Introducing Melissa Reily

melissariley

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 didn’t always want to be a teacher. In fact, quite the opposite. I went to a pretty rough comprehensive high school, where both the teachers and facilities were not given the respect they deserved. I saw some pretty awful things and because of this I convinced myself that teaching was one profession I would never even consider.

I went to University unsure of where I would eventually end up, and fell in love with archaeology from the very first lecture. My love for the discipline didn’t falter until the day I graduated. As soon as I stepped into the real world, however, I was far less sure of myself. I graduated at a time when there were very few jobs in archaeology or heritage management in Australia, and I believed my prospects for employment were limited at best. As a graduate with First Class Honours who also won an academic prize for the original research in her thesis, perhaps I should have had a little more faith in myself. But I didn’t.

After a couple of years of trying some different jobs and professions, I turned to teaching. I started with my own private archaeology education program and consultancy, and then quite quickly moved into classroom teaching. I completed my Grad Dip Ed and haven’t looked back.

I am currently a teacher of History and an ICT Integrator at SCEGGS Darlinghurst. That is the perfect role for me because I am able to combine the two things that I absolutely love: things that are very, very old (Ancient History) and very, very new (technology). An odd combination, I’ll admit, but it works for me.

In the classroom, I feel like I am home. If anyone had told my twenty year old self that I would be where I am right now, I would have laughed openly. But my 42 year old self knows that I have ended up in exactly the place I should be.

Home.

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

All of the students I’m yet to teach. The thought of all of those lives that I have the opportunity to positively influence keeps me motivated to strive to be the best I can possibly be.

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

If only I had the answer to this question! Student success (and I don’t necessarily mean the success that is measured by marks or leagues tables) will always be the biggest reward in teaching. As for challenges, there are always so many from both in and outside the profession, and they are constantly in a state of flux. What I have noticed very starkly of late, perhaps because it is the beginning of the school year, and at this time there is always a veritable explosion of media articles regarding education and schools, are the number of “experts” offering their opinions on our profession and the ways in which it can be improved. These “experts” are rarely teachers, even though we are the ones at the cold face of education. The erosion of teacher authority in the higher debates on educational theory and practice poses a great challenge for teachers.

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

Magic wand style? A single education system, managed by the state, generously funded and resourced to support the highest quality teaching and learning for students, irrespective of socio-economic status. In this system, I see the teaching profession as being highly respected, with salaries commensurate with the importance of our jobs.

Realistically? Better funding, governance and bureaucracy in education. Wait, that was meant to be realistic…

In all seriousness, our education system needs a major overhaul, not just of funding models but of everything, from the ground up. As it has been said many times before, our children are the future and our treatment of the way in which they are educated should be reflective of this gravity.

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

I have been an avid social media user, particularly of Twitter for several years. I actually took from break from Twitter for a couple of years, and in the time that I was gone, there was a huge increase in the use of this platform for extending professional networks, sharing resources and teaching ideas, and engaging in robust debate on issues of education.

EduTweetOz plays a vital role in all three of these areas. Importantly, because of its ‘democratic’ curation, it has a variety of voices and perspectives prodding this debate along.

My hopes for the account this week is that I’ll bring my expertise and experience to the table, but leave my opinions in my personal Twitter accounts. To facilitate and moderate, but not to dictate. To this end, I’ll be posting the latest news and interesting media pieces throughout my days as curator, and to lead a discussion on something important each evening. No spoiler alerts though, you’ll have to tune in to check out the discussion.

To add something truly interesting in the mix this week; from Friday I’ll be participating in an archaeological dig in Tasmania, which is actually teacher Professional Learning as well. So I’ll be tweeting from the field and I’m sure I’ll have some truly funny stories to relay along the way!

Can’t wait to join you all on Sunday 🙂

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