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 was a professional uni student for a number of years, by accident not design. I studied a Bachelor of Arts at Macquarie University, intending to do education, and I went to my first day to enrol and they asked if I was enrolling in primary or secondary. To that point I hadn’t thought about that choice and on the spot chose secondary. I decided to major in History and have Maths as my minor, and it was only when I did my first prac in 3rd year that I knew secondary teaching was not for me.
I completed a Bachelor of Arts in History and then went and did a degree in music at Southern Cross in Lismore, the first time I had lived outside of Sydney. That was the first step in me leaving Sydney forever.
After that degree I moved to Newcastle and was playing in some bands and teaching private music tuition. After a few years of doing that I went back to uni to do a Dip Ed in primary teaching. I got a job from uni as a 5/6 classroom teacher in Wollongong, but after a chance conversation with a colleague decided to move to London and teach, which I did for two years. Coming back to Newcastle as a casual was difficult in terms of gaining permanency, so I started applying for jobs in rural NSW. I was successful in gaining employment at North Star in 2011 on the 3/4/5/6 class. I planned to stay 3 years in North Star, but stayed 5 and a half. I probably was thinking about moving somewhere else for about 12 months when my current role was advertised. As principal of a small school that was only 25kms down the road from where I had taught for more than 5 years, it seemed like a good way to get into a leadership role in my own school. 6 months on and I have no regrets about taking on my current role. As a teaching principal in a small rural school, you get a degree of freedom to try a wide range of ideas.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
The things that keep me inspired are, for me, the very things that our schools exist for, students and the community. I am very blessed at the moment to have the most lovely group of students I have ever taught, but even when I have more difficult students and or families, I am motivated to find a way to connect that child with their learning. I am also inspired by a number of educators that I have met through social media, including Twitter and Yammer. I have found these forums amazing for connecting with people who in general I think are far smarter than me, yet are usually so friendly and sharing with their ideas and approaches to teaching. This is doubly so for leadership. I must admit I haven’t had any great leaders in the schools I’ve worked in, but I have met leaders through social media that have given me real focus in how I approach education through their experiences and willingness to share
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
For me education is all about the students. They are the challenges, but working with them to help them improve and want to improve is the reward. The other challenge is the amount of reform that has come into education over the past few years much of which can prove a distraction to the everyday job of teaching the students.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I would give rural schools a lot more money!
I think the urban/rural divide remains a major issue and I am not sure there is really an earnest attempt to improve access for and the achievements of rural students. It is also concerning when you look at how many small schools have been closed in the last 10 years and you can’t help but wonder if small schools will survive in the future when the focus of governments is economic rather than service based.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
I think it is good that there is a way in which all the different parts of the education sectors can be bought together through this account. No one is an expert of everything, but this at least allows a range of voices to share their ideas, engage in discussions and inform people of differing experiences.
I hope to be able to discuss leadership, experience of teaching rurally and anything else that grabs my attention during the week. Would love it if there was anyone thinking of teaching rurally who would let me convince them to give it a go.