This week’s host is Penny Bentley @penpln

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education?

I became a secondary maths and science teacher in the 1980’s after working in medical research for several years. Talking science with teens seemed way more appealing than doing research with rats.

What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

Throughout my 25 years on the frontline of classroom teaching I had many roles, some more suited to my skills and knowledge than others. Teaching maths and science from years 7 to 10, along with senior chemistry, formed most of my teaching load from year to year. Thinking back now, was it that year 8 home economics class, the year 10 PE class or the year 9 Outward Bound camp that almost put an end to my teaching career long before I was ready?  I had leadership roles too, but much preferred to co-ordinate my busy science classes than hundreds of students in year level assemblies.

Six years ago I left the classroom, once described by Schon (1995) as a place where ‘the turbulent world of practice’ occurs. I’d had enough of practice, but not of learning more about it. Now I’m writing up my PhD thesis on how Australian teachers experience professional learning on the open Web.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

I guess it’s all the wonderful teachers I interact with on the open Web who share their experiences of ‘the turbulent world of practice’. The willingness of teachers to be there for each other, to share resources and ideas and participate in conversations. That keeps me inspired and motivated. Also, I love exploring archives in the public domain. To read the original words of Bacon, Darwin, Dewey, Pierce, Curie and so on…that’s truly amazing.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

I’ll never forget the day I first connected to the internet. Back in those days it was the small image of a moving globe that signified a connection, and it sent shivers down my spine. Being able to access information from home was transformative for me, as was the ability to communicate with others and create digital artefacts as the interactive Web evolved. I believe one of the biggest rewards for teachers today is the amazing connectivity and openness of the Web as a means of opening our eyes and the eyes of our students. Of course, this biggest reward brings with it many challenges.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

Ever since I’ve been in the education system people have been making changes to ‘fix’ something that’s broken rather than support the system to evolve. Change takes time and more than the ability of one, so I’d be looking to connect with others to come on board for the long haul. That’s what we’re doing here on social media. Having ongoing conversations with people from diverse backgrounds related to education, and it’s a good place to start. Change lies in the willingness of people to listen to and learn from each other. To respectfully engage with teacher educators, with educational researchers, with teachers on the frontline of practice, with politicians, parents, students and a whole range of experts.  In answering this question, I’d encourage everyone to think more about what it is that needs changing and how we can bridge the gap between the different kinds of knowledge everyone brings to the conversation. I’d also ask everyone to take a critical look at what’s happening right now. Should our professional learning and our children’s education be directed and controlled by multinational edtech companies? Should we be giving our student’s learning history (data) away for these companies to use as they wish? Should STEM education focus on coding and robotics or global problems as climate change, disease and poverty.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

EduTweetOz enables the conversations I mentioned above and I hope to chat about all of these issues. Thank’s for giving me this opportunity.

Jo Prestia is this week’s host (@JoPrestia)

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

 I always wanted to be an art teacher. I’ve spent 30 years in Catholic secondary schools in two states, mostly in Curriculum leadership positions but always teaching art. Four years ago I decided to pursue other avenues but always in education. These days I wear a number of hats. I have my own education consultancy business, working with teachers, students and Learning Support Officers (LSO) in schools and through Critical Agendas. I mostly facilitate workshops to do with special needs, disability, learning, boys ed, coaching and differentiation. I also work at Monash University as a tutor with pre-service teachers and with English Connect that runs programs for international students including Peer Support (assistance with academic writing) Let’s Chat (conversational English program), Connecting Across Cultures workshops and Orientation workshops for those newly arrived. In my spare time I enjoy doing CRT (Casual Relief Teaching).

Did I mention I am a part-time PhD student? My research is in the area of special needs – mainly interested in collaborations between teachers and LSOs.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

 Teaching for me is all about learning. I am inspired daily by the learning and collaboration of both educators and students. I love learning with them and sharing their learning journeys. This is what motivates me in my current multi-roles. Every day is a new experience. I get to visit new places, different schools and have the opportunity to learn with different audiences. In fact one of my biggest fears is turing up to the wrong place! Everyday I check and double check where I am supposed to be – it’s not a chore but I like to think of it as an adventure – a new one every day. I love what I do!

