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 first teaching gig was as a piano teacher, which helped pay my way through high school and university. I’ve tutored primary, secondary and tertiary students in just about everything, from media to English, and Latin to maths. I initially thought I wanted to be an Education Publisher, but all the Education Publisher jobs required applicants to have a Dip. Ed. and two years’ teaching experience. So, after completing an Arts degree, I enrolled in a Dip. Ed. At the end of my second year of teaching, I didn’t bother applying for publishing jobs. I was hooked. I left teaching temporarily to study archaeology, and as a result of this, I landed a job designing and delivering school incursions and excursions for La Trobe University’s Young Archaeologists’ Program. In response to the many teacher requests for information and resources about Ancient Australia, I wrote and published an archaeology textbook for school students on this topic. I now lecture in the School of Education at La Trobe University and run archaeology workshops in schools across Melbourne.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
My pre-service students’ attitude to learning is a constant motivation for me – they have enormous enthusiasm for teaching and a thirst for knowledge that at times seems unquenchable. My colleagues at La Trobe are truly inspirational, and I get a huge buzz from working with teachers of such a high calibre.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The rewards, I think, are the same as they have always been: that inner glow we get when we witness students rising to challenges and accomplishing feats they may have previously believed were unachievable; that astonishment we feel when we provide our students with the building blocks and they transform them into something more spectacular than we thought was possible; and that sense of personal achievement when a lesson runs so well that the students thank us on completion.
The challenges, however, are immense. Teachers have been, and forever will be, at the mercy of constantly changing policies, standards and curriculum models. Until we free education from the restraints of government oversight, bureaucracy will continue to choke our profession. My pre-service fourth-years will enter classrooms next year that are already vastly different to the ones I taught in less than a decade ago. Their teaching ‘quality’ will be measured and weighed by bureaucrats with little or no classroom experience, let alone expertise. Their tertiary education has equipped them not only with techniques, methodologies, theories, approaches and practical classroom skills, but it has also instilled in them the importance of offering understanding, cultivating acceptance, nurturing critical thought, valuing creativity, and celebrating diversity. Once they become graduate teachers, they will quickly realise that, more often than not, the system in which they work values these unquantifiable qualities far less than ‘national benchmarks’.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
Make it mandatory for anyone appointed to the role of Education Minister to have education qualifications and teaching expertise. Scrap NAPLAN. Introduce Gonski funding in full. Reduce administration work for teachers. Ensure schools have the autonomy to introduce initiatives and make changes to existing systems and structures to best suit their staff and students. Remove bureaucratic control of education funding. Put the ‘A’ in STEM. Re-introduce and adequately fund the Safe Schools Program in every Australian school. Make tertiary admission selection procedures more rigorous to ensure that we are accepting not only quality students, but students who will be well-suited to the job – i.e. not necessarily those with the highest ATAR results, but rather those with the passion, commitment, drive and integrity required for the teaching profession. As a result of this, and to compensate existing teachers for their overtime hours, substantially increase teaching wages.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
The EduTweetOz platform is a great opportunity for teachers right across the country to connect, collaborate and share ideas. Having such a diverse range of hosts, topics, questions, discussions and resources only enriches the teaching community. This week, I’d love to hear about people’s experiences as pre-service teachers and as pre-service or graduate teacher supervisors. I’ll be sharing some of my experiences working as a pre-service teacher. I’ll also post links to a variety of resources I use in classes, including topics such as student/teacher wellbeing, creative arts, humanities, YA fiction and children’s picture books, and gender and sexuality. And, of course, archaeology!