To end 2016, generate some excitement for Anne Van Der Graaf! (@annadelconte)

photographing-the-photographer-on-presentation-day
Anne Van Der Graaf

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?

Teaching ‘for real’ began for me in a primary setting for a private girls’ school in 1980. We were the first year of the Commonwealth Scholarship students that were not bonded and so we had to find our own way in the teaching world and apply for positions.

When I was at school I was hoping to work for the National Parks and Wildlife Services or be a geneticist – ironically, never a ‘boring old teacher’! While I was deciding between the two I took a break to ‘go bush’ and set off to work on a sheep station in central Queensland for a couple of years. Here I became the governess, teaching correspondence lessons to the three eldest children, the jillaroo chasing sheep and cattle on a motorbike and the nanny for the pre-schooler twins during out of school hours. To my surprise and joy I found that the children and I had fun learning together. It was then that I knew that this teaching caper was just the thing for me.

After four years of teaching, our four children were born at intervals and I took eighteen years leave. You have to know your limtations.

In 2002 I decided that it was time to return to my chosen profession before it was too late. Since then I have been a temporary casual teacher at the one Primary School in South West Sydney. Over the years I have been involved with community programs, support teaching, relieving from face to face teaching, sharing classroom teaching roles and EAL/D teaching. In fact now, I can actually confidently call myself an EAL/D specialist.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

This may sound corny but it’s definitely our students who are my greatest inspiration and motivation. We are a multicultural school and there is never a dull moment or a day without a laugh. I enjoy trying to create authentic learning experiences for our students that are challenging enough to be interesting and yet accessible for every one of them. I hold Twitter responsible for pointing me to new resources and different methods as well as ideas and people to learn from. Many people with whom I’ve worked have been inspiring but over the past couple of years my chief encourager has been my dear friend and amazing EAL/D educator, Cindy Valdez- Adams @tesoloz whom I met through Twitter. This year she has invited me to complete the ‘Teaching English Language Learners’ course, the PETAA ‘Grammar and Teaching’ course and the NSW Department’s new course ‘Teaching students from a refugee background’ at Fairfield Public School. I thank my principal Teresa Gosche for allowing me to pursue my PDP goals.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

It is rewarding to be able to share ideas and be validated for work not only in your own little patch, but across a wider professional learning network both face to face as well as through the internet. It is rewarding for our students to be able to produce, save and share what they are learning and doing to a wider audience through the use of technology and social media.

It is challenging to make the best choices. We have limited time with our students. How can we use our time and theirs effectively to be systematic and thorough as we teach them skills and understandings and to prepare them for the great unknown, which is the future?

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

By ‘ability’ do you mean, wisdom, knowledge, expertise, magical wand? I have seen many changes over the years. Our society has changed and will keep on changing … there are no silver bullets. As teachers more and more is required of us. We are meant to be experts in everything. Teachers need to be supported to be able to keep up with the increasing demands that are being placed on them and to do the best for each of their students. We need to have the funds to up-skill our teachers in areas pertinent to them and their schools..

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

EduTweetOz helps keep teachers informed about educational issues in Australia. It is a support network and a forum for teasing out ideas. This week I hope to use EduTweetOz as a means for educators to share their current successes and learning experiences as well as their hopes for the year to come.

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