State school teachers say they are at breaking point with many considering new careers as their work life has become "unsustainable" to the detriment of their students.
Thousands across NSW walked off the job on Wednesday, travelling to Hyde Park in Sydney to protest for more manageable workloads and increased salaries, in a bid to help their wellbeing and hopefully attract more to the profession.
ACM's Illawarra Mercury boarded a South Coast Line train at Wollongong in NSW's Illawarra region filled with teachers to hear why many were reconsidering their careers if their voices continued to go unheard.
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Amber Chapman has been teaching for 20 years, and like all the Mercury spoke with, is driven by helping kids be the best they can be.
But the primary teacher and mother is now looking for other ways to support her family if she is forced to leave the industry due to burnout.
"I'm tired of kids being split up in classrooms because there's not enough qualified teachers," she said. "I'm tired of kids not being taught by qualified teachers, like a maths class being taught by a PE teacher."
Ms Chapman gave the example of being pulled away from her students to respond to mounting administrative duties (like emails and phone calls), sometimes needing a colleague to supervise her class and their own - amounting to around 50 children.
She said she had been brought to tears on occasion by not being able help her students enough.
"Without dedicated teachers society doesn't function, you've got an opportunity to change a child's life," she said.
The option of working in a private or religious school wasn't desired by many of the teachers who joined the strike action, as they believed good education should be accessible to all - not just people with money.
Everyone gets into the career with heaps of drive and passion and slowly you just get worn down. But you end up staying because you want to stay for the kids and do what's best for them but you're not doing what's best for you.- Anabelle Rouse
The teaching profession is something the entire country relies upon like our nurses, transport workers and paramedics - all of whom are exhausted and needing support from the government, having also engaged in industrial action this year.
Of the teachers not physically on the train, we were told they were using the non-paid day to desperately catch up on the mounds of administration work.
The Mercury spoke with an assistant principal, special education teachers and support staff, plus people who had left the profession and had come back only to again ask themselves "what's the point" - all of them exhausted.
Four years out of university, Anabelle Rouse is questioning how she can keep going in an environment where a lot of her class time and her free time is spent working - like creating lesson plans or managing kids' behaviours - not paid and not acknowledged.
"After doing it for a couple of years it feels like it's not something you can do forever," she said. "I don't think it's necessarily an issue about pay, for me it's about being in a sustainable job long-term and I think the workload is contributing to that being unsustainable.
"I know a lot of people who are reconsidering their careers ... everyone gets into the career with heaps of drive and passion and slowly you just get worn down. But you end up staying because you want to stay for the kids and do what's best for them but you're not doing what's best for you."
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