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?
Some people hold out for their dream job. I’m lucky that I fell in love with the job that I defaulted to! I studied science at University, but was talked out of entering research by my Uncle who was a research scientist. I entered teaching, and over the years is has definitely grown on me to become a passion. I’ve taught Science and Chemistry for 12 years now and I’m currently Science Coordinator at a Catholic co-ed high school in Adelaide. I have also been Head of Science at an International School in Japan, and am heading off on a different adventure next year as a STEM innovator at a large public super-school in Adelaide.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
I’m kept motivated by my students – wanting to do the best job I can for them, which is especially felt for Year 12 classes where there is so much pressure to prepare them well and help them get the highest grade they can achieve. I also am motivated by the “a-ha” moments when you find ways to turn around troubled/disengaged/uninterested students. Sometimes it’s the smallest things – like trying to explain desiccants to students with the example of the little sachets in tortilla wrap bags…except they don’t eat Mexican…until weeks later they come in and say they had wraps and now they know what a desiccant is! It inspires me to hear of students I have taught who have enjoyed my subject enough that they decide to continue studying it at a tertiary level, or that their values have been impacted as an adult by their high school education.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
One of the biggest challenges, I think, is the perception of teachers – all those holidays and early minutes and glorified babysitting! This perception of teaching as an easy profession, a back-up job or a low-skilled job diminishes the complexities that exist in reality. Work-load is a big issue, making full time teaching unmanageable for many new graduate teachers. The classroom is more complex – there are so many competing demands, learning needs, new technologies, administrative duties- which makes teaching a really difficult job. But the rewards of impacting the next generation remain, and I think that is what draws many teachers to education and keeps them there.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I don’t know how any 18 year old can know what they want to do at that age. I’d like to see greater breadth of high school study (not just 4 subjects at Year 12 level), and less of an emphasis on the ATAR. I’d like to see more focus on inspiring students to live as lifelong and curious learners, with less focus on standardised testing. I’d like more time for teachers to collaborate, and a structure for equitable access to professional development across all sectors and experience levels of teachers.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
Teachers are only as good as the team they are supported by. A high performing professional network can only improve the quality of teaching in Australia, and support teachers to serve our students better. Teaching shouldn’t be seen as competitive, but as collaborative – sharing makes us all better so there’s no reason to hoard your worksheets! I hope to start some discussions around sustainable schools, professional development and science teaching.