On those days where I get the chance to stay home and work on my research, I like to hook into groups such as PhD Owls who support and assist me with just getting on with it. Several times a week I also enjoy twitter chats. My PLN inspires, challenges and motivates me to be the best educator I can be. I love that too!

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
Inclusion.

 If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

 Never allow the system to stagnate. There is one constant in education – change. We shouldn’t be surprised, but we should be ready to ensure that students always come first. Change for the sake of change in unhealthy – we must evaluate, communicate, collaborate and reflect, then decide.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
EduTweetOz is an avenue where educators can do just as I described above. A platform where we can evaluate, communicate, collaborate and reflect. It will be no surprise to anyone having read thus far that this week the bulk of our conversation will centre on inclusion, special needs and disabilities. I’m looking forward to the conversation. Thank you for the opportunity to host EduTweetOz this week. I hope you will join me in the learning.

Damian Marley @asteroidproject is our host this week

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I’ve been teaching since mid-2005, after a decade working in retail. I changed careers after a lightbulb moment and a voice in my head that told me to teach. I’ve worked in a variety of Primary schools and year levels and I’ve been Principal of Warburton Primary School, a small school in the upper Yarra Valley, since 2014.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

The kids keep me inspired and the motivation is to continually improve myself, to continually motivate my staff and to continually grow the school in every way possible.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

This is a human role and the rewards come when the relationships grow, the faces smile and the brains expand. The challenges are immense and they centre around how best to best meet the needs of all our students.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I would increase the targeted funding to Government schools, in order to get more people on the ground to push our kids further and higher. I would want to redress the primacy of school choice. Choice is very important, but it needs to be balanced by appropriate community-building measures.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

My hope is to share the adventures of a Principal this week. EduTweetOz brings educators together across the sectors. Or settings are varied but at the centre we all have students who need us.

 

Taking on hosting duties this week is Angie Taylor

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

After a few years of overseas travel, I found myself at a major cross-road in my life. I decided to enroll in a Bachelor of Primary Education at the University of Technology at the now defunct Ku-ring-gai Campus in Lindfield. The beautiful leafy campus tucked into Sydney suburbia is where I arrived as a mature aged student – pregnant, divorced, with a one year old.

I did end up having to skip a semester but then made it up with summer school completing my degree half a year later than my peers. The practicums I undertook were with the guidance of amazing educators. They confirmed for me my love of teaching and let me know that I was taking the right path.

As a targeted graduate, I had the good fortune to teach at a range of schools across Sydney and am now an Assistant Principal at Boronia Park Public in Sydney’s inner northern suburbs.

 

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

I live to connect with others. I’m driven by the connections I make with students across my school and in my class. I’m driven by a passionate desire to make things better for them, for our community and the teachers in my school. The smiles, the hi-fives and hugs, those amazing light bulb moments are a panacea to the hum drum of reports and administrative requirements of our job. The joy I get out of connecting with other educators feeds my desire to do better, but also reinvigorates my passion for education.

People come into your life to teach you lessons and my life has seen a vast array of that. I’ve been motivated to do better by people that have challenged my drive and determination and have been inspired to succeed by teaching alongside some amazing educators and leading under some amazing principals.

I love to build collective teacher efficacy through sharing and collaborating with others as well as being involved in Teachmeets, Twitter and Yammer where I’ve connected with educators from around the world.

I’m passionate about technology, creating websites, blogs etc. and took a year off class to just teach through technology while beginning my Masters in Educational Leadership. I’m continually trying to build my capacity as an educator and leader and have already completed the DoE’s management credential to further my understanding of running a school.

I am also chair of the Lane Cove River Alliance – a group of eleven local schools and through them we’re organising a 400+ staff development day around Wellbeing. This direction came out of analysing the needs of staff from their feedback following the inaugural SDD of which I was also a part.

Above all, the continual support of my husband and children keeps me motivated and able to focus on the many tasks at hand.

