On her Matriculation results, Z2 was offered a place in Law at Monash University. She applied, as she recalls, for (1) Law (2) Teaching and (3) Nursing. She enrolled in Law, but was subsequently offered a teaching studentship. Her father, an accountant, had a serious talk to her about the advantages of both the studentship and teaching. It was, he pointed out, ‘a good career for a girl’. The studentship would pay for her training and guaranteed her a job at the end of the course with a predictable, secure wage for as long as she worked. Her father was forceful and pragmatic. In his world this was an option that balanced the books.
She allowed herself to be persuaded, and enrolled in a three-year Secondary Teaching Certificate Course at Monash Teachers’ College on the grounds of Monash University. She focused on Geography, History and English but the course was a broad one, incorporating Biology and other subject areas. She lived at home and paid board. Later, after the birth of her first child, she converted her certificate to a Batchelor of Education with two years of study as an external student of Melbourne University, listening to the provided cassette tapes of lectures while her son slept.
Her first appointment was to Sunshine High School, at that time a suburb on the very outer edge of Melbourne’s Industrial West. After a year she married and was moved to a school on the Frankston line – a new High School built between two existing suburbs. From her home it required a walk, a train, a bus and a walk, reversed at the end of the day. Eventually she got a lift with a friend.
After serving out her bond she resigned to travel overseas with her husband. They travelled by ship to Singapore then overland through Asia, arriving eventually in England. She didn’t teach, but spent a year following up family connections, exploring Europe, soaking up the cultures, geography, history and experiences as fuel for the future.
On their return to Melbourne she was offered the same school from which she had resigned. The principal was very accommodating. She was able to work 0.5, and he allowed her to work that over two long days. That helped with the travel as well as making best use of her time. She took a break when her son was born and extended it to have two further children.
When ready to return to work, she obtained a position at an Independent Early Learning Centre to Year 12 school in the Bayside area of Melbourne. She stayed there for 24 years. She began teaching mostly Geography, but that soon morphed into Studies of Society and Environment. As an English teacher she was quickly drawn into establishing Media Studies, introducing the concept of visual literacy and providing a practical, appealing strand within the English curriculum. This proved to be a long-term demand.
She was a well-established part of the school, with regular leadership roles as a House and Year Level Coordinator.
She has no regrets about foregoing Law. At the time she was fairly passive in her choice, and was easily persuaded by her father. Law, she thinks, would have been a more rigid practice and less flexible pathway.
She has loved working with kids – drawing strength from their energy and enthusiasm. Teaching suited her. It has been, for her, an accommodating world in which to work.
It has also given her creative freedom. She enjoyed taking a lesson plan and developing it in different directions for different groups and different purposes. She recalls a Geography class of the toughest kids she ever taught. She worked hard with them to cover the curriculum in ways that captured their interest and took them forward. The topics might be the same but the lesson plans are vastly different. And it worked.
She has worked over a range of content areas, all of interest to her and capable of being adapted to the needs and interests of students.
As a teacher, she says, you develop keen observation skills. You are alert to signs of interest or disinterest, of norms and shifts from the norms. You also develop powers of persuasion that you did not begin with. You learn and grow.
You learn, too, from your own children, observing their differences at all stages – including in the way they parent.
In retirement she likes being useful and enjoys being a volunteer in her grandchildren’s schools. She still enjoys the directness of approach of 8-10 year-old children and the thoughtfulness of their discussions. She continues to find it entertaining.
There is nothing static about teaching or the life of a teacher. She is very glad she did not become a principal. She projects energy, enthusiasm and interest in life, learning, and possibilities.
She remembers her students with joy- and the interviewer has little doubt that they return the compliment.