Essie Smith | Student | Master of Teaching (Primary)

After completing her previous studies at the University of Melbourne, Essie taught in secondary schools and had a son, before returning to the Master of Teaching (Primary). As a mature student, she is enjoying the diverse course cohort: "There are lots of parents, people changing careers in their 30s and 40s, people coming to study from overseas, and so on. It didn’t take me long to feel a real sense of belonging among a truly fantastic group of people."

Q: Can you please briefly outline your life prior to studying this program?

I completed my Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, with majors in English and Philosophy, in the early 2000s, and then returned immediately to undertake the Grad Dip in Secondary Education with English and Humanities as my methods. That was before the MTeach as we know it existed. It was a very intense year, and I loved it, and went into secondary teaching with enormous enthusiasm.

I taught in secondary schools for some years, and studied psychology part time to broaden and improve my skills and understanding in both child development, and youth wellbeing, building on what I had learned in the Grad Dip and in my own professional experience.

I took some time off when I had my son, working as a freelance copywriter and creative content creator which I found to be as flexible as I needed it to be during that period of my life, but I missed teaching, so once my son was settled at school I enrolled in the MTeach.

Q: Why did you choose to study at the Faculty of Education?

There were a few reasons I chose the Faculty of Education. The first was that it was a face to face course, which was important to me. I wanted the experience and accountability of learning on campus with a cohort of other dedicated future educators. Secondly, I knew it would give me a highly regarded degree that future employers would value. The Master of Teaching has a reputation for being rigorous, thorough, and challenging, and that’s what I wanted for myself.

Q:  Why did you choose to study your program?

Primary teaching is very different from secondary teaching, and I felt I needed to start as a beginner in my approach to this new direction in my career. I wanted to have a really solid grounding in teaching early literacy and numeracy, and get to know the complex and varied ways learning happens in the primary years. The MTeach was the perfect choice for that.

Q: Are you enjoying studying at the Faculty of Education?

I am loving this experience. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the most challenging tasks I have ever undertaken, but I am part of a community of committed students, supported by world class academic staff who are passionate about what we do, and that’s something that makes me incredibly proud, and so excited for the future.

Q: What’s the most valuable/rewarding aspect of your program?

I think for me, coming to this course with an understanding of how busy and hectic day to day life in schools is, I’m really valuing the opportunity this course is offering me to delve deeply into the fundamentals of pedagogy, critical practice, and other aspects of what really underpins our work as teachers. I am learning so much, and really storing up skills and habits that will stand me in good stead as a self reflective clinical practitioner. Having this space to do that work is such a gift.

Q:  Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting the course?

I was really worried I’d be the only mature age student in the course, and wouldn’t fit in. I wish I’d spent less time worrying about that because this course attracts people from so many walks of life and my cohort is really quite diverse! There are lots of parents, people changing careers in their 30s and 40s, people coming to study from overseas, and so on. It didn’t take me long to feel a real sense of belonging among a truly fantastic group of people, and I’m so grateful for that.

Q: How do you hope your course will help your career progression?

The MTeach provides a broad base of subjects that can really help you find your niche within Education. There are so many paths and specialisations educators can take in their careers, and it can be hard to know what will suit you best. I have always had a heart for social justice, and seen Education as a powerful tool for doing that work, so subjects like and ‘Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms’ have helped me really crystalize my ideas and sense of purpose in that area. I definitely want to pursue a career pathway that focuses on student support and wellbeing.

Q: What do you hope is the next step for you?

My next step is to start teaching! I’m passionate about public education, so I’m hoping to find a place in a government school where I can feel part of a community committed to the education and wellbeing of our kids. I expect I’ll be back to have a go at a PhD at some point, because I’m always excited about learning and exploring ideas, but I’ll definitely be classroom teaching while I do it.

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting your course?

If you are passionate about becoming a really excellent teacher, this is the course for you. Be prepared for it to be your life for two years – you won’t have time to do much else – but if you have the drive and the commitment to do it, you have so much to gain.

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