 

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

One of the biggest challenges facing teachers today is the disconnect between public perceptions of our roles and the reality of the difficulties, and limitations, that we have to deal with every day. This gap in understanding may never be bridged!

The rewards, however, are abundant.

 

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

My first step would be to ensure that all schools, government or independent, enjoyed equal base funding across all levels of government. Then, make it more equitable for schools dealing with educationally disadvantaged students such as students with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with limited English language proficiency, low socioeconomic status (SES) students, and students in regional, rural and remote areas to access additional funding where required.

 

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

I’m hoping that EduTweetOz will further connect teachers across the country – if not the world! – and help us all become better informed on those subjects that we hold dear as well as those we are yet to discover. My passion for collective teacher efficacy is building one teacher at a time.

On a personal note, I hope that many of you will reach out and connect with me on Twitter. You can find me @Angie8881

Please welcome Michael Sky as this week’s host

18741609_10155291288641866_628332772_n_FotorPlease tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I was a professional uni student for a number of years, by accident not design. I studied a Bachelor of Arts at Macquarie University, intending to do education, and I went to my first day to enrol and they asked if I was enrolling in primary or secondary. To that point I hadn’t thought about that choice and on the spot chose secondary. I decided to major in History and have Maths as my minor, and it was only when I did my first prac in 3rd year that I knew secondary teaching was not for me.

I completed a Bachelor of Arts in History and then went and did a degree in music at Southern Cross in Lismore, the first time I had lived outside of Sydney. That was the first step in me leaving Sydney forever.

After that degree I moved to Newcastle and was playing in some bands and teaching private music tuition. After a few years of doing that I went back to uni to do a Dip Ed in primary teaching. I got a job from uni as a 5/6 classroom teacher in Wollongong, but after a chance conversation with a colleague decided to move to London and teach, which I did for two years. Coming back to Newcastle as a casual was difficult in terms of gaining permanency, so I started applying for jobs in rural NSW. I was successful in gaining employment at North Star in 2011 on the 3/4/5/6 class. I planned to stay 3 years in North Star, but stayed 5 and a half. I probably was thinking about moving somewhere else for about 12 months when my current role was advertised. As principal of a small school that was only 25kms down the road from where I had taught for more than 5 years, it seemed like a good way to get into a leadership role in my own school. 6 months on and I have no regrets about taking on my current role. As a teaching principal in a small rural school, you get a degree of freedom to try a wide range of ideas.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

The things that keep me inspired are, for me, the very things that our schools exist for, students and the community. I am very blessed at the moment to have the most lovely group of students I have ever taught, but even when I have more difficult students and or families, I am motivated to find a way to connect that child with their learning. I am also inspired by a number of educators that I have met through social media, including Twitter and Yammer. I have found these forums amazing for connecting with people who in general I think are far smarter than me, yet are usually so friendly and sharing with their ideas and approaches to teaching. This is doubly so for leadership. I must admit I haven’t had any great leaders in the schools I’ve worked in, but I have met leaders through social media that have given me real focus in how I approach education through their experiences and willingness to share

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

For me education is all about the students. They are the challenges, but working with them to help them improve and want to improve is the reward. The other challenge is the amount of reform that has come into education over the past few years much of which can prove a distraction to the everyday job of teaching the students.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I would give rural schools a lot more money!

I think the urban/rural divide remains a major issue and I am not sure there is really an earnest attempt to improve access for and the achievements of rural students. It is also concerning when you look at how many small schools have been closed in the last 10 years and you can’t help but wonder if small schools will survive in the future when the focus of governments is economic rather than service based.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

I think it is good that there is a way in which all the different parts of the education sectors can be bought together through this account. No one is an expert of everything, but this at least allows a range of voices to share their ideas, engage in discussions and inform people of differing experiences.

I hope to be able to discuss leadership, experience of teaching rurally and anything else that grabs my attention during the week. Would love it if there was anyone thinking of teaching rurally who would let me convince them to give it a go.​

Welcome Michael Walker (@krustyklo)

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Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve? 

