Master of Teaching (Secondary) graduate.
What is your career/background?
I grew up in Canberra, and went straight from high school into an undergraduate arts/science degree at ANU. Originally I wanted to be a psychologist, so during my undergrad I also worked as a child autism therapist, respite support worker, and after school tutor to gain experience. I enjoyed these jobs, and I found the developmental psychology unit in my course particularly interesting. As the end of my undergrad approached, I started thinking seriously about teaching as the next step. The many inspirational teachers I’d had over the past few years played a big part in guiding me toward a career in education. I moved to Melbourne to study the M.Teach, and the city’s creativity and culture enhanced my love of the arts. Among the casual jobs I picked up while studying, I worked as an usher, ticketing officer, and education workshop assistant at various arts organisations. I found that the intersection of education and the performing arts was the most exciting area to me.
What inspired you to enrol in the Master of Teaching – Secondary course?
From the research I had done online, the M.Teach at University of Melbourne sounded like a fantastic course, particularly the focus on clinical teaching practice: getting into a classroom was the only way I'd know whether or not I’d like teaching. Another big factor was Melbourne – the city. I went to New York on exchange in the final year of my undergrad, so I was keen to move to another big city.
What’s the best thing you’ve gained from doing the course?
It’s so hard to single out one thing! One highlight was the Teaching Shakespeare intensive I undertook with guest professor Jonothan Neelands from the Royal Shakespeare Company. The concepts of open space learning and process drama that we explored in this course beautifully complemented the work in our drama method class, and made a huge impact on my pedagogy. Another highlight was the Education, Practice and Place subject that took me to Japan to investigate how schools can help to build resilience in students in disaster-affected areas. We had to completely re-think how we constructed our lessons, especially with the language barrier, which disrupted my thinking in a good way. I learnt a lot about the art of teaching, and it reminded me that learning is about much more than knowledge.
What did you find most challenging about doing the course?
Staying healthy. I had never been so busy or tired in my life. In retrospect, that was probably good preparation for the complete and utter madness of being a full-time graduate teacher. I found the block placements the hardest – juggling part-time work with lesson plans and study – but they were also the most exciting parts of the course.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing this course?
Go for it! You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and if you don’t really want to teach then you’ll discover that pretty quickly. Also, no two people will have the same experience of the M.Teach – your placement schools and mentors have a huge impact. You’ll need patience, tenacity, and persistence to get you over the inevitable hurdles. Every teacher is part of a community, so know how to work together with your colleagues, and recognise that you have something to learn from everyone. Eat your greens, and don’t forget to have fun.
How did you feel when you found out you were awarded the Hugh Childers Memorial Prize and the Master of Teaching Research Prize?
After my graduation ceremony I thought that was it, I didn’t even know these awards existed. So I was very excited when I got the email. I very nearly gave up on my thesis in the final few months, so I’m especially glad now that I persisted. It felt really great to have all that hard work acknowledged, and it was a nice moment to share with the people that supported me through the process.
In a nutshell, can you explain your research?
When I started my research, the school I was working at had just received a government grant to build a new performing arts centre. A larger research project was being conducted to develop an educational brief to give the architects about how the school wanted the space to function from a pedagogical perspective. I became interested in how performing arts teachers might think about classrooms differently depending on their subject area and preferred pedagogy. I investigated how music, dance and drama teachers perceived their use of space: pedagogical spatiality, if you will.
What led you to your research? How did you get to this point?
Apart from the obvious catalyst of the capital works at the school where I was working, I suppose some other influences on this research would include the investigation of open space learning in my drama education studies at MGSE, and a broad interest in set design and the use of space from a design course in my undergrad. My supervisor’s expertise in classroom design led me toward investigating spatiality, and my lecturers in the research methods foundation of the masters helped me choose the best mode of inquiry.
What impact do you hope your research will have?
A large part of my research was listening to teachers describe their pedagogy, and looking for pattern. I hope it demonstrates that all teachers are inherently researchers – we constantly observe, diagnose and differentiate. Specifically, I hope my research highlights the particular skill of performing arts teachers in using classroom spaces innovatively to enhance student outcomes, so that creative pedagogies might be adopted more broadly.
What excites you most about educational research?
I love the idea that it’s always evolving. I spoke to an actor recently who said he loved Shakespeare because ‘there’s no endgame’ – there’s always more to explore. I feel the same way about educational research. There are so many questions still unanswered, and so many more yet to be asked. I’m excited about how arts pedagogy might enhance learning more broadly – how every classroom might be considered creative.
What are your plans for the future?
In 2016 I left the classroom to work as the Education Coordinator at Melbourne Theatre Company. I’m finding the potential of education programs in major performing arts companies especially exciting. We’re incredibly lucky at MTC to be well resourced with wonderful facilities and an incredible array of talented staff. I’m interested in how the creative industries can support the education sector, and how the arts can be integrated into other learning areas to enhance learning and engagement.