Brendon Barratt was part of Cohort 2017 of our Leadership Development Program. We spoke to Brendon about his experiences teaching STEM and working towards the Teach For Australia vision of an Australia where education gives every child, regardless of background, greater choice for their future.
Tell us about your experience with Teach For Australia’s Leadership Development Program:
When I undertook the Teach for Australia Leadership Development Program, I was changing careers and was also the father of a young daughter. This was challenging as I faced not only developing into a teacher and developing myself but also balancing that with being an active and involved parent.
Teach For Australia provided me with all the support I needed to complete the Leadership Development Program. The program gave me the skills, opportunity and support I needed to have a meaningful impact on the education of many children. This is something I will always treasure and it is a highlight of my career.
Along with this experience, I made amazingly strong friendships with new and interesting people as the program introduced me to fellow Associates that I am still in close contact with. When I think of the impact the Leadership Development Program had on me, I consider it the most transformational professional experience I have had in my career.
Australia suffers from the greatest shortage of teachers in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Do you have any advice for STEM specialists considering applying for TFA?
Teaching STEM in a high school is incredibly important, it prepares students not just for STEM careers but also equips them with a way of understanding the world around them as an adult. It is this way of understanding the world that you as a STEM specialist can pass on to the next generation over and above the content you might teach. So if your passion for working in STEM is to contribute positively to society, I can’t think of many better ways to do it than becoming a STEM teacher. Plus, there is nothing I have had more fun doing than connecting with a student who is equally passionate about STEM as myself and really nerding out during playground duty or after class by having a conversation about everything from quantum mechanics to whether aliens exist and what they might look like – you will love it!
Tell us about your work as an Educator Program Leader at Questacon Educator Program:
In my current role at Questacon, I am part of a team that works with primary school teachers, pre-service teachers and high school teachers all over Australia to support them in implementing STEM education in their classrooms. I develop curriculum units based around different fields of engineering for the teachers to implement. I also facilitate professional development workshops which enable them to implement these units to fit the contextual needs of their students. It is exciting to know that I am contributing not just to teacher development but also positive experiences for students studying STEM.
What is a memory that stands out for you as a science and mathematics teacher?
A memory that stands out for me was the impact that changing my pedagogy from a more traditional style to one of inquiry had on my students. The more I handed over responsibility for what we learned in my classroom to my students the more they learned and the closer my relationships with my students became. This led to really amazing outcomes, like my students coming up with an experiment to investigate whether we could make a cup and string telephone which was over 100 meters long and still hear each other! Things I never would have imagined when planning for my lessons became part of my classes and disengaged students became engaged. It seemed counter-intuitive but the less I taught content and the more I coached how to learn, the better my student outcomes became.