My name is Michael Walker and I am currently a secondary teacher at a middle suburban secondary college in Melbourne, Victoria.

I completed my VCE in 1989 and was interested even then in teaching, putting education degrees in my list of preferences for university courses. However, my parents had a belief that I would be more interested in engineering and so I put those first above the teaching degrees, and received my first choice of engineering course, along with a scholarship. I believe that I dodged a bullet there as I would   have been graduating around the time the Kennett government was closing schools. Even now there are nowhere near as many people my age employed as teachers than people much younger or older than I am.

Whilst there were parts of the engineering course that interested me, much of it I found boring and couldn’t see myself doing that as a career for the rest of my life. In addition I struggled with the transition to university from the high school environment. Fortunately the engineering course had a six month work experience component, and I did work experience at a small IT company fixing hardware and providing helpdesk support and they offered me a job. Fast forward six years and a number of different roles within the company and I found myself unemployed when the company was placed into administration and liquidated.

Whilst looking for another job, I happened across an old friend when going swimming one night, and he told me he had just changed jobs and his old IT job at an inner suburban school was available. I rang up the following day, was informed that they were interviewing for the job that day and if I could fax through my resume and turn up for an interview in 2 hours, they would interview me. As I walked in the door upon getting home from the interview, the phone rang offering me the job! My career in education had begun.

A significant part of my support job was classroom support, including opening one of the computer rooms at lunchtimes, and I quite enjoyed the classroom part of the IT job and interacting with students, as well as the opportunity to learn new things all the time. In my first year I had a small but life changing experience that pushed me towards teaching. I had taken the class set of laptops into a class for some publicity photos but the photographer was running quite late. So there I was in a classroom with a class of year 8s, the principal and the normal classroom teacher, all of us standing around with the need to do something productive. I’m not sure exactly how it happened but I was invited to show the kids something, anything, on the laptops. So I started showing them how to compose a budget in Excel, and kept going for most of the 50 minutes until the end of the period with the students engaged and productive. As we walked out, I was asked if I’d ever considered taking up teaching as I had apparently done quite well!

Towards the end of that year, my manager pulled me aside and was openly honest about how he understood that schools didn’t pay IT staff much compared to industry, but they were very happy with my work and he wanted to negotiate alternative ways to keep me at the school, with one of the suggestions being time off to do a university course part time. With the earlier experience fermenting in my mind, I jumped at the chance to do a Bachelor of Science / Education at Deakin, and did so starting in 1999.

However, whilst I was able to juggle full time work, part time study, and home life having also married in 1999; after 5 years personal circumstances meant I had to discontinue the course to prioritise my family but I continued working at the school doing IT support.

After doing the same job for 10 years, circumstances changed and financially I was in a position to complete what I had started, so left my job and commenced a 4 year full time degree at LaTrobe University undertaking a Bachelor Science / Science Education majoring in Maths and a submajor of Computer Science.

A teaching friend offered advice that I should start looking for jobs from June in my last year, and sure enough my current job was advertised in July, and I was the successful applicant.

I have taught Science in junior years up until this year, Maths in junior years, VCE IT and Software Development, and this year  started teaching the new Digital Technologies subject to Year 8 classes. Last year I took on a role co-managing the year 8 Maths team and this year have been doing that role by myself as my co-leader took on another role.

In Victoria, there are 2 pay categories (starting at 1-1 to 1-5, then 2-1 upwards). As part of stepping up pay grades from 1 to 2 this year, I had to add a responsibility role so after discussion with the relevant Assistant Principal wrote my own role as Digital Technologies Coordinator responsible for implementing and managing the new DigiTech curriculum in our school. I was also persuaded to take on a subrole supporting the Arts/ Technology domain coordinators in promoting and implementing the Design technologies curriculum in the school.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

On an intrinsic level, I am really motivated by the challenge of understanding and implementing curriculum in pedagogically appropriate ways. I love learning new things about the content and how to teach it in ways students can engage with it, understand it and, most importantly, apply it in meaningful ways.

