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 was the kind of kid that quickly became obsessed with something – I loved dinosaurs so much that I forced my mum to get me a subscription to a dinosaur magazine when I was 7; I learnt all the bones in the human hands and feet, including tongue-twistable names of the bones of the hip and spine by the age of 9; I learnt the word ophthalmologist (and subsequently also learnt to spell it) and became obsessed with how the eye worked when I was 10. In essence, all my obsessions were grounded in science – I loved every aspect. It only made sense that I continue studying it when I chose to go to university.
Teaching was always what I really wanted to do, so when I could, I dove straight into it, going on to complete my Masters in Teaching (Secondary). My main decision to get into teaching was two-fold: firstly, to actually set out and do what I had always really wanted; and secondly, to bring in something different and new to teaching. As a candidate in the teachNSW graduate scholarship program, I was given a position at Belmore Boys High School (literally the best school in the world!) in 2011 and have been a teacher there since.
I assumed the role of Debating Coordinator at my school in 2012 (and made regional finals in 2013 and 2014!), as well as being an integral part of the ICT committee. Since 2013, I have been the Prefect and SRC Coordinator – a role which I’ve loved. In 2014, I was fortunate to become the Relieving Head Teacher Science at my school, an exciting, albeit challenging role. In comparison to my role as a classroom teacher the previous year, this role has given me insight into the management and coordination of a faculty, as well as bringing me to the wonderful world of paperwork and administration.
With the National Curriculum for Year 7 and 9 already having made its way through the front door, and its close cousin Year 8 and 10 waiting impatiently at the doorstep, my role also involves leading my staff to create new and engaging programs which incorporate the values of 21st Century learning in Science – creativity, inquiry, literacy, ICT and of course, experiments!
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
It is a cliche. But I’m going to say it. It’s all about the students. My students are my biggest motivation. It’s never the same every day and they definitely keep me on my toes. I’m motivated because they keep me motivated.
My school executive have been an amazing force propelling change in my school. They inspire me to continue what I’m doing and give me the permission to experiment in class and be the best teacher I can be. A strong school needs a strong executive and I’m privileged to be led by them at my school.
Oh. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
You know that warm fuzzy feeling you get in your abdomen? Yeah. That. That’s my reward.
In my first practicum, a teacher told me that teachers are simply drug addicts. When you teach and you get that reward – a student engaging, students sharing work, when you know you’ve done something – that’s your first hit. And you simply go back for more, you have to get it again. Teaching becomes doing everything you can to continue to feel that good. My lessons, the way I teach, is an outcome of the rewards that I get everyday.
Public Education faces huge challenges – as the largest employer in the southern hemisphere and open to students of all backgrounds, cultures and faiths, it is imperative that it is well funded, populated with teachers who are great operators and valued by teachers, students and parents.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I’m a fan of Dr Ken Robinson’s values of education – freedom to learn, learning without boundaries, and instigating creativity in students. Creativity is important, and is something students should be allowed to use everyday, and as teachers we should be fuelling this in students.
Literacy. Oh my God. Literacy. Three years ago, my school established a literacy program with academics at the Australian Catholic University called ELK (Embedding Literacy in KLAs) and it has triggered amazing change within the school. ELK embeds the metalanguage of literacy in subjects so that there is a common language used across KLAs. There is a focus on texts, coupled with a school developed reading pedagogy that has resulted in increases in value-added NAPLAN scores. I’ve been a part of this literacy program which has instilled in me the importance of literacy and the value it has for unpacking student’s content area understanding and writing. Literacy is an integral part of our curriculum, which I would love to see embedded clearly in all KLAs across Australia.
As a high school teacher, I’d love for closer connections between primary schools and high schools to really tie in that learning between the stages. Having a close working relationship and collaboration with universities is important and value adds to the learning which is done in school. My school has partnerships with 3 universities, each with amazing programs that our students have enjoyed.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
As a Science teacher, I love science, so I’d love to talk about what primary and high school teachers are doing in their classes to get students experimenting and inquiring. With the build up to National Science Week, I want to engage schools in starting Science activities and talking about what some schools have organised. So lots of Science chat!
I’m interested in student voice, feedback and literacy, and would love to spark discussions.
Oh, and photos. There will be photos. Get those filters on hand, those shots focused and those selfies ready.