All posts by mrlangers

About mrlangers

Deputy Principal, public school maths teacher, husband, dad, science fiction nerd, creator of organised conflict.

This week’s host: Melinda Haskett – @HaskettsHSC

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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 completed my BA Education (Secondary, Humanities and Social Sciences), with majors in Geography and English, at the University of Sydney in 2002. Over the past 15 years teaching in South West Sydney I have had a variety of formal and informal roles, including relieving in executive positions and am proud to be accredited as a Highly Accomplished Teacher. Last May I moved out of school, via merit selection, to the Teacher Quality team at the Department looking after induction, professional learning and accreditation. Earlier this year I began as relieving PSO (PEO) for Leadership and High Performance.

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

As a teacher I am passionate about my subject areas, in particular Society & Culture, and enjoy sharing my expertise with other teachers. Working with students, early career teachers and school leaders keeps me motivated to be the best teacher and systems leader I can be.

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

The biggest rewards are seen in the classroom every day. Classroom teaching has immediate rewards – your impact is seen, known and measureable. The impact of school and system leaders is however harder to measure. Change management is a huge issue for education right now along with how we ‘undo’ the teaching and learning myths about what works best to improve student learning.

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

I might open this question up to the EduTweetOz peeps for discussion.

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

I’m hoping for some robust but friendly debate and definitely some myth busting on quality teaching and leadership.

 

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EdutweetOz meets @chriscawsey

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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 woman of my generation the availability of scholarships for study at university was very attractive and, like many young teachers, I thought I would only teach for a short time. I thought I would work in the city. I thought I would seek a career change after my scholarship requirements were met.

It was not to be. I worked in secondary schools in western Sydney as a teacher in special education and social sciences. After 6 years as Leading Teacher at St Marys Senior HS I moved to Rooty Hill High School as principal in 1997.

From the start of my career I loved the fact that every day was different – teaching is never boring. I loved the fact that I was learning every day and I was creating opportunities for students to learn and transition to their adult lives with skills, capabilities and dispositions that enabled them to pursue their own passions and dreams. This is the heart of my work, work I do each day with the wonderful team of professional colleagues at Rooty Hill HS. The school was recognised in 2017 with its second Educator Magazine Most Innovative Schools award.

I have been privileged as a principal and systems leader to work in the school, the community, the professional community and  across the education sector. As the 6th largest industry in the country, education provides many opportunities for engagement, leadership and influence.

In addition to being principal of Rooty Hill High School I was president of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council from 2010-2012 and I still continue to work with the Council on projects and advocacy.

I am also a non-executive director on the following boards:

  • Australian Council of Educational Leaders (ACEL)
  • The Smith Family – Australia’s largest educational charity supporting disadvantaged children
  • Western Sydney Giants AFL Club

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

Australian children have the right to education in a first world country. As a secondary school teacher and principal I believe our profession has a moral contract with every student and their families to ensure each student does his or her best. The complexity of this work is not well understood outside the profession and one critical role of the principal is to work with teachers and students to create learning that is creative, relevant and challenging.

John Hattie has said that average student learning improves 9 months per annum without much intervention. I have an expert interest in finding ways to improve student learning trajectories and developing a culture of learning that values the “whole” person, a culture that is personalised and recognises the wide range of talents and potential in each student. Our task is to design  universal, targeted and intensive learning that ensures success in curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular learning.

Our current projects at Rooty Hill HS include:

  • Embedding a capability driven curriculum
  • Student self-assessment of the ACARA capabilities using an online portfolio
  • High quality professional practice and learning design
  • Entrepreneurial learning
  • Strategic Partnerships including working with Social Ventures Australia as a “Powerhouse School”

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

It is a privilege to be a teacher and principal and some of the  biggest rewards are intrinsic – knowing you are making a difference in the lives of young people. Every day we prepare students to live in their present so they will shape their own futures.

The challenges are very real. The include:

  • Workload
  • Disruption
  • Inequity
  • Assumptions and bias confirmation

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

As I have said on Twitter and in presentations there are some recurring themes. Educators are in the critical business of #stupidityprevention.

