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 hold degrees from Durham and Cambridge universities in the UK. I have taught in four Schools over the past 19 years – mostly selective in terms of academic ability, boarding, day, boys’ Schools and co-educational institutions. I am a teacher of Chemistry and have been a classroom teacher, Head of Department, and have run the academic side of the School (in my last two roles). My current title is Director of Teaching and Learning, at a boys’ School in Adelaide. Both my parents were teachers, and so the only job I was keen not to do was teaching; unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that I had little interest or talent in other directions, and hence I followed the genes.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
The chance to impress one’s personality on the role. No teacher is ever simply a cog in a larger machine, and any other teacher would discharge the role differently. Every teacher is therefore an individual, able to inspire in their own way. All the boys with are under the age of 18, so all of them are developing all the time (physically, emotionally, mentally). Having a hand in the development of young people is always rewarding; even when they get things wrong, it’s always part of the learning process. Each new School year brings with it a sense of renewal, and you’re only as good as your last year – this serves to guard against complacency.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
Teaching is a job where every day should have a high, even if it’s only a little one – your team wins a close game, a couple of pupils have that genuine ‘lightbulb’ moment. Teaching is a job where it’s easy to keep learning, and there should be no sense of stagnation. We teach because we love our subjects, and by communicating that subject and learning more oneself, it enables us to remain engaged with the material. Introducing children to the finest minds of history, the best literature, art, philosophy and thought is indeed a noble profession.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
Where to start! We need to change the edu-narrative, from seeing education as nothing but a ‘means to an end’, to something which is essential in and of itself. Education is more than simply a ‘pre-career’, and education should be more to do with making minds than making careers. We should do more to raise the levels of subject expertise in the profession, and look to raise the academic standards for those accepted to education degrees. We should eschew the tired narrative of skills over knowledge and understand that the skills of critical thinking, creativity and collaboration are not things we should look to teach explicitly and in a knowledge vacuum. Australia is falling in the PISA rankings, and this is more to do with flawed thinking rather than any lack of talent.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
Conversation and dialogue – education is complex, and no-one has all the answers. To paraphrase Dylan Wiliam, everything works somewhere and nothing works everywhere. We need to be open to the opinions and experiences of others, whilst being clear in our own educational philosophy. Disagreement is good, lack of certainty is wise and absorption of the thoughts of others is essential.