A Happy Australia Day to all my subscribers, page likers and sometimes visitors!
For many educators Australia Day heralds the opportunity for a final day of celebration (or relaxation) before the official commencement of the 2015 school year (gulp). I know that many of you have been back at work for a week already, attending meetings, writing lists, preparing subject overviews and lessons, re-imagining tired classrooms into environments to inspire our students and then attending some more meetings!
I love the energy and enthusiasm that comes with this time of year. This is the time of the year that I like to roll out the ideas that may have been percolating in the back of my mind from the previous year. The ideas you thought of but shrugged off because you were in the middle of report writing or sorting out the emotional crisis of the year 9 girls…..again. I remember vividly Australia Day about 15 years ago. I had recently arrived back from travels abroad (I had spent a year teaching English to Scouse kids in Liverpool UK), and had secured my first Australian teaching position at a Catholic school in Port Augusta. A few weeks earlier, on a blistering 43 degree day, my partner and I had travelled north from Adelaide. As we had opened boxes and arranged our tiny kitchenette I pondered the brevity of this new adventure. Would I succeed? Would my new students and teachers like me? Would the program I had prepared work or would it fall flat with a groan and a squeak? Would I ever survive this interminable heat and the very real possibility that I might swallow flies alive and whole?
And so my Australia Day 15 years ago was not spent eating sausages and joining in the festivities at the local beach. Instead, I spent the day in a bikini (I was thinner back then), writing lesson plans in my hot little flat. I was determined. My lessons would be perfect. I was going to be the perfect teacher. Of course reality rather surpassed my ambition and some of my lessons did fall flat, some of my students would get the better of me, and I would raise my voice. I was far from perfect. Yet, on the first day, the day after Australia Day, I vividly recall standing in front of my year 10 English class. I had 24 students in a hot transportable so run-down it was actually condemned a few years later. However, I did not bemoan the antiquated blackboard and chalk (no interactive whiteboards or whiteboard) or the ineffective evaporative air conditioner (which I did learn to loathe). Rather, I looked at my students, and, comparing them to the students I had taught a few months earlier I had a light bulb moment. They were healthy, they were strong, and they were brown from years of a childhood spent outdoors in safety and freedom. I was lucky to teach these kids and hopefully I would prove worthy of them.
I loved my time in the bush so much I stayed 6 years. It was only the birth of our children that made us decide to relocate to Adelaide to be close to our extended families. However, the memory of those early days of teaching in Port Augusta have stayed with me and I look back with fondness. Certainly I made many spectacular mistakes during this time but, as often is the case, these errors were balanced out with an energy that is often only seen in beginning teachers. I often wonder why so many young teachers are reluctant to leave the safety of the metropolitan areas to teach in the bush. For me this was an unforgettable journey and an experience as dear to me as that which I had abroad. For all the criticism teachers daily face in this country; I still believe that Australia is a wonderful place to work as an educator and I firmly believe that our teachers are world class.
Is this your first teaching position? What was your first teaching post like? What have you done to prepare your classroom for the 2015 school year? Drop me a line below, I’d love to hear from you.