I could list many issues that concern me for the future of our school sector in this country so I will just list 5 moral issues that need to be addressed:

  • The acceptance of growing inequality between our schools that is now having a major impact on our overall PISA and international performance. We have to fund for need across sectors, not just within them.
  • Assessment of learning and progress – not well understood, not well developed – resulting in over-reliance on external, high stakes testing that is somewhat reliable but may have little validity. Students only get one chance; we have to do better.
  • Vocational Education and multiple pathways. The over-reliance on university entry as a measure of student and school success is a long term disaster for many of our students and, in the longer term, our economy.
  • The pressure to move the control of teachers and teaching away from the profession into the control of government bodies-there are unspoken gender dimensions to the constant “teacher bashing” that accompanies any debate about education in this country.
  • The responsibility of the whole community for providing funding and opportunities for every child – especially our most disadvantaged children and our sickest children.

Please be upstanding for @brookssensei

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 have always wanted to be a teacher even back when I was I High School student, however there seemed to be a stigma at the time that ‘anyone’ could be a teacher (I know understand how wrong I was!). I worked in the mining technologies industry for 7 years prior to becoming a teacher, firstly as a Software Engineer but then in various other roles as a Product Manager, Systems Specialist and then worked FIFO on a gold mine with the software from my previous employer. I was moving up the corporate ladder with a hefty salary but was unhappy. It was my wife who reminded me that I had been thinking of becoming a teacher, and ultimately urged me to consider it seriously.I enrolled in Primary education, but was offered a job in High School, six weeks into my first semester during a practicum. I was a Japanese teacher for two years in the public system, and moved over to my current school (the school I went to as a student) last year to teach IT. I took on the Digital Technologies Coordinator role at the beginning of this year as part of the Curriculum Team, endeavouring to build our school into a leader in Digital Technologies. My department currently looks after Digital Media and Business Studies, too, so I have a variety of hats that I wear.Outside of my own school, I was lucky enough to become a Google Certified Innovator (#GoogleEI) this year as part of their #SYD17 cohort. I am also part of the TeachMeetWA (@wapln) administration team cohosting #TMWAreach twice a term.

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

The students always inspire me! Walking into that class, I am always encouraged to do my best for them.Moreover, my professional learning network through my school, TeachMeetWA, the Google Certified Innovators and more widely through Twitter.

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

Rewards – the opportunity to utilise technology, for me it is the ultimate game-changer for education- being part of the dramatic revolution in education that is happening as we speak- the ‘aha’ moments in the classroom – that face when students get it is pricelessChallenges – preparing students for an unknown future in a time- having to ‘cover the curriculum’ when we are trying to change to do more cross-curricular project based learning- the media’s obsession with what teachers should be doing better

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

Where do I start!? Ken Robinson’s vision is a starting point. I think we should be moving to a system like @hightechhigh – authentic, cross-curricular assessment covering a small portion of the curriculum using project-based learning. Get rid of grades, get rid of year levels, get rid of ‘the curriculum’ or at least only cover the key points, get rid of university entrance exams and more! Focus on the love of learning!

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

EduTweetOz is a great opportunity to showcase and share some of the best teaching knowledge in Australia. I am hopeful that more teachers will take on the challenge so that we can build a shared repository of knowledge throughout the country.

Welcome @laraheppner to EduTweetOz!

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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.

Hosting EduTweetOz this week is @smitheesusan

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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?

Initially when I left high school I was a Youth Worker. There were a lot of  street kids who couldn’t read, write or do numeracy so I started teaching and assisting them in areas where I could. This led to getting a Bachelor of Primary Education and the rest is history. I have been teaching for 17 years now in support roles, as a classroom teacher and as Assistant Principal in which I led a number of successful whole school initiatives. I have worked in a range of schools but mainly high NESB. Currently I am an Assistant Principal Coach Mentor in Positive Behaviour for Learning Ultimo Directorate. In this role I get to work with an amazing team. We provide training for school teams in Positive Behaviour for Learning as well as coach and mentor  PBL school teams to assist with the implementation and sustainability after training. 
 

