Why did you choose to study education and training?
I wanted a challenge. I wanted to be able to combine my love of drama, humour, learning, children, reading and research. I wanted to study and work in a field that benefited others as much as it did me. I wanted to work with parents and carers for the good of their child and help a child to discover, navigate, connect and grow.
What was the best thing about your course?
The balance! I had lecturers who were absolute guns in their field but were still completely connected with the realities of the profession and the classroom through their own research and work. I was exposed to research-based practice and honest critique of the state of education and current practice, as well as a practicum program that had us in a classroom in our first month.
What was the worst thing about your course?
It is a shame that the special education course isn’t the ‘general’ education course because it provided the rigorous and broad preparation needed for the diverse range of students in all of today’s classrooms. We were well prepared in areas such as behaviour management, direct instruction, welfare and teaching students with literacy and numeracy difficulties — areas commonly cited as posing the greatest challenges for new teachers.
Have you found work in your field?
I was offered a job before I even graduated and was rapidly targeted into a permanent position at a school in south-west Sydney (my first preference). When looking to transfer to a new school I had many offers given the demand for teachers with special education qualifications or experience. My course had a high graduate employment rate — all of the graduates that I know of from my year were able to gain employment in their first year out.
What advice would you give to students considering studying education and training?
Make the most of your practicum as this is where you get to test the theoretical stuff out, find your teaching legs and experiment with teaching styles and strategies. Talk to teachers, immerse yourself in the school dynamic and observe other teaching styles. Teaching is not for the faint hearted — it is hard work but beautiful work. Don’t expect to have it all under control when you first start out, and remember to seek support where necessary.
It may not be as easy as you might think to get a job. Though there is a looming teacher shortage, the current shortage is in specific areas such as maths teaching. Be prepared to accept short-term positions to get yourself known, and be flexible about where you want to teach. Your teaching will be enriched if you are willing to take on positions in remote and rural areas or in disadvantaged schools.
I urge you to give teaching a go. Even when you’re exhausted, there is sure to be something you said or did during the work day that made a student’s life just that bit better.