Kathleen always knew she would be a teacher, she just didn’t want to be one immediately.
At 20 years old, Kathleen knew she wasn’t mature enough to embark on a teaching career just yet. She spent nine years travelling, working, and playing in bands before enrolling in her first university degree, a Bachelor of Arts. When she felt she was finally ready to start her “adult career”, she discovered the Master of Teaching (Secondary) Internship by chance while Googling teaching degrees.
The ability to earn a salary while working towards her qualification was a huge selling point for Kathleen, as a mature-age student with rent and bills to pay.
She also appreciated the degree's practical nature. “I’m not great at writing essays, but I’m really good in the classroom,” Kathleen says. “So for someone like me, who really thrives in a practical environment, that was incredibly valuable.
“I also really valued the relationships I made. It was a lovely cohort of interns who all got along well and had similar values and approaches to teaching. The staff were also generous with their time, available when we needed extra support and went that extra mile when we had questions. The school was wonderful too; it had a very collegiate vibe, I never felt like I couldn’t ask questions. I even shared an office with my school mentor, which was great.”
She does, however, offer a word of caution.
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” she laughs. “It’s very challenging working and studying full time. It was an enormous lesson in being organised. I tried to be very disciplined about only doing university work on the weekend or my days off. The demands of teaching are never-ending, so one piece of advice I would offer is to take personal leave days when you need to, and don’t feel guilty about spending the day watching Netflix. Rest is really important; don’t burn yourself out.”
The Master of Teaching (Secondary) Internship begins with a six-week intensive, and in the final week, interns get their first experience teaching a class of high school students.
“I’d come from early childhood environments through my puppeteering and nannying work, so this was a valuable opportunity for me to work out how to talk to teenagers. I was teaching drama to 20 kids, and when I suggested we interrupt a lecture with a flash mob they just lit up! We performed Uptown Funk, creating the beat with our hands and feet while one of the kids sang the chorus. I’d cleared it with the lecturer and he was a good sport and played along, and it was just a real highlight for me to see them enthusiastically get involved.”
In her final year, Kathleen completed a research project on school uniforms and gender diversity, looking at the uniform policy of 10 schools in the southeast.
“Collating the data for the area was really interesting to me, and it was great to be able to go to the principal and tell him the school was already doing so well. It’s good to have done my capstone research subject on this issue, because I think a lot about how we can continue to create an affirming environment for students.”
Several years after graduating, Kathleen is still working at the school where she completed her internship.
“I think the principal knew from the beginning that I would be a good fit for his school. It has a great, youthful vibe, and I love how we show the students all the different ways professional can look. I stayed because it’s a really great place for me to grow.
“I’m now in a leadership role as a year level coordinator, and every morning from 8:30–9:00am I make myself available to students. It’s very informal, just saying hello and checking in with anyone who may be having a rough week or needing support.
“Coming here and seeing the way teachers are so social with young people was a positive surprise for me. I learned about the new professional standards, where we have high expectations of our students, but we’re relaxed about what that looks like. There are a lot of lovely conversations about what they did on the weekend, how their grandma’s doing, and we manage students in a way that touches on their lives. My favourite part of being a teacher is the interactions with students, and I really feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.”