On an extrinsic level, I enjoy spending time around students and talking with them about life, the universe, and everything. Students want to learn, are curious about the world, and some of the best discussions I have had about the content or other topics have been completely spontaneous in the yard during yard duty, or even on the 902 bus on the way home!

I also enjoy the company and support of my colleagues, and appreciate the differences we all have and the way they contribute to all of us moving forward in our understanding and knowledge of what we do. Or maybe I just enjoy the bad puns and dad jokes… 🙂

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

Whilst it seems to be a cliché, I believe the education system in Australia, and indeed the world, is at a crossroads. The rewards will come from choosing the right ways forward, the challenge is in determining what they are. You could write an encyclopedia (you know, that thing that is like a book version of Wikipedia) about the challenges in education – and obviously many, many people have.

The big challenges I see are both old and new ones. The challenge of “what works” in the classroom to maximise learning is an old problem – there have been disengaged students since the start of mass education. How to respond to compliant but disengaged students playing the game without really learning. The challenge of whether we should respond to a changing society or whether the old ways still work best. How to coexist with those staff we work with on the other side of that fence. The challenge of increased expectations and the increased workload that goes with that, but without the increased resourcing needed to do it to an acceptable level, let alone to the high standard it is increasingly apparent we need to be aiming for if we want our students to genuinely be successful in the post-secondary world. Most teachers I have spoken with openly about this issue admit they can only do their job to between 50% and 70% of the standard they would like to achieve. The challenge of recognising student success and wellbeing will be best achieved with recognising that teacher wellbeing also needs to be recognised. A teacher struggling with their own issues isn’t going to give 100% to their students – Jane Caro expressed it really well in this podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/wilosophy-with-wil-anderson/id951354264?mt=2#

Lastly, the challenges of education responding to a changing society including the increasing pervasiveness of digital technology and information communication and technology. How best to leverage this change to maximise learning, be relevant in society, and if/how the role of teachers, education leaders, governmental educational leaders / politicians, and institutions needs to change.

On a personal level, the challenge is to continually improve, acknowledging that a teaching career is a marathon, not a sprint. I also struggle with finding like-minded people around me so that we can mutually develop based on our shared beliefs and challenges. This is one godsend of the internet and forums like Twitter and EduTweetOz.

The rewards? On a personal level when students understand ideas. More importantly, when I have been able to reignite hope in students who have lost hope. Schools can be quite hostile places and lots of students have checked out by the end of middle school. For the system itself, if it can respond to the challenges, the rewards will be a new generation ready to engage productively with the world they are entering, rather than being inadequately prepared for a world that no longer exists.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

At the very least, I would recognise the need for change, and that change needs to be resourced, most critically with time. The expectation of teaching as a vocation meaning it is acceptable for teachers to give up significant amounts of their own time to maintain the status quo, let alone create innovation at a grassroots level, needs to end. Yes, there are other jobs where people do work in their own time. IT, the industry I came from is one – but the pay rates for professional IT jobs requiring after hours work is multiples of that for teachers without the need for dealing with teenage angst!

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

I have been a follower of the EduTweetOz account almost from the day I first joined Twitter. In my teaching it has played a role in continuously feeding me a serendipity of new ideas. Even when I have disagreed with the weekly account facilitator, it has been an opportunity to clarify why I have such a strong reaction to a comment or concept, and what I think and the logical basis behind it. I see this as being a continuing strength of accounts such as these, and I don’t see the need for that diminishing at all in the foreseeable future. Teachers need intellectual stimulation, exposure to new ideas, and in many schools / faculty teams that doesn’t exist or is actively discouraged in favour of maintaining the status quo – and online forums are a great way to do that.

My hope for the account this week is to generate discussion on the role of education in wider society, the role of teachers, the role of students, of schools; the day to day trials, tribulations, and rewards of teaching; and the role of technology in making teachers more efficient and/or education more engaging and relevant. Be gentle with me!