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

I am particularly passionate about student and teacher wellbeing. So being part of the  PBL team is wonderful.  When staff at a school , with big smiles on their faces, say how much behaviour has improved and teacher practise has changed for the better because of PBL, that is motivating and inspiring.
I’m also inspired by leaders who have turned students and teachers lives around with an importance on wellbeing  so learning can happen. Or when my students are so happy to be at school, want to learn and run up to me to say hi or how much they miss me, are excited by what you helped them achieve or that you care.
It is a great profession.

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

One of the biggest challenges I see for people working in  education today is the workload. So many people working very hard with very little rest.

The rewards for people in education is when you get to collaborate with an amazing team, when your student’s enthusiasm for  learning is ignited and they are so happy because they feel successful, when you know you have made a difference.
 

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

I would slow the changes down and give more financial support for schools so they could have time to innovate and collaborate to plan. Give teachers adequate planning time to be able to implement things properly.
 

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

I see EduTweetOZ as a wonderful way for educators to learn from each other and have informative discussions. I see it as a digital teachmeet that showcases what our wonderful educators are doing.
This week I will be looking at teacher and student wellbeing.

Kira Bryant, come on down! @tirisays

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?

My interest in education really stems from a love of learning that was nurtured throughout primary and secondary school. I had many wonderful teachers and applied, at 17 years of age, for a DoE Preservice Scholarship for English Teaching. I ticked the ‘anywhere in the state’ option on the scholarship form and at the conclusion of my studies was placed at Seven Hills High School. It was a big move from home (North Haven on the Mid North Coast) and where I had been studying, at the University of New England in Armidale, but the community I found at SHHS really supported my professional growth and once I was there I never looked back. I worked for several years at SHHS before moving to Glenmore Park High School where I worked as a classroom teacher before gaining a promotion to Head Teacher English. After three years in the role I took some long service leave to partake in a week-long internship at Nancie Atwell’s school – the Center for Teaching and Learning which reinforced everything I believe in about teaching – the power of student choice, the impact of the explicit teaching of reading and writing skills, how opportunities to engage with quality literature can enrich lives, and the importance of celebrating student success. During my leave, I applied for a role in the corporate sector of the Department of Education and was appointed as Teacher Quality Advisor in Term 2. This role is about supporting teachers with their accreditation and providing quality, research-based professional learning.

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

I have always found something new and inspiring to focus on – early on in my career I focused on designing effective lessons and developing my judgement as to what I needed to provide in order for my students to improve. I was then offered a Year Adviser role which provided great insight into the ways student achievement is impacted by their social milieu and family events. At Glenmore Park High School, I continued the Year Adviser role and was also fortunate enough to be involved in a Middle Schools Program as well as literacy and writing initiatives – all which gave me an opportunity to learn about what makes schools effective and hone my skills to support positive change in the process.

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

I think one of the biggest rewards is the positive impact an educator can have on a students’ life. Some students are ready for success at school but many don’t know any and it is this opportunity to share knowledge and provide support with skill development that really does have an impact on lives. Technology has definitely changed the landscape of education so one of the challenges is ensuring our students can be active and engaged citizens who have the skills and confidence to chase their dreams whilst also maintaining their digital footprint in a responsible manner. I think maintaining a focus on educational success, positive connections between students and their school, as well as considering what is happening in the world can make an educator’s job a bit of a balancing act at times.

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

If I could change anything it would be to give teachers more time to focus on preparing engaging lessons, to team teach, to collaborate with colleagues. Teachers, somehow, find the time to do all of these things already but I can only see positives when I consider how much stronger professional relationships would be with more time to invest in them. From all the research I have read and from my experience of working in and with schools, it seems that finding enough time to focus on the aspects you’re passionate about as well as the accountability measures required can be tricky.

