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?
As a young school leaver I had a vision of myself in power suits and running around efficiently conducting business, making deals and meeting bottom lines. How little did I know. Business was certainly not where my heart was at or where I wanted to contribute to the world. Upon reflection I realised a career working with people, challenging my own intellect and caring for others was much better matched to how I could happily spend my working life and hence a switch to the field of education was obvious.
I started in a classroom, as a classroom teacher, in a remote part of Australia in 2002. To this day I am a classroom teacher, peppered only with time away to have a family. As is the nature of classroom teaching, I have accepted added responsibilities at times, taking time out of the classroom to coordinate Environmental Sustainability Initiatives as well as Early Years Literacy Programs school wide.
I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of being a classroom teacher and passionately skip between Prep and Upper Primary grades. I am currently teaching and learning with Year Six at a regional Catholic school in Queensland. We have 475 students, fifty- nine of them in Year Six and for the first time this year I co-teach with a peer in a newly built flexible learning space.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
There are a number of aspects to this career that keep me inspired and motivated, however the students are front and centre of this pack. Being part of a team that is ‘all about the students’, and being thoroughly supported to make decisions and implement classroom practice that is student centred keeps me invigorated in my role. I, like never before, feel that education is moving closer and closer to the ideals I entered and left university with, it’s becoming more and more the ‘norm’ that students are ‘on the ride’ with other stakeholders, enjoying their education, rather than being ‘at school’ being ‘managed’ through a system towards graduation. Further to this, the fact that no two days, years, class groups or schools are ever the same keeps me very interested and actively challenged. I must acknowledge how fortunate I am for the environment and team in which I work.
I am inspired by the ever growing number of professionals who care about the quality of the education we offer our children in Australia, they are prepared to question the status quo, investigate best practice, and be risk takers in the pursuit of doing things better for the children. Growing my PLN has been such a fantastic opportunity to understand and realise that there are so many other educators that, like myself, have not been content with the industrial model of education. It’s been so rewarding to connect with other educators who are interested in always learning new and better ways that take us closer to those ideals of fitting curriculum to the students, not students to curriculum, valuing all abilities, not just the cognitive or sporting ones, building a positive growth mindset and actively teaching and learning skilful mental health practices.
I must mention specifically the integration of mobile devices into my classroom and the empowerment I feel as a teacher towards the differentiation of learning experiences for my students. Like never before, I am able to differentiate my practice in a way that is manageable and practical for one person with thirty students.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
Working in education today offers many rewards and challenges to us all. Speaking for myself, I am rewarded when the children walk away proud of themselves, wearing their feeling of accomplishment all over their faces. I am rewarded when it comes back to me that feedback given or decisions made in the course of my day have played out to make significant positive impacts and play a crucial role in empowering students and their families towards a better education and school experience. I am rewarded when children engage so genuinely with their learning that they are crying empathetically for a character in a book you’re reading them or racing home to keep going with the tasks you started in class.
Undeniably, the challenges are many. Big picture, macro challenges I see facing education in Australia today include the elimination of socioeconomic and geographical disadvantage – helping all Australian children receive a quality education with access to the people and resources most relevant and best suited to their needs and in a timely manner is yes, a big challenge but one our policy-makers must not shy away from.
Another challenge I perceive for education is the great majority of educators and parents who are challenged by change and the moves that education must make to remain relevant and best serve our children for their futures. Coupled with the fast-paced change of technology today’s modern teacher needs a different skill set, different approach to professional development and to be brave, informed risk-takers in a way that they never have before. Furthermore, making sure that all educators are educating for and with best mental health practice is challenging at the macro level.
On a micro level time is my biggest challenge. Like most of us in education, I am a partner, a parent, a carer and a community member. Implementing a classroom practice that reflects my beliefs about education is always balanced against the question of how to best use my time. Taking time to fit curriculum to the children not the other way round, providing opportunity to grow and develop varied strengths and abilities, providing choice in the promotion of student ownership, implementing an effective feedback loop with actionable student follow-up, managing a crowded curriculum to ensure quality depth of learning as well as meeting obligations to ‘cover’ it all and keeping my own professional development up is a continuing negotiation I have going on in my mind. The use of time I do not negotiate however, is taking the time to stop and listen to a student who wants to share something, taking the time to smile at a student and ask how their game went over the weekend, taking the time to look at the creation they brought to school to show you. It’s this time that I know matters the most.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
If I had the ability to make changes to the education system I would prioritise the need for socioeconomic and geographical disadvantage being addressed and actioned, understanding that funding such would have ripple effects beyond the here and now. I would like to see many non-professional responsibilities removed from the job description of teachers, pure supervision and administration roles for example, so that we may place higher expectations on how teachers spend their teacher time. I believe putting explicit frameworks in place to ensure all teachers are genuinely engaging in regular, effective professional development that influences classroom practice will raise the bar and encourage a culture of professionalism that will nurture a generation of school leavers making relevant, healthy and effective change in the world.
Making sure that educators know and learn about the brain and the neuro-diversity that it is capable of is another change I would bring about. It is beyond my belief that teachers, at least in my formal studies, learnt zero about the brain unless they did it off their own back. Finally, I think there is room for a discussion about the use of specialised teachers in primary schools.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
I really love the idea of EduTweet?Oz being a platform giving insight into many different facets, roles and experiences of education across Australia. It is a great opportunity to widen everyone’s interpretation of contemporary Australian education and allows us to build empathy and understanding as we move towards having more and more national and global conversations.
My hopes for the account this week are to give all followers an opportunity to step inside a Year Six classroom in regional Australia. I hope to share a snapshot of where a classroom teacher is at, in Week 3 Term 2. I hope to share some of the rewards and challenges experienced in one week in my educator shoes, I hope to share snippets of the professional reading I am doing and provide some insight through the eyes of my students and most importantly I hope to learn from those who engage with me and the discussions generated.