 

Introducing Belinda Faulkner (@belindateaches)

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Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I started training as QA manager in pharmaceuticals – 89 staff from 24 different nationalities so I quickly learnt to be engaging & innovative. GMP is not the most stimulating tonic. Since then I’ve done training across a wide range of industries and subjects. Most recently resilience training for long term unemployed in which I had 100% retention rate of participants. In 2014 I was diagnosed with MS which saw me decide to do something I’d thought about for 20+ years – teaching. Now doing M.teach(sec) to be a science teacher.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

I think I have something to offer as I’ve worked in science and done jobs for 20 of 26 letters of the alphabet. The people I’ve mentored who like to remind me I’m awesome and the people in MS forums inspire and motivate me.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

The biggest reward I think is being part of the moment when someone “gets” something. The biggest challenge is to get ahead and realise soft skills are actually hard and they aren’t 21st century skills, they’re 20th century skills and we’re behind. Also catching up with the fact many adults weren’t ever taught soft skills.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

Start from the ground up and revolutionise teacher education professional development.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

Starting discussion and debate on current issues. I want to start some discussion especially on soft skills.

Give a warm welcome to Angela Robinson (@learningkind1)

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Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

As a young school leaver I had a vision of myself in power suits and running around efficiently conducting business, making deals and meeting bottom lines.  How little did I know.  Business was certainly not where my heart was at or where I wanted to contribute to the world. Upon reflection I realised a career working with people, challenging my own intellect and caring for others was much better matched to how I could happily spend my working life and hence a switch to the field of education was obvious.

I started in a classroom, as a classroom teacher, in a remote part of Australia in 2002.  To this day I am a classroom teacher, peppered only with time away to have a family.  As is the nature of classroom teaching, I have accepted added responsibilities at times, taking time out of the classroom to coordinate Environmental Sustainability Initiatives as well as Early Years Literacy Programs school wide.

I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of being a classroom teacher and passionately skip between Prep and Upper Primary grades.  I am currently teaching and learning with Year Six at a regional Catholic school in Queensland.  We have 475 students, fifty- nine of them in Year Six and for the first time this year I co-teach with a peer in a newly built flexible learning space.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

There are a number of aspects to this career that keep me inspired and motivated,  however the students are front and centre of this pack. Being part of a team that is ‘all about the students’, and being thoroughly supported to make decisions and implement classroom practice that is student centred keeps me invigorated in my role.  I, like never before, feel that education is moving closer and closer to the ideals I entered and left university with, it’s becoming more and more the ‘norm’ that students are ‘on the ride’ with other stakeholders, enjoying their education, rather than being ‘at school’ being ‘managed’ through a system towards graduation.  Further to this, the fact that no two days, years, class groups or schools are ever the same keeps me very interested and actively challenged. I must acknowledge how fortunate I am for the environment and team in which I work.

I am inspired by the ever growing number of professionals who care about the quality of the education we offer our children in Australia, they are prepared to question the status quo, investigate best practice, and be risk takers in the pursuit of doing things better for the children. Growing my PLN has been such a fantastic opportunity to understand and realise that there are so many other educators that, like myself, have not been content with the industrial model of education. It’s been so rewarding to connect with other educators who are interested in always learning new and better ways that take us closer to those ideals of fitting curriculum to the students, not students to curriculum, valuing all abilities, not just the cognitive or sporting ones, building a positive growth mindset and actively teaching and learning skilful mental health practices.

I must mention specifically the integration of mobile devices into my classroom and the empowerment I feel as a teacher towards the differentiation of learning experiences for my students.  Like never before, I am able to differentiate my practice in a way that is manageable and practical for one person with thirty students.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

Working in education today offers many rewards and challenges to us all.  Speaking for myself, I am rewarded when the children walk away proud of themselves, wearing their feeling of accomplishment all over their faces.  I am rewarded when it comes back to me that feedback given or decisions made in the course of my day have played out to make significant positive impacts and play a crucial role in empowering students and their families towards a better education and school experience.  I am rewarded when children engage so genuinely with their learning that they are crying empathetically for a character in a book you’re reading them or racing home to keep going with the tasks you started in class.

