An ardent traveller, Laura left her native Germany at 19 to explore the world. Since then, she’s had plenty of adventures, but despite all she’s seen and done, she still cherishes her Master of Teaching (Secondary) and rural placement in Tallangatta as unforgettable experiences.
After finishing a year-long road trip across Australia, which included camping on the beach in Exmouth, exploring millennia-old rock art in the Northern Territory, and feeding crocodiles on a river boat in Darwin, Laura settled in Melbourne. She was ready to start the next chapter of her life: a Master of Teaching (Secondary) at the University of Melbourne.
Previously, Laura had completed a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults and taught English as an additional language for four years. When the pandemic hit, however, it was bad news for the industry. “Most language teachers were put out of a job as Australia shut its borders, since there were no new students arriving,” Laura explained. “It was then that I decided to upskill and invest further in my education. I aspired to develop more skills, including a portfolio of teaching methodologies and knowledge of pedagogies, while securing a stable future career as a high school teacher.”
Laura decided to study at the University of Melbourne due to its strong reputation as the highest ranked university in Australia. She found the Master of Teaching (Secondary) to be “a fantastic, well-structured program with highly supportive, enthusiastic, and capable staff.”
Campus life suited her well. “I love the University of Melbourne’s vibrant campus; I’m always exploring new little corners and niches, cafés, or cosy corners to study in at the many libraries,” she said. She also enjoyed keeping busy through frequent events organised by the University and the Faculty of Education, such as “free breakfasts, cultural events, speed friending, walking tours, and plenty of opportunities for professional development both online and face-to-face.” Meanwhile, some of the University’s athletic perks helped her stay active, including a gym membership with a three-week free trial, free tennis between 9 and 11 at the Beaurepair Centre, and a free lifesaving swimming course.
She felt right at home within the Faculty of Education: “I feel as though we slowly developed into a big family, with students chatting outside the entrance doors or gathering at the little café [inside the Education building]. It’s always nice running into people you know, whether they be academic staff or students.” She concluded, “It left me with a sense of belonging a long way from home.”
After finishing two teaching placements on inner-city campuses, Laura decided to apply for a rural placement, hoping to “fully immerse myself within a close-knit community.” She continued, “I was hoping to find a different pace of life, away from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne, and I hoped to get a glimpse of what it feels like to live a slower lifestyle, going to bed and rising early, listening to the birds when waking up, and gazing at beautiful mountain ranges on my drive to school.”
Laura completed her rural placement at Tallangatta Secondary College, at the same time as two other pre-service teachers in her cohort. While they taught at the local high school, the three of them lived together in a farmhouse in the northern Victorian town of Tallangatta, where they were welcomed warmly.
“Without exception, all members of the teaching community took the time to get to know and welcome us, including inviting us to a welcome and farewell dinner,” she said. “Possibly due to Tallangatta’s geographical isolation, it is less common to receive visitors from outside of the area. This may be why everyone is so happy to meet and greet, invite you to a community event, or welcome you into their home for a shared meal.” In fact, having the three pre-service teachers in town was “such a sensation that we were even interviewed for a television program on a rural channel,” Laura said.
“The most rewarding experience on placement was a three-day school camp, which included mountain biking through the Snowy Mountains, making bush tucker, rock climbing, archery, and fireside stories. It was wonderful to connect with students in a different context and to witness them in their element and enjoying themselves. Connecting with the students in this way facilitated a much smoother experience back in the classroom, as we had already gotten to know and respect each other.”
For other pre-service teachers considering a rural placement opportunity, Laura was clear in her recommendation. “Don’t hesitate for a split second! You will not regret this incredible experience of stepping outside the comfort zone. It is an eye-opening opportunity that you will cherish for the rest of your life. You will make many wonderful new connections with locals, who tend to be incredibly kind-hearted and generous in spirit.”
“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study at the University of Melbourne, which changed my life profoundly. The provision of various grants, paid-for accommodation on the rural placements, and reduced fees due to having a Commonwealth Supported Place, have enabled me to access opportunities that I otherwise would never have been able to seize.”
Upon completion of her masters, she plans to start working as a casual relief teacher in Victoria to “get the lay of the land and explore different school cultures and diverse classrooms.”
As she prepared to start her career, Laura reflected on the nature of teaching and the power of education to transform lives. “It is the teacher’s responsibility to harness students’ infinite potential and limitless creativity by allowing room for experimentation and freedom of thought within a supportive learning environment. Ultimately, this vision of education serves to create active and democratic global citizens with the capacity to transform this world. Einstein defined knowledge as resembling a statue of marble, which must continually be worked through the hands of service, to avoid its burial under the sand. To such service, I too offer my hands.”