My background in education
I trained as a Primary Teacher at Wollongong University back in the 80s. I was one of seven males in a course of 100! Teaching was my first choice.
Before I finished my DipTeach I was offered a full-time job at Gib Gate, a small independent school in Mittagong, part of Winifred West Schools. I took the role and finished my degree externally. My first class was 28 excitable Transition students (Kindergarten). My claim to fame was teaching (not very well mind you), the children of Jimmy Barnes, Billy Birmingham, and INXS Manager Mark Opitz.
During my time at Gib Gate I was appointed to the position of Early Childhood Coordinator, overseeing Preschool, Transition, and years 1 and 2.
In April 1998 I was appointed founding Head of a new school in the ACT, Burgmann Anglican School. After my interview I was taken to see where the new school would be built. All I saw was a handful of sheep in an otherwise barren paddock. For the remainder of the year I worked full-time at Gib Gate while writing the curriculum, registering the new school, attracting enrolments and appointing the first staff members for Burgmann, as well as building a new house for my young family to move into. It was an extraordinary busy time!
Burgmann opened in 1999 with 24 students from Kindergarten to Year 3. We had a fulltime Kindergarten teacher, a part time specialist to teach Indonesian, and I taught a multi-age 1, 2, 3 class. The one building in the paddock was affectionately known as “the little house on the prairie”. The school expanded rapidly and when I left in 2008 there were almost 1000 students from Preschool to Year 12, a waiting list of 2000 and a second campus about to open. Today the school has over 1500 students.
In 2008 I was appointed Headmaster of St Paul’s School in north Brisbane. The school is a Preschool to Year 12 School with an International School and just over 1400 students.
I finished my degree in Primary Education, and have a Masters in Educational Administration with Hons and a PhD. My PhD focused on leadership, particularly the development of trust in leadership. For those interested you can visit my site at http://compellingleadership.com.au . You can also follow me on Twitter @PaulDBrowning
Why did you decide to become involved in education?
At school I was very good at Engineering Science, Tech Drawing and mathematics. The typical career path for a boy good at those subjects was engineering but it really didn’t interest me.
I was teaching Sunday School at the time and was pretty bad at it, but really enjoyed working with young children (they laughed at my jokes). I wanted to learn how to be better at it: here I am today, still passionate about shaping young people’s lives.
What are some of the roles you have had and what is your role now?
I have been an Early Childhood teacher, primary teacher, and have taught secondary school (Design Technology and Christian Education). I was the Early Childhood Coordinator at Gib Gate, the Foundation Head of a School in Canberra and now am the Headmaster at St Paul’s School.
I have served on various Boards, both in the capacity of a member, as well as Chairman.
Who or what keeps you motivated in your work?
Whenever I get bogged down with administrivia, or with a challenging issue that makes me wonder why I am doing the work I am, I take a walk around the school, or drop into a few classrooms and talk to the students. They quickly ground me and remind me why I do the work I do.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The greatest reward, which is both humbling and an incredible privilege, is the opportunity to play a part in shaping a person’s life. If I have had some small positive impact on a life each week then that is what it is all about. However, we need to remember that we may never see the fruit of our work or truly appreciate what that impact was.
The biggest challenge is the pastoral care and wellbeing of young people. The challenges they face are immense. All the rhetoric tells us that education is about literacy and numeracy and academic performance, but is it much more than that—it is about having a lasting impact on the future of humanity. The future is literally in a teacher’s hands.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I would reshape what it means to be a teacher, both in teacher training programs and in the eyes of the politicians and the public. As teachers we know what it means to be a great teacher, but much of this work is not recognised or valued. Politicians, in the name of economic growth, have commodified education and in doing so, undermined trust and done damage to the real heart of schools—the relationships that exist between teachers and students.
To begin this work I would do away with the MySchool website.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for this account?
Teachers need to believe in their profession. To be a teacher you have to have a hugely diverse set of skills and attributes, more so than most other professions. We also work harder than most other professions. If we want to be respected as professionals we need to respect ourselves and believe in what we do.
Collectively we can influence the public debate on education. Twitter is a great platform for sharing ideas, professional learning, networking and collectively supporting what we believe is the essence and heart of education and where it should go. I would love to see more educators join the EduTweetOz conversations, sharing their ideas, help each other grow practice and further the profession.