My term one Top Ten: hard work, country towns and vanilla slices

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

vanilla slice

In light of the imminent retirement of legendary broadcaster David Letterman, it seems appropriate, in his honour, for this blog post to take the form of a Top 10 list – Letterman’s classic trope.

With that, I present a personal Top 10 List of Term 1 Teach for Australia Thoughts:

10. You will work harder than you have ever worked before. I have worked as a solicitor at a law firm and in the television industry and they have nothing on the workload involved in being a teacher. Other Associates with corporate experience will tell you the same thing (except the ones with management consulting experience, who are still trying to explain what it is they do).

9. Despite number 10, most of your friends, family and people on the street will assume you do not work hard. It is common to hear things like, “You must be loving working from 9.00am to 3.00pm” or “Those holidays are pretty generous”. Last week, I yawned in line at Westpac and the teller said, “You’re a teacher – what are you tired for?” I now bank at ANZ.

8. My teaching placement is in a small country town, proudly home to the best vanilla slice in Australia. I have since discovered that every other small country bakery has also won an award for their vanilla slice. This leads me to believe there is corruption afoot in the bakery industry.

7. Research proves that character traits like “grit” are predictive of success across all stages of life. Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, has also discovered that students who possess a “growth mindset” and believe that intelligence is malleable tend to succeed more than those who do not. The research is unambiguous – but, getting this concept across to students is a whole different ballgame and a long term one at that, which ironically takes grit and a growth mindset.

6. If you are living in a small country town, embrace it. Get involved. Accept that your big city anonymity is a thing of the past. And as such, be prepared for students to say, “What were you laughing at when you were looking at your phone in the café yesterday?” or “Why were you buying nine bottles of wine at BWS last night?”. Just crack open your bottle of wine and accept it.

5. Students are an outstanding resource when it comes to household supplies like firewood. One of my Year 12 students provided us with 2.5 tonnes of firewood for the reasonable price of $200. Not wanting him to take our business for granted, we put our future firewood needs out for tender amongst the student body, hoping to both drive the price down and defeat his monopoly on the firewood industry within the school. This also has the additional benefit of embracing cross-curriculum priorities, like sustainability.

4. Students do not miss anything. If you have a quirk or peculiarity, they will hone in on it like a drone strike. This is especially true if you encourage an open, honest and safe classroom. I personally cherish the feedback from one student that I “wear lame sweaters well”. Insofar as student feedback ranks, this is high praise.

3. Seeing evidence of learning in students as a result of teaching is one of the biggest professional thrills you can have.

2. This was unexpected but welcome: if your TFA Cohort is anything like mine, you’ll make lifelong friends, who have a passion for education and a gift for empathy. They will sustain you, advise you and make you laugh. That goes for the TFA staff too. First rate individuals making a difference.

1. Teach for Australia is the best thing you can do. Sure, it’s a challenge – but, I cannot think of a more worthwhile and rewarding way to spend my time. The vanilla slice is good too.

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