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 my teaching career in western Sydney. In those days, it was “here is your class, get on with it”. There was no mentoring program, no induction process and it was a sink or swim situation. The challenges were immense and the school had few resources, however we had a committed teacher librarian who was extremely dedicated to the profession.
I worked part-time when my two boys were little and this resulted in working in a school library. I then completed my Masters of Teacher Librarianship and enjoyed the beginning of a new career.
Not long after I graduated we moved to Canberra. Another son was born and I went to work full time as a teacher librarian in a Catholic Girls College. The principal was an empowering leader who fully supported me. Finally my teaching career was wonderful and I achieved and learnt so much. I taught English and Religion and became Head of Department. The teachers loved working at the school and were wonderful. I was also involved in the laptop program of the school – one of the only such one-to-one laptop programs in Australia at the time.
I was involved in consulting with schools about innovation, change and the learning design of libraries. I was also Vice President of the Australian Schools Library Association during this time and was heavily involved in conferring with educators about the profession. I took up a position with the Australian College of Educators as a program manager and this was a great opportunity to work strategically with the states and territories about national issues affecting the profession. It was also the time of discussion about professional standards for teachers with Teaching Australia. This work has had a major impact on the profession and is shaping a new generation of teachers in a positive way.
Since that time, I have worked for the last six years in two colleges, most recently in Sydney. While both have similarities, they are vastly different, but at both I have had amazing opportunities to really discover how to change the culture and role of the library within a school and how to form great relationships with students. I have developed professional ICT learning programs for staff, obtained VET qualifications, lead a team of ICT integrators and have had many unique opportunities that challenged my beliefs and values about education and my role within the system. I have taken on a diverse range of extra-curricular roles at all schools, including most recently developing a Makerspace for students in the library, which is evolving STEM subjects and hopefully funding for future development.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
I have always loved my job, and in particular, the challenge to implement change and be innovative. However, this challenge often requires a degree of resilience, and a long-term strategic view when simple things don’t happen in the way you planned. In my experience, it is important to have internal and/or external mentors, work as a team, and you will go far.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The biggest challenge is that change, and in particular, cultural change, takes time. Wanting to implement change is about taking small steps with a larger goal in mind. Implementing successful change requires a deep understanding of the inter-related components of what makes a school work. The challenges are different from school to school.
The rewards are always in improved learning outcomes for students and creating professionally enriched staff. Both require building trust. Developing an empowering culture for staff to feel safe to take risks is important. The development of mentoring programs to ensure staff are supported is critical.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I think we are struggling with improving literacy outcomes for our students and preparing them for 21st century learning skills. We need a curriculum that supports digital literacy skills including research and information skills. We need to do less and yet do more.
I also see that our students need to develop a strong resilience and we need to improve transitioning students from school to university and work.
We need educators to advocate for the profession and to have a stronger voice. We have a great profession but it is segmented in sectors and often this distracts from addressing the real issues that impact the whole sector.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
It is so important to feel connected with the profession and this is a great way to build a new type of community. It allows for professional dialogue anywhere, anyplace and at anytime. I am sure we will have an interesting week as educators as we discuss topical issues that affect our day-to-day work in education. The benefit of sharing ideas and thoughts about the week is incredibly valuable and helps us support and learn from each other.
You can follow Geraldine’s personal Twitter account @mc_geraldine to stay in touch after her stint on @Edutweetoz