June 2, 2012

The unexpected consequences of being in Teach For Australia


I’ve been too self-conscious to write since being “exposed” by the newspaper article.  Before that, I was probably too depressed to update. 


Writing about my teaching experiences honestly can be brutal when misconstrued and used without permission.  But that’s the risk one takes with putting words on the interwebs.  My posts present a snapshot of experiences I have, and I see these through different lenses depending on how I feel and what’s been influencing me at the moment.


Some of the most unexpected consequences of joining the TFA program have been:

  • seeing the extent of journalistic bias and misinformation that exists;
  • realising the massive politicisation of education policy which can be completely counter to improving student learning; and
  • on a more personal level, trying to overcome my perfectionism and self-critic and moving on from multiple failures (perceived or actual).


As an update, The Australian published my letter to the editor, and I received a book from Caroline Overington.


On the school front, I’ve organised work experience for my Year 11/12 legal studies students with some barristers and a law firm in Melbourne, applied for a national grant to improve the school’s financial literacy, am involved in a pilot feedback project by John Hattie, went on an instructional round to a neighbouring school to observe and learn best practice, and helped run Diversity Day to promote tolerance of other cultures and differences.  I’m running after school homework sessions and coaching sport each week.  Teaching Year 10’s formal language to help them articulate better (“Miss, what does articulate mean?!), and starting to volunteer at Parkville College, the new school for youth in remand or serving custodial sentences.


God.  Just talking about that makes me sound so bloody arrogant.  I wanted to delete it but my ego is saying, “take that Overington, for assuming I’m not thriving at school and think I can’t wait to leave!”


  1. Good on you - forget about Overington and misreporting. The job is so worthwhile.

  2. Thanks zmkc for the support :) Are you a teacher too?

    1. No, I'm an editor by trade. The best teacher I ever had was at Telopea Park High School in Canberra in the seventies. I took ancient history purely because it fitted into my timetable and the person teaching the subject, using a combination of infectious enthusiasm and disciplinary tyranny, (woe betide you if you didn't do the reading or homework she set - the withering look she would give you was punishment enough), made me for the only time in my life fall in love with history - specifically, ancient Greek history. The year after I left the school, I heard that that teacher was told she could not teach any more, because she didn't have a Dip.Ed. She insisted on high standards and was terrifying but fair and inspiring. Somehow it was a brilliant combination. Part of the inspirational side of it was in fact her frightening strictness, if that makes sense. It was an exciting challenge to try to earn her respect.

    2. Telopea! I also went to that school ;) Looking back it was quite interesting attending with such a French influence. I had some great teachers there too. T

      It's great that you had such an inspiring teacher. History amazes me and now that I'm teaching it, I value it even more.

      That's a shame such a good teacher could not continue. I think there's a lot to be said for experience with the subject. That's an issue for the teaching registration board. That's one of the benefits of the programs Teach For Australia or Teach Next (which hasn't received half as much media attention for some reason, despite being very similar): they recruit people who have strong content knowledge.

  3. I've been teaching for 15 years now, both in Scotland and now in NZ, and I still love it. We get our off-days like everyone else, but don't let the bastards wear you down, the job's really worthwhile.
    Just seeing a kid's face when he grasps a difficult concept and demonstrates a deeper understanding than your original objective still makes my heart sing.

    People talk about older cynical teachers (I'm 59), but the ONLY thing that triggers my latent cynicism is bloody educationalists who really have no idea what's going on in a modern classroom.

    1. Hello, thanks for your comment!

      Yes, there are plenty of great moments in teaching. Sometimes I think to myself, "wait a minute, I am getting paid to do this?" Other times, not so much.

      I really admire teachers who have been in the profession for a long time. You started in your 40's - what made you change professions?


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