Undeniably, the challenges are many.  Big picture, macro challenges I see facing education in Australia today include the elimination of socioeconomic and geographical disadvantage – helping all Australian children receive a quality education with access to the people and resources most relevant and best suited to their needs and in a timely manner is yes, a big challenge but one our policy-makers must not shy away from.  

Another challenge I perceive for education is the great majority of educators and parents who are challenged by change and the moves that education must make to remain relevant and best serve our children for their futures.  Coupled with the fast-paced change of technology today’s modern teacher needs a different skill set, different approach to professional development and to be brave, informed risk-takers in a way that they never have before.  Furthermore, making sure that all educators are educating for and with best mental health practice is challenging at the macro level.  

On a micro level time is my biggest challenge.  Like most of us in education, I am a partner, a parent, a carer and a community member.  Implementing a classroom practice that reflects my beliefs about education is always balanced against the question of how to best use my time. Taking time to fit curriculum to the children not the other way round, providing opportunity to grow and develop varied strengths and abilities, providing choice in the promotion of student ownership, implementing an effective feedback loop with actionable student follow-up, managing a crowded curriculum to ensure quality depth of learning as well as meeting obligations to  ‘cover’ it all and keeping my own professional development up is a continuing negotiation I have going on in my mind. The use of time I do not negotiate however, is taking the time to stop and listen to a student who wants to share something, taking the time to smile at a student and ask how their game went over the weekend, taking the time to look at the creation they brought to school to show you.  It’s this time that I know matters the most.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

If I had the ability to make changes to the education system I would prioritise the need for socioeconomic and geographical disadvantage being addressed and actioned, understanding that funding such would have ripple effects beyond the here and now.  I would like to see many non-professional responsibilities removed from the job description of teachers, pure supervision and administration roles for example, so that we may place higher expectations on how teachers spend their teacher time.  I believe putting explicit frameworks in place to ensure all teachers are genuinely engaging in regular, effective professional development that influences classroom practice will raise the bar and encourage a culture of professionalism that will nurture a generation of school leavers making relevant, healthy and effective change in the world.  

Making sure that educators know and learn about the brain and the neuro-diversity that it is capable of is another change I would bring about.  It is beyond my belief that teachers, at least in my formal studies, learnt zero about the brain unless they did it off their own back.  Finally, I think there is room for a discussion about the use of specialised teachers in primary schools.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

I really love the idea of EduTweet?Oz being a platform giving insight into many different facets, roles and experiences of education across Australia. It is a great opportunity to widen everyone’s interpretation of contemporary Australian education and allows us to build empathy and understanding as we move towards having more and more national and global conversations.

My hopes for the account this week are to give all followers an opportunity to step inside a Year Six classroom in regional Australia.  I hope to share a snapshot of where a classroom teacher is at, in Week 3 Term 2.  I hope to share some of the rewards and challenges experienced in one week in my educator shoes, I hope to share snippets of the professional reading I am doing and provide some insight through the eyes of my students and most importantly I hope to learn from those who engage with me and the discussions generated.

Welcome this week’s host: Imogen McLennan (@ImogenMcL)

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Hi!
My name is Imogen and I am in my 6th year  teaching primary students. I am currently teaching Year 5 in a government school near Darwin in the Northern Territory. I have taught each primary year level which has been challenging and rewarding. By the frequent changes of year levels and schools around country Victoria, Melbourne West and Darwin I have often hit the ground running with adjusting to new year levels, schools and all that goes with that. It also means I have gained a lot of varied experiences, which has certainly impacted positively on my teaching development. I am keenly interested in how the design of learning spaces effects teaching and learning opportunities and as well as teachers working collaboratively to support and inspire one another.
Teaching in the Northern Territory gives me the opportunity to develop my understanding of indigenous culture and how to change some of my language choices, gestures and interactions with indigenous students in order to build rapport with them.
I am looking forward to some interesting discussions this week as we learn with and from each other.