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

In the words of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s character Anne Shirley – ‘It’s not what the world holds for you. It’s what you bring to it,’ contributing to a sense of community, via social media or face to face, is more important than ever. As the education professional grows, as the world continues to change, it is only through collaboration and common goals that we can hope to continue pushing forward with the work that we do. I am excited to host the EduTweedOz account and hope to discuss aspects of Teacher Accreditation, considerations of what preservice and beginning teachers need, and some readings I am working through on writing and literacy instruction.

Step right up, Ian Van Biezen (@Ianvbz)!

I have always wanted to be a teacher, and a major influence was my year 9 math teacher a story which I have shared on my Youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXm9I2EbdT4&t=16s I haven’t posted on this channel for awhile, though I am going to be revamping the channel tomorrow. My background in education is an adult based. Before I decided to undertake my University degree in Primary Education in 2016, I was involved in the Education of Adults during my employment with Job Services Australia, the employment based agencies that help those on Centrelink find alternative work or training. My role was an employment consultant, I would conduct training on application writing, interview skills, and presentation. I spent over 5 years in that industry. 

I am currently an undergrad in my 2nd year of my primary education degree, My most recent education experience was a 6 month leadership role, working with Indigenous students at a local Indigenous School, running a program called Numeracy buddies where myself and my team would go in once a week and help tutor these students in their math skills, they were year 7 to 9 students learning 3 – 5 years behind where they should be, this was a voluntary role, currently I am volunteering once a week I the school I completed my practicum at in June teaching mainly math and science to a year 6 class. 

The motivation for keeping me focused on my Undergrad degree is motivation for learning! I think education is so important and that all students need good quality education and access to teacher’s who are passionate. I go to the school where I volunteer and I can’t wait. I enjoy seeing that lightbulb moment when I have taught something! I also love getting to know the students, their backgrounds and the feedback they give to me each week helps me grow and develop as a pre service teacher. 

One of the major challenges I see today from my experience in the Classroom is a lack of Government funding, particularly for those students with learning difficulties who need the extra assistance in the classroom, the funding seems to be in short supply in providing funding for Education Assistant’s and other useful equipment to assist these students to grow and learn. I also think the lack of technology in classrooms, particularly in the public education sector, is below expectations, I would think with the push for students to be more ITC aware, there needs to be a push to provide every child access to a computer or tablet within the classroom, particularly in the remote and LSE schools. 

I would like to see more project based learning across all Schools from K – 12 and move away from the traditional worksheets. 

EduTweetoz, I have only been apart of the chat and discussion for about a year, and I can see the influence the discussion is having on teachers and many are taking ideas they are learning and discussing back to their classrooms to implement or try! I believe EduTweetoz, will continue to grow and play part in the professional development and growth of teachers in Australia. 

As a pre service teacher, I am learning a great deal from just participating in Twitter and EduTweetoz chats, it is certainly helping my growth and development and this will only benefit my future students and myself as an educator. I hope that EduTweetoz, continues to share ideas, discuss education in Australia and if it is not already doing so, shape education policy, after all the teachers are at ground zero. As a pre-service teacher, I hope I can lead a successful chat as a facilitator, I believe it will help me grow and also continue my learning journey and hopefully attract other pre-service teachers as well. 

On my Twitter feed you can see my links to my blog post and Youtube channel. 

Meet Michaela Epstein (mic_epstein) and behold her tweets!

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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?

Despite my obsession with maths education, this wasn’t what launched my interests and career in education.

For my under-grad degree, I studied politics, psychology and maths, and it was through politics that my interest in education developed. I learned a lot about liberal theory, multiculturalism and human rights and, from these areas, I started to understand how impactful education is as a lever for social change. When there are inequities that exist in a society, education is a powerful way of rising above them and breaking down barriers. So I thought this was incredible! Since then my work has been in a number of different areas, but always dedicated to education.

Previously, I have helped in establishing an academic enrichment program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students, with The Aurora Project. As a teacher, I taught humanities and maths, and also had the privilege of working closely with teachers in a coaching capacity. The schools I have taught at are in rural Victoria and in Melbourne – a big change from my home town of Sydney – and an eye opener in terms of seeing how much harder some opportunities are to come by when you are not in a major city.

