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 a high school English teacher since I was 25. Before completing my Diploma of Education (English and Drama) from UNE, I had completed my BA at Sydney University, majoring in Philosophy and Performance Studies. I had dreams of being a theatre director, a theatre critic, a music journalist, an author, and a band manager. None of these things were pursued, however, because I had my first son at the age of 21, and decided that I needed to get a job that actually earned me a regular wage. That’s how I chose teaching – it was really the only option. I was an English teacher at Davidson High School for 10 years, and that allowed me to experiment with some really cool methodologies and find what suited me and my students best. I am now Head Teacher of Teaching and Learning at Manly Selective Campus, which allows me to work with staff to support them to become even better teachers. I like to think that it’s the perfect job for a teacher nerd like me.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
I enjoy being creative, and pushing myself and my students to think in different ways about what it means to be in school as learners, so that inspires me – the desire to do things differently, and to make a difference whilst we do it. My husband inspires me because he is always doing something interesting in his class, and always talking about his plans for new projects. My boys also inspire me, because they don’t always have the most awesome experiences at school, and I want to do all I can to make sure that at some stage learning at school will always be exciting, challenging, enriching and fun. I love helping people, so that motivates me to work hard every day. Oh, and High Tech High’s principal Larry Rosenstock is my current edu hero.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
Challenging the status quo, and having others see that we don’t need to be viewing education like we always have. In fact, I think the biggest rewards come from really refusing to conform to the expectations of what it means to be ‘schooled’ – I like to force people to rethink what school can and should be. That, of course, brings with it challenges – from students, parents, and other teachers. It’s hard to transform how people see their role as teacher, and student – but the rhetoric around the need to change has become so commonplace that it’s almost cliche, so hopefully that means that change is finally gonna happen. That would be cool. I think educators are overwhelmed by the fact that what they’ve always done is now no longer good enough, that focusing on test scores isn’t a priority, and that even though our politicians might say we need to improve, improve, improve, that doesn’t mean we must do more of the same. Improvement comes through rethinking current practice, and changing based on emerging needs.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I’d change the pre-service teacher education. I don’t think it’s effective. I’m a fan of the prerequisite for a Masters for all teachers – a research-based Masters… I think teachers need to see themselves as practitioner researchers. I’d remove ATARS – that would really stir things up for high school teachers. I’d ban subjects, scope and sequences, bells, and classrooms. I’d make school not be school.
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’s a great way to give a range of teachers a voice, it actually facilitates new connections between teachers and nourishes a stronger, authentic community. My experience is that EduTweetOz values intellectual conversations about education, and doesn’t fall for hype, or trends, and certainly isn’t just a weekly ‘chat’ where people try to build their profile or Twitter numbers. This week I hope to meet more teachers, and have some thoughtful conversations about the real potential for bottom-up change to Australia’s education system.