Meet Alana Ryan

What inspired you to enrol in the Master of Teaching (Secondary)?

To be honest, I just had lots of fantastic teachers in high school. I saw them as having a large impact on their students, and enjoying a career that was challenging, flexible, and rewarding. I see teaching as a great way of combining my academic interest in the humanities with a career that’s really social and interactive. I love history and I love working with people – why not combine the two and teach people about history?

In terms of this course specifically, I was drawn in by MGSE’s great reputation for Education, the lovely Education building on Queensberry St, and that I could do both of my degrees at the same university.

What was it about this course that appealed to you?

I really liked that placement starts with this degree almost straight away. Students don’t have to spend months on theory before they get into a classroom to start applying it – my first day of observations was in about Week 5 of first semester. The course feels quite practical given that every semester you have core subjects at university as well as a full 21 days in a school.

How prepared did you feel going into the classroom?

I think everyone in the course was pretty terrified on their first day of placement. I was so nervous that I got to school a full half an hour before the office even opened. I just sat in my car with my stomach doing backflips. However, this nervousness completely disappeared once I met my mentor teacher. She was really organised and excited to have me with her, and she’d prepared me a pack with all the important information I needed about the school and about her classes. This made me feel comfortable coming into her classes and meeting her students, and then to eventually take over those classes and start teaching with her support.

What has been the most challenging part of the course so far?

One thing I realised pretty quickly on placement is that students respond a lot better to someone that they know. On placement, I found that as soon as the students knew a bit about me, and I could show that I knew something about them, they were much happier to work with me. Coming into a new school and only being there for a short period of time is challenging in that you don’t get a chance to really get to know each student individually. However, you can help yourself out by asking your mentor lots of questions about the students, and of course making sure you learn their names as quickly as you can!

What has been the most valuable aspect of the course?

That’s a tough question – I’ve gotten so much out of this course over the year.

I’ve definitely appreciated the chance to spend time in schools. It’s one thing to learn about issues in education from a theoretical perspective, and another to see it playing out in a real school environment. On my second placement, I was lucky enough to be able to attend lots of staff meetings and professional development sessions where teachers talked openly about the issues within their school.

I’ve also loved the experience of being in a degree with a relatively small cohort. I also did my undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne, with thousands of students in the course. The Master of Teaching (Secondary) is small enough that it’s easy to make friends, but still large enough that there’s a huge variety in the backgrounds of students doing the course. I came straight into this course from my Arts degree, but I’ve made friends with people who are returning to study after years of work experience, and this has been great for me.

How have you found the clinical teaching model that the Graduate School uses?

The clinical teaching model is a really effective tool for planning your approach to teaching a concept, or planning an intervention with a particular student. It was particularly useful on placement when I was given the chance to deliver an entire topic of content and it was up to me how I structured it. The clinical teaching model gives you a framework for how you can organise your planning and then evaluate if you’ve been successful.

How do you feel going into your second year?

I’m really excited about second year. I’ve got one more placement to go, and given that this year I’ve had a placement in both of my learning areas, and in a public and a private school, my next placement could be pretty much anywhere!

I’m looking forward to taking some elective subjects in second semester as well, and getting the chance to hone in on a couple of areas of interest. I’m also glad that the course is a bit less intense in second year than in the first (87.5 credit points compared to 112.5), because this will give us all a bit of extra time to start applying for jobs!

What would you say to someone thinking about doing this course?

I think you’re making a great decision! I’ve had such a fantastic year and I’ve learnt a lot.

I would offer a couple of tips:

  • Make sure you’re willing to commit: this course is full time and pretty full-on at certain points. You might have to give up your part-time job, or travel for placement, but it’s definitely worth it.
  • Make an effort to make friends, particularly in your Learning Areas – it’s a really supportive cohort, and some of your best resources will come from people teaching the same things as you
  • Get involved in as much as you can at your placement schools – you’ll learn more and feel more connected to the place