Right now, I have two professional roles that I am deeply passionate abut. At Maths Pathway (@MathsPathway), an Australian-founded social enterprise, I am the Head of Learning. Outside of this work, I am currently President of the Mathematical Association of Victoria (@mav_info).

Both roles keep me on my toes in staying up-to-date with latest research, and thinking about how to best support and connect teachers. I have become more focused on maths education in recent years, because it is such an important area for young people – and unfortunately it is so often feared. So as someone who’s not based in the classroom, I believe that one of the most valuable contributions I can make is in bringing teachers and others in the education space together, to talk to and learn from one another.

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

Australia has an outstanding education system. Every day there are such brilliant things happening in schools around the country that are enabled by the dedication of teachers, school leaders and support staff. I am driven in my work to contribute to this community.

Throughout my career, I have also been deeply motivated by the people around me – my colleagues and friends, who are each completely impressive in their own ways. I am grateful to these people for providing supportive environments where I can be challenged in my ideas and challenge them in return, where I can be proud of my successes but also be honest and open about failure. Education is a wonderful field, where just when you think you’ve figured something out, a new idea butts in and can completely shake your thinking. Despite having frequent feelings of disorientation, I love this challenge.

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

I strongly believe in the connectedness of education, so the reward and challenge that I’ll touch on relate to that.

An undeniable reward of working in education comes from the real, tangible impact that you have on people’s lives. Teachers and others in education are not just cogs in a wheel, but important and influential in students’ lives.

One of the great difficulties in education is that of empathy. There are so many voices in education, and it is so easy to make assumptions about what people need or want. We are often impacted – in the processes and structures that shape our work and often in the outcomes we can attain – by people we don’t know. There is a challenge that comes with this in reaching across to different perspectives (e.g. from schools, communities, academia, enterprise or elsewhere) and talking and really listening to one another.

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

I believe that every student should be in a position where they leave school, aware of their own strengths, confident in themselves and understand some of the options ahead of them. Too often though, where a student lives in Australia and their socio-economic circumstances affects whether they leave the education system with these things. So what would I do? Help to initiate or strengthen actions that overcome systemic barriers for students. I’d love to hear people’s ideas and what they’re doing on this front!

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

By nature of its geography, Australia is very fragmented. I experienced this firsthand, when working in rural Victoria. EduTweetOz is a fantastic initiative for bringing people together to collaborate, celebrate success and provide guidance. It’s an honour to be part of the community.

This week I’d love to tap into the thoughts and perspectives of the collective on some of my education interests, hopefully having some knotty discussions along the way. In particular, I’m keen to hear people’s ideas about how people #talkmathsup. Maths is a hugely important part of education (yes, I’m biased!), but it’s often feared, badly stereotyped or hated on. The question I often ask people is: Whether or not you teach maths, what do you do to give it a better deal?

Welcome Michael Walker (@krustyklo)

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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? 

My name is Michael Walker and I am currently a secondary teacher at a middle suburban secondary college in Melbourne, Victoria.

I completed my VCE in 1989 and was interested even then in teaching, putting education degrees in my list of preferences for university courses. However, my parents had a belief that I would be more interested in engineering and so I put those first above the teaching degrees, and received my first choice of engineering course, along with a scholarship. I believe that I dodged a bullet there as I would   have been graduating around the time the Kennett government was closing schools. Even now there are nowhere near as many people my age employed as teachers than people much younger or older than I am.

Whilst there were parts of the engineering course that interested me, much of it I found boring and couldn’t see myself doing that as a career for the rest of my life. In addition I struggled with the transition to university from the high school environment. Fortunately the engineering course had a six month work experience component, and I did work experience at a small IT company fixing hardware and providing helpdesk support and they offered me a job. Fast forward six years and a number of different roles within the company and I found myself unemployed when the company was placed into administration and liquidated.

