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 originally studied to become a diplomat: modern languages and the history of international relations. There was a federal government election while I was at uni, however, and I realised that (a) I couldn’t support the new government’s foreign policy, and (b) I’m actually quite a tactless and undiplomatic person. As a lark, I decided to try an education subject that had a school-based practicum. If I liked prac enough, I bargained with myself, I’d do an education degree. It was a transformative experience, so the rest, as they say…
I started as a History and English teacher, but I’ve had a crack at Visual Art, Science, Human Relationships Education and Digital Technologies, too. I became a Head of Department (Middle Schooling) back when middle schooling was hip and rad. This has glacially morphed into my current role, Head of Department (Teaching and Learning), at a P-12 state college on the Sunshine Coast. My job involves supporting teachers to provide a good education to our students, mostly through professional development. In the next few years, this will include building a culture of coaching across the college, and that’s my main preoccupation at the moment. I also run our college’s Makerspace, which is amazing good fun.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
I’m inspired by my favourite teachers from childhood, Mrs Chaseling and Miss Turner, and their unconditional positive regard for students. I’m inspired by my five splendid nieces, and by a drive to make schools and classrooms that are worthy of their amazingness. I’m inspired by my own students (which is true, even though I have to say it) who have that perfect mix of earnest intensity and unfettered joy. (All of my joy is fettered, these days.) I’m motivated by teaching as an opportunity to build relationships that last and matter. And I’m motivated by change and variety, which keep me from getting bored.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The rewards are entirely personal, the acknowledgement that we do work that adds meaning to people’s lives and purpose to our own. The challenges are legion, but I think the biggest is the modern tendency to de-personalise the work of educators: We work with (and are) complex humans in complex educational contexts, yet we contribute daily to the mass delusion that every impact can be measured, every risk can be minimised, all parts are interchangeable, and fixing stuff is as easy as a recipe card.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I become warm with fury when I read about private-school orchestra pits built with public money. I would ensure that a free, comprehensive education to be provided equally to all, and that all schools have enough resources to be cathedrals of learning and the heart of their communities. Also, I would cut back on paperwork. Hate the stuff!
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
EduTweetOz was one of the first accounts I followed when I joined Twitter, and I love the shared experience. Twitter debates can be vicious and polarising (I’m looking at you, Angry British EduTwitter), so it’s nice that Australian educators have this shared account that values collegiality, community and connection. (I mean, EduTweetUK would last about a minute!)
I recently said that EduTweetOz is a great way to taste someone’s brain and decide if you want a second helping. My hope for this week is that I get to taste some new brains, and that I avoid bringing shame on my family. Given how much I’ve veered between goofy and pontifical in these answers, I’m not confident that I can avoid the shame.