured now” after multiple surgeries. She’s learnt to become more confident in telling people that she has a chronic illness, no matter their discomfort - she owns it. Physically, being on her feet all day is a challenge too - it’s comfy shoes and clothes in Ms Clinton’s classroom all the way! On flare days, Erin remembers that she must be kind to herself and prioritise her health - sometimes this means letting the small things slide.

Erin’s approach to self care has evolved over her career and she has come to make time for herself and not feel guilty about it. She recommends this approach to her fellow teachers adamantly. “The role of a teacher is to always be putting the needs of others before our own and we often forget to eat,get to the toilet, drink water until the 3pm bell has gone! Don’t feel bad for sitting down or taking the day at your own pace”. Others around you may not understand what you are experiencing, but you do, and so Erin advocates that it is YOU who must look after you, even when no one else cares to. Even more important is to remember that it is completely acceptable to use your sick days when experiencing pain. “For so long, I never allowed myself to think my pain was enough to stay home from work but that was because I wasn’t taken seriously. Now I don’t care what others think of why I am off work”. Listen to your body and put your health first.

‘Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing,
amazing, awful, ordinary life.
And it’s breathtakingly beautiful’

= L.R. Knost

Thank you to our wonderful teachers of QENDO, and to teachers everywhere! Happy Queensland Teachers Day.

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