Whilst looking for another job, I happened across an old friend when going swimming one night, and he told me he had just changed jobs and his old IT job at an inner suburban school was available. I rang up the following day, was informed that they were interviewing for the job that day and if I could fax through my resume and turn up for an interview in 2 hours, they would interview me. As I walked in the door upon getting home from the interview, the phone rang offering me the job! My career in education had begun.

A significant part of my support job was classroom support, including opening one of the computer rooms at lunchtimes, and I quite enjoyed the classroom part of the IT job and interacting with students, as well as the opportunity to learn new things all the time. In my first year I had a small but life changing experience that pushed me towards teaching. I had taken the class set of laptops into a class for some publicity photos but the photographer was running quite late. So there I was in a classroom with a class of year 8s, the principal and the normal classroom teacher, all of us standing around with the need to do something productive. I’m not sure exactly how it happened but I was invited to show the kids something, anything, on the laptops. So I started showing them how to compose a budget in Excel, and kept going for most of the 50 minutes until the end of the period with the students engaged and productive. As we walked out, I was asked if I’d ever considered taking up teaching as I had apparently done quite well!

Towards the end of that year, my manager pulled me aside and was openly honest about how he understood that schools didn’t pay IT staff much compared to industry, but they were very happy with my work and he wanted to negotiate alternative ways to keep me at the school, with one of the suggestions being time off to do a university course part time. With the earlier experience fermenting in my mind, I jumped at the chance to do a Bachelor of Science / Education at Deakin, and did so starting in 1999.

However, whilst I was able to juggle full time work, part time study, and home life having also married in 1999; after 5 years personal circumstances meant I had to discontinue the course to prioritise my family but I continued working at the school doing IT support.

After doing the same job for 10 years, circumstances changed and financially I was in a position to complete what I had started, so left my job and commenced a 4 year full time degree at LaTrobe University undertaking a Bachelor Science / Science Education majoring in Maths and a submajor of Computer Science.

A teaching friend offered advice that I should start looking for jobs from June in my last year, and sure enough my current job was advertised in July, and I was the successful applicant.

I have taught Science in junior years up until this year, Maths in junior years, VCE IT and Software Development, and this year  started teaching the new Digital Technologies subject to Year 8 classes. Last year I took on a role co-managing the year 8 Maths team and this year have been doing that role by myself as my co-leader took on another role.

In Victoria, there are 2 pay categories (starting at 1-1 to 1-5, then 2-1 upwards). As part of stepping up pay grades from 1 to 2 this year, I had to add a responsibility role so after discussion with the relevant Assistant Principal wrote my own role as Digital Technologies Coordinator responsible for implementing and managing the new DigiTech curriculum in our school. I was also persuaded to take on a subrole supporting the Arts/ Technology domain coordinators in promoting and implementing the Design technologies curriculum in the school.

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

On an intrinsic level, I am really motivated by the challenge of understanding and implementing curriculum in pedagogically appropriate ways. I love learning new things about the content and how to teach it in ways students can engage with it, understand it and, most importantly, apply it in meaningful ways.

On an extrinsic level, I enjoy spending time around students and talking with them about life, the universe, and everything. Students want to learn, are curious about the world, and some of the best discussions I have had about the content or other topics have been completely spontaneous in the yard during yard duty, or even on the 902 bus on the way home!

I also enjoy the company and support of my colleagues, and appreciate the differences we all have and the way they contribute to all of us moving forward in our understanding and knowledge of what we do. Or maybe I just enjoy the bad puns and dad jokes… 🙂

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

Whilst it seems to be a cliché, I believe the education system in Australia, and indeed the world, is at a crossroads. The rewards will come from choosing the right ways forward, the challenge is in determining what they are. You could write an encyclopedia (you know, that thing that is like a book version of Wikipedia) about the challenges in education – and obviously many, many people have.

