This blog post is part of a series related to the SBS documentary Testing Teachers. To find out more about Testing Teachers click here.
I was born in August of 1991. Plenty was happening in the world then, much as it is now. Countries were in the throes of political crises, new technological innovations were challenging the old ways of doing things and The Simpsons were on our TV screens. Unlike now, however, in 1991 Australia was emerging from the depths of a bitter recession, dubbed by our then Prime Minister Paul Keating as one the nation ‘had to have’.
In the prevailing 26 years or so, Australia has been the economic envy of most of the developed world for our unimpeded economic growth and ability to weather events such as the Global Financial Crisis. Despite this being a source of pride for our country, and at that top of any talking points from our treasurers (starting with likes of Paul Keating and Peter Costello and continuing today with Scott Morrison), it is readily apparent that not all Australians have prospered equally. While there are many ways we can measure inequality in our society, one of the most evident means is to see the disparity, in educational opportunities for Australia’s children.
It’s 9pm on a Thursday in March. The Cricket World Cup is occupying my television screen and the images of Australian sixes and English wickets is providing an enjoyable backdrop as I sit down to mark my first set of Year 12 Economics assessments; known amongst my students as Outcomes and to me as SACs. It’s somewhat daunting to read through the work of a Year 12 student you’ve been teaching, for their performance is a direct reflection on your efforts as their teacher. Yet at the same time, their performance on any given day, under the pressures of a high-stakes test, can be completely out of your control.
In moving to rural Victoria to teach this year, I was excited to embrace a new community, completely different to my own. Having grown up in suburban Melbourne, I was exposed to a traditional city-based lifestyle, which continued as I studied at university in inner-Melbourne. I had some sense of what lay ahead for me in the country, but, knew that there was much still to be discovered.
As I prepared to enter the world of teaching late last year, I sought out the advice of many of my previous teachers from high school, yearning to gather as much insight about how to best serve my students in class.
Whilst receiving much wisdom from my former educators around the themes of classroom management and curriculum development amongst others, what resonated most clearly was something my former headmaster passed on to me – the value of continually asking questions. This was not just something I had to do as a beginning teacher, he said. Rather it was an essential skill to build in my students.