This week’s host is Andrew Turnbull @turnbullteacher


Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

After Year 12 was directionless and didn’t get into Uni or anything. I started doing volunteer work at the Australian War Memorial in the Hands-on Area and loved it, especially working with school groups. I was then asked to work in the Main Galleries, the youngest member in the Galleries at 20. I would talk and interact with visitors as is my nature but at busy times with school groups. I’d be placed to work with and brief them upon entry and my record was over 2000 students in 1 day briefed. I was also starting to work with the redevelopment groups for the new galleries including relaying educational feedback from visitors. I was advocating a more educational approach for the Memorial, not a reactive Museum style visit. The Memorial started the History in a Box program a few years later and remember someone asking me about that idea. Maybe I helped.

I then wanted something new and so got a traineeship in Literacy through Australian Catholic University and then started my teaching degree. By moving to Melbourne I was then able to work towards the secondary strand in History and Religious Education. I did start in primary but am now at a Catholic Co-ed school NW of Melbourne and been there 10 years. I have taught RE, History, Humanities, English, HPE and VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) as well as begin a Homeroom Leader and for one year was Daily Organiser.

I am currently teaching 3 Year 7s, 2 Year 10s in Religious Education and a Year 11 VCE Religion and Society. I may also be the only teacher to use Metallica’s “Creeping Death’ to introduce a unit on the Eucharist.

I also have a Year 10-12 Homeroom. Other roles include wanting to get more students involved in school photography and getting the Library staff their coffee orders.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

Students are the key reason I teach. Some workmates inspire me for sure but I feel most at home in the chaos of a classroom. They inspire me to challenge myself, to try new things and ideas and are (mostly) happy to come along for the ride. I am sure that Social Media, in particular Twitter, has been a source of the greatest motivation for me in my teaching.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

 A huge reward in education is a simple “thank you” from students, families etc. Other forms of appreciation are great but it’s not what I look for in my job. To sit and have a laugh with students. To let them know the can trust me and I can trust them. To see them walk in and walk out with a smile. That’ll do me.

Challenges are many but I feel that a willingness to try new things and ideas must still occur but be managed properly. To start something and see it through. I also feel that professional development needs to be seen in different methods of delivery. I have experienced greater professional development of social media platforms than any sit down, butchers paper and Mentos lollies kind of days. Flipped Learning, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Webinars are all valid forms of PD but still fighting the traditional view of PD as having worth.

Mental Health is something we talk a lot about in education for students and seeing it more and more in all adult work areas. I admit I have seen and experienced great support. But what about actual Mental Illness? Conditions such as depression seem to be placed into the Mental Health area because it seems safe to do so, politically correct. But it’s not, it’s a mental illness. So when it comes to supporting teachers with mental illness…that is what I am interested in.

 If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

Accountability in all areas. Teachers are becoming held to greater account and that is necessary. But we also need to be supported when we are being held to account by various groups but in fact we are the right e.g. parents.  

I would also like to see teachers wanting to undertake professional development through different means such as Social Media and Skype recognised as being just as worthwhile as a day away.

I also still believe we need a true national education system from at least F-10 and have everyone support it with aim of moving to a national Year 11 and 12 framework. This must also include a vocational pathway and support. VCAL in Victoria is a wonderful example of this and something I strongly support.

I would also like to see more respect and professional support given to Casual Relief Teachers, especially those regularly used by schools. Don’t just see them as an 840-320 replacement but someone whose professional abilities should be nourished if so desired.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

The use of Twitter, and EduTweetOz and REchatOz in particular, are methods of sharing ideas externally that is the most powerful education community I’ve ever been a part of. I’d always used YouTube but through these Twitter handles I have learnt how to use them more constructively. What I’ve learnt about Flipped Learning has been huge! Students are now starting to buy into the videos that I am making as well as playlists. I’ve also made a point of refering students to particular channels in areas such as maths and science. This is where I can see being involved this week as being helpful not just for me, but for my students.

I also hope to learn other ideas and share mine in other subject areas. There is no reason at all that an RE and Maths teacher cannot share teaching ideas. That is my professional goal for this week. I would then like to share this with my whole staff for what I did, maybe something anyone involved should try and do.