The big challenges I see are both old and new ones. The challenge of “what works” in the classroom to maximise learning is an old problem – there have been disengaged students since the start of mass education. How to respond to compliant but disengaged students playing the game without really learning. The challenge of whether we should respond to a changing society or whether the old ways still work best. How to coexist with those staff we work with on the other side of that fence. The challenge of increased expectations and the increased workload that goes with that, but without the increased resourcing needed to do it to an acceptable level, let alone to the high standard it is increasingly apparent we need to be aiming for if we want our students to genuinely be successful in the post-secondary world. Most teachers I have spoken with openly about this issue admit they can only do their job to between 50% and 70% of the standard they would like to achieve. The challenge of recognising student success and wellbeing will be best achieved with recognising that teacher wellbeing also needs to be recognised. A teacher struggling with their own issues isn’t going to give 100% to their students – Jane Caro expressed it really well in this podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/wilosophy-with-wil-anderson/id951354264?mt=2#

Lastly, the challenges of education responding to a changing society including the increasing pervasiveness of digital technology and information communication and technology. How best to leverage this change to maximise learning, be relevant in society, and if/how the role of teachers, education leaders, governmental educational leaders / politicians, and institutions needs to change.

On a personal level, the challenge is to continually improve, acknowledging that a teaching career is a marathon, not a sprint. I also struggle with finding like-minded people around me so that we can mutually develop based on our shared beliefs and challenges. This is one godsend of the internet and forums like Twitter and EduTweetOz.

The rewards? On a personal level when students understand ideas. More importantly, when I have been able to reignite hope in students who have lost hope. Schools can be quite hostile places and lots of students have checked out by the end of middle school. For the system itself, if it can respond to the challenges, the rewards will be a new generation ready to engage productively with the world they are entering, rather than being inadequately prepared for a world that no longer exists.

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

At the very least, I would recognise the need for change, and that change needs to be resourced, most critically with time. The expectation of teaching as a vocation meaning it is acceptable for teachers to give up significant amounts of their own time to maintain the status quo, let alone create innovation at a grassroots level, needs to end. Yes, there are other jobs where people do work in their own time. IT, the industry I came from is one – but the pay rates for professional IT jobs requiring after hours work is multiples of that for teachers without the need for dealing with teenage angst!

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 a follower of the EduTweetOz account almost from the day I first joined Twitter. In my teaching it has played a role in continuously feeding me a serendipity of new ideas. Even when I have disagreed with the weekly account facilitator, it has been an opportunity to clarify why I have such a strong reaction to a comment or concept, and what I think and the logical basis behind it. I see this as being a continuing strength of accounts such as these, and I don’t see the need for that diminishing at all in the foreseeable future. Teachers need intellectual stimulation, exposure to new ideas, and in many schools / faculty teams that doesn’t exist or is actively discouraged in favour of maintaining the status quo – and online forums are a great way to do that.

My hope for the account this week is to generate discussion on the role of education in wider society, the role of teachers, the role of students, of schools; the day to day trials, tribulations, and rewards of teaching; and the role of technology in making teachers more efficient and/or education more engaging and relevant. Be gentle with me!

 

Introducing Belinda Faulkner (@belindateaches)

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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 started training as QA manager in pharmaceuticals – 89 staff from 24 different nationalities so I quickly learnt to be engaging & innovative. GMP is not the most stimulating tonic. Since then I’ve done training across a wide range of industries and subjects. Most recently resilience training for long term unemployed in which I had 100% retention rate of participants. In 2014 I was diagnosed with MS which saw me decide to do something I’d thought about for 20+ years – teaching. Now doing M.teach(sec) to be a science teacher.

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

I think I have something to offer as I’ve worked in science and done jobs for 20 of 26 letters of the alphabet. The people I’ve mentored who like to remind me I’m awesome and the people in MS forums inspire and motivate me.

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

The biggest reward I think is being part of the moment when someone “gets” something. The biggest challenge is to get ahead and realise soft skills are actually hard and they aren’t 21st century skills, they’re 20th century skills and we’re behind. Also catching up with the fact many adults weren’t ever taught soft skills.

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

Start from the ground up and revolutionise teacher education professional development.

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

Starting discussion and debate on current issues. I want to start some discussion especially on soft skills.