Saul Wakerman | Cohort 2011 Associate | Hometown: Alice Springs NT
Bachelor of Laws | Bachelor of Media and Communications
Graduate Lawyer | Hall & Wilcox Lawyers
Saul Wakerman is in no doubt about the most important issue in Australia today.
“Education inequity is an issue that everyone in our country needs to care about, whether you’re working in the private sector, in the public sector or as a teacher,” he says.
Saul is in the exceptional position of being able to speak from experience across the sectors. He studied law at university, worked in community justice, taught secondary school students for two years and now works as a lawyer in the private sector.
Perhaps most importantly, Saul has first-hand experience of educational inequity. He grew up in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and travelled to Melbourne for university, which exposed the contrast between opportunities in the city and country.
These observations of inequity were compounded during Saul’s experiences with community justice while studying law.
“I saw people in the justice system who had recurring issues. What became quite apparent was that the law was trying to address the problems so far down the line from where they had occurred,” explains Saul.
“The law was like putting a band-aid on a compound fracture and, for a lot of these people that I was encountering, education could be the key to their success and to their future.”
Instead of the common progression directly into the legal system, Saul found a way to gain deeper insight into what he saw as the biggest issue in community justice. He signed up for two years teaching at a school in a low socioeconomic community as part of the Teach For Australia program.
“My time with Teach For Australia not only developed crucial skills but also gave me a perspective of Australia and the issue of educational disadvantage that I’m not sure I could obtain in any other way.”
The skills that Saul needed to develop and draw on during his time teaching Year 7, Year 9 and Year 12 students were not necessarily those he had anticipated.
“One of the toughest skills that you develop is goal setting and maintaining high expectations. Understanding that your students aren’t reaching their potential and doing what you can to get them to realise their best takes significant mental and physical effort,”he says.
Since completing his two years with Teach For Australia, Saul has now decided to pursue the law, his other passion, with a significant interest in juvenile justice.
Ultimately, Saul says his time in the classroom taught him at the very least one critical lesson.
“What I think is required in teaching is a true belief that every student can learn, effort from the teacher, a positive regard for every student and support structures from the system around them.”