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Vocation Enlightened the Radio Star

13 May 2024 | Posted in Learning and Teaching

Vocation Enlightened the Radio Star

The contemporary world of teaching is so much more than the Jackson 5 sang about in 1970. As well as A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s, teachers are increasingly responsible for the holistic care and development of students. Whether it is coaching sporting teams before school, running musical rehearsals on weekends or being a listening ear during lunch breaks while students vent about the pressures of life. The role of teachers is no longer confined to a whiteboard and the four walls of a classroom. As such, teaching requires more than a piece of paper from a fancy university. It is not a profession but rather a vocation, something a person is intrinsically drawn to.

I first started my teaching degree as a fresh-faced, straight-outta-high school graduate. However, after twelve years of schooling, I couldn’t bring myself to commit to another four years of learning, so I dropped out. There was no catchy theme-song or teen angel descending from the heavens like Frenchy in Grease. Instead, I embarked on a decade-long career in the radio industry. You might think this is about as far removed from teaching as possible, however, so much of what I learnt in the media has applications to my role in the classroom now. 

In addition to the mandatory Bachelor’s degree, modern teachers require a unique toolbox of skills and attributes, starting with a healthy sense of humour. Mine, as you can imagine, was acutely attuned from ten years of toilet humour and topical jokes fostered by my former position as an on-air announcer. The ability to share a laugh with your students is one of the best parts of the job. I remember as a first-year teacher, setting a general knowledge online quiz for students. One of the questions asked the age old, ‘Which is heavier, 10 kilograms of rocks or 10 kilograms of feathers?’ A young male pupil piped up and said, ‘Surely it has to be the feathers, right Miss?’ 

I prepared to launch into the logic behind why they were the same, but the student cut me off and stated, ‘Because then you’ve got to deal with the emotional weight of knowing you’ve killed that many birds.’ Well, I lost it and spent the next five minutes in a raucous fit of laughter. My whole career has been filled with sparkly moments like this where the imaginations and insights of my students have caught me off guard, made me laugh and kept me curious about the world around me. In fact, experiences like these have helped insulate me against the not-so-good days and as a teacher, there have been plenty.

I started my university degree (for the second time) as a mother of a four-month-old daughter who had just walked away from the only long-term career she had ever known. As far as big decisions go in my life, this ranks in the top five. It was this step that taught me the next two important attributes of being a teacher, reflection and resilience. As both a mother and a teacher, I see so much of what teachers do through the lens of a parent. Just as I wish nothing the best and joy for my own children, I seek the same for the students in my care. This, as any parent would know, is not always smooth sailing. What works one day, suddenly has the opposite effect the next. We are in the business of people, educating young minds and fostering life-long skills but that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what our young folk are often dealing with. Therefore, reflection and resilience are vital in ensuring that even after the worst of days you can, as Bluey says, ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again’. I recall a Year 10 English lesson, also in my first year, where absolutely nothing went right. My post-Covid lockdown, boy-heavy class were reading Animal Farm and writing essays, so as you can imagine they were all intensely engaged and adoring every moment… not. That lesson dragged on in treadmill minutes. When they were finally dismissed, I stood idle in my room sobbing. I questioned every moment that had led me to that point. But when the tears stopped, I asked myself the hard question, why didn’t that lesson work? And it had nothing to do with the students. The fact of the matter was, I had failed to ensure the lesson effectively catered to the students in front of me. It’s not like the movies, kids don’t just scream, ‘O’ Captain, my Captain’ because you turn up. I reflected, reassessed and refurbished future lessons which resulted in increased success. Now I have students build tents on the oval and attempt to establish a civilised society without guidance, ala Lord of the Flies. I make them crawl under desks to collect life-saving supplies, while I hurl tennis balls at them for World War II. And you know what? I love those lessons too.

Finally, the last of the gifts I took from my former life in radio land is the ability to build lifelong relationships with my colleagues. To give you an idea about how seriously I take this position, one of my former colleagues Cliff Kern (you may know him as CK on Triple M) and his incredible wife, Karolien are the Godparents to my first-born child. People are and will always be our greatest assets. I am honoured to say that I have worked with some of the industries greatest educators. They don’t have shining trophies or millions of dollars in their accounts in recognition. Rather, they have the respect and adulation of the students they teach. They are the pile of printing you forgot to do, hand-delivered to your desk. They are the sounding boards for crazy tennis ball wielding ideas. They are a reassuring word and home-baked treats when all of the best laid plans fall to pieces. I have been humbled by the willingness of my colleagues to share all that they have, not just in terms of resources but also of themselves. They turn up, every day, with a desire to be a positive influence in the lives of not only their students, but mine. For that, I am forever grateful.

I believe teaching truly is like a wand in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, you don’t choose teaching, teaching chooses you. I have lived many lives inside my *cough* years, from a Brumby’s cashier, hairdressing apprentice, DVD store receptionist (HA! Remember those?), radio announcer and finally, teacher. I have taken lessons from all of them and now, I have the absolute honour of using all that I have learned to create something meaningful for my students. ‘Twas video that killed the radio star and vocation that brought her back to life.

 * Treadmill minutes are clinically proven to last significantly longer than the standard 60 second measurement of a minute. That’s why a 10-minute treadmill run is actually the equivalent to a 3-day hike.

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