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 am a new graduate teacher in my first year out from university. I completed a B. Teach (Primary) / B. Arts with Hons Class I in Teaching through the University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah (Central Coast) campus in 2014. I did the rounds of visiting schools to drop off my resume and meet the casual teacher coordinator at the start of the year and was picking up four to five days a week work spread across three predominant schools, with the occasional day at other schools. Whilst I was at Future Schools in March I received a call from the Deputy Principal at one of my schools, offering me a temporary position for one term, which I naturally jumped on, with the remit to teach computer and research skills. The contract was eventually extended through to the end of 2015, and I am absolutely loving it. The position is technically that of Teacher-Librarian, however due to a large-scale building project at the school (all eleven demountable buildings will be gone by the end of it! Yay!) The library, though still there, is not operational for borrowing purposes. My position is an RFF position, and is Monday to Thursday, and I see all classes from K-6 in the school, barring those classes with their library sessions scheduled on Friday (those sessions are handled by the other RFF teachers). I am various points in my program, and a long way behind where I wanted to be (being fresh and naive I had planned about a years worth of learning for three terms), but am happy with my students progress. With Stage Three, I am just beginning research skills, starting with note-taking; with Stage Two I am beginning to teach them about the internet and how to use it and what different things are called in an effort to clear up a lot of misconceptions they seem to hold; while with Early Stage One and Stage One, I am working on improving their ability to type and understand how to use features like spell check, how to save/open/close files and programs.
As to why I became involved in education, I have written a blog article on that topic, and to quote from that article “I teach for two reasons. I had two amazing male teachers in my own primary education. Both were strong men whom I looked up to, as both had a strong presence, as they were encouraging of my strengths and chiding of my weaknesses, pushing me to work on them. They were men who were able to work with all of my peers, challenging each of us at our own academic level.
My three younger siblings on the other hand, across their combined eighteen years of primary education, had a total of one year with a male teacher, and the difference that that year of a strong male influence every day at school made on my sister and her self-confidence in dealing with her brothers and in talking to other male, non-immediate family members, was tremendous.
My youngest brother needed a strong male role-model as a steadying influence and to provide guidance on interpersonal skills in the day-to-day situations at school that a father does not have access to. I teach because I want to be the positive male role model for those students who otherwise may not have one.
The second reason that I teach is due to a love of learning and discovery, a love that was instilled by my family, but nurtured by my primary school teachers. It is that love of learning, the desire to know more about areas of interest, and the excitement of the moment when the dots are joined between prior knowledge and new understanding that provides the second reason why I teach.”
And though it wasn’t intentionally written that way, upon watching a recording of my delivery of the Graduate Address at my Graduation in July, I realised that it articulates, slightly differently, why I teach.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
Given where I am in my career trajectory, I am still fresh-faced, keen, naive, and excited to be earning a living for doing something that I enjoy. I have also been told in no uncertain terms that after four years of not having an income that I will be enjoying the education system for a few years to come! That aside, it’s seeing the look on a students face when the dots connect, of seeing those students who struggle with the little things have success, of being able to get kids excited about learning. I am blessed to have some highly experienced, and still engaged and passionate teachers in my school whom I look to as mentors and their passion and willingness to try new things is something that I find motivating and inspirational. There are also a handful of younger teachers who went into teaching straight out of high school, and I find their experience and energy infectious and motivating. I also enjoy watching Kid President’s Pep Talk on those days when I feel tired and lethargic as there is something quietly motivating about him.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The biggest reward is seeing a student move from saying “I have no idea” through to being able to show others how to do something, or confidently explain it to you. The feeling of pride at seeing the growth is almost intoxicating when it happens. The biggest challenge I think is time. There is so little time and so much to do. More and more social and moral responsibility seems to be pushed onto teachers as being our job when much of it should be the responsibility of parents. The other challenge I see is inequity and that is a societal issue that needs greater focus.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I think I would ensure that those making the decisions had current teachers giving the advice. A panel of teachers, nominated by teachers as being experts in the various education sectors, providing advice for a (two/three/four) year period before returning to the classroom and making way for the next rotation. I can’t take seriously the comments of Mr Pyne or Mr Donnelly when they either ignore or cherry-pick research to suit their agenda.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
A very interesting question given some of the conversations that happened during the #satchatoc chat on Saturday (5th Sept) morning. EduTweetOz provides an opportunity for someone like me, fresh out of university, keen and bright-eyed and naive to the politics of funding and professional development hierachies an opportunity connect with other teachers, both like-minded and not, and learn from their experiences, their ideas, their mistakes. The phrase learning any time, anywhere very much comes to mind, and I see EduTweetOz as a focal point for new Tweachers to join the online PLN.
This week, I would like to explore the topic of Flipped Learning, hear what peoples conceptions, fears, thoughts, ideas and experiences are about the topic. It is a pedagogical practice I only learned about last year and have been keen to follow up on. I attended a Flipped Learning master class with pioneer Jon Bergmann at the FutureSchools Conference, and am attending #OzFlipCon15 on the Gold Coast in October and am excited to hear and learn from those who are putting it into practice.
I would also appreciate hearing from anyone who has or is teaching digital literacy and digital citizenship concepts and skills to students and the pedagogical practices and tools used to do that, particularly the incredibly complex concept of copyright/piracy.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
If you want to connect with my in the classroom, I utilise @MrEmsClass to tweet with my various classes and connect with other classrooms, whilst I use my @21stCTeachign account for personal/professional Tweeting. I’m looking forward to an exciting week and lots of learning.