If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will know about one of my closest buddies Bec. We fortuitously crossed paths at the ABC in Kalgoorlie and soon we were working together, living together and finishing each others’ sentences.
Not long ago, Bec made the courageous decision flip her career on its head, to leave media and pursue teaching. I’m so proud of her for making such a drastic change and it makes me tremendously happy to hear about her hard work paying off. Bec is currently working as a high school teacher while completing her Master of Education through Teach for Australia, a program that places professionals in schools in low socioeconomic communities. Working and studying full time leaves few spare moments so I’m very grateful Bec was able to contribute to my Women in the Know series. If you’ve been thinking of taking the plunge into a new career, I guarantee this will inspire you.
How did you decide to leave media and start studying to become a teacher?
I think I’ve always known that I wanted to end up teaching ‘down the track’. But the funny thing is that ‘down the track’ sometimes sneaks up on you! It was never a case of me not loving my job, but more that I could take those skills and teach them to students. Once that seed was planted in my mind it really took root. I also loved the idea of changing the -perception that teaching is some sort of back-up occupation.
Had you thought about teaching before?
Yes, and no. I’d thought about the concept of teaching and certainly had the fantasy of inspiring young students by jumping on desks and having my very own Dead Poet’s Society moment. But in reality, I had no idea what the everyday entailed!
What were the steps you took to make the switch?
Well I was pretty lucky to interview on radio a young teacher who had transitioned into the profession through a program called Teach For Australia and was being placed in Kalgoorlie.
I like to describe the program as an apprenticeship of sorts. It takes specialists in other areas and puts them through an intensive teaching program and practicum, before placing them in low socioeconomic and hard-to-staff schools, which are often based regionally. We are given an in-school mentor, critiqued regularly and work a 0.8 work load so we can do our Masters in Teaching at the same time. I love being part of a program that’s actively working to bridge the education gap, so I took the plunge and quit my job at the ABC!!
What was the most daunting aspect?
I was terrified – of so many things! Including:
- what if I don’t enjoy teaching?
- and worse, what if I’m not any good at it!?
- I’m taking a serious pay cut, how will that affect me?
- Will I miss working in radio and TV? Interacting with the community and hearing their interesting stories.
- What will it be like standing in front of a class for the first time?
- Will there be as much paperwork as everyone says?
- What do I wear? (I’ve since learnt the stretch and bend test when shopping for teacher attire)
- Urgh, doing a Masters on the weekends…
Tell us about your first day in the classroom! What was it like?!
I have this distinct memory of sweaty palms, racing heartbeat and a whole lot of adrenaline. To be honest my experience in working in live radio means I don’t get nervous that easily – but it was more of an excited rush!
What do you love about teaching? Is it rewarding?
I couldn’t be happier about the choice to transition into teaching. Building relationships with the students and seeing their progress, even in incremental ways, is so damn rewarding. I’ve tried my best to be authentic and make true connections with students as they have excellent bullshit radars. I’ve kept a promise to myself not to lose my cool and yell at any class, which I think helps me keep my consistency. I love it when I’m so enthusiastic and happy about such simple lessons and teaching them to my kids. But even better than my own enjoyment is seeing student gains on social, emotional and academic levels.
Can you share a funny story from the classroom?
More of a wardrobe malfunction than a teaching blooper! I was rushed going to work one morning and was frustrated with the way to pockets were sitting in my dress as it buckled in a funny way. So I cut the pockets out and didn’t think about it any further. I was sitting in English behind my desk and looked down to see my undies were completely exposed on each side! Hot pink, zebra stripes… I made sure the class was on task and side stepped my way out of there like a crab. Running into my office I asked my boss “have you got safety pins?!” He looked a little dumbfounded until I explained my situation. Through tears of laughter he suggested I staple my dress together. Needless to say the nickname ‘staples’ has stuck.
What have you found surprising about this journey?
What’s been most surprising for me is the reaction, often very negative or sceptical, that I’ve received from other people. “Why would you give up being on TV and in the media?” “Teaching… really?” “Oh, are you doing it for the holidays and so it’s easier to have kids?” “Were you not successful as a journalist?”
I find it hard to swallow such a jaded view of teaching and it’s status as a ‘fall back’ profession. To be frank, I was a damn good journalist, a natural on radio and adored interviewing people. But what I didn’t adore was the isolating nature of the industry, it’s relentless cycle and it’s impact on me and my wellbeing.
They say those that can’t do, teach. Well I call bullshit on that. I know I can work successfully in the media industry, but I choose to work hard as a teacher. I adore being a teacher and influencing students in a positive way. I choose to be a teacher because I want to, not because it’s a last resort.
At the end of every day – whether it’s a hard trying day that tests your limits or one of those which makes your heart soar – I can hold my head high and feel proud of what I do.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of changing careers?
For anyone considering changing careers I guess my advice would be to ask what your motivation is. What do you want to achieve? Know if you’re motivated by money, workplace satisfaction or the need to try your hand at a new industry.
Plan for potential income differences and lifestyle changes. Will your new job require after hours work or weekend shifts? Will you need a new wardrobe? What skills do you need to achieve this change?
But most of all, make sure you have passion!
Passion is the thing that gets me up in the morning when those bags under my eyes could shelter a family.
Passion is the thing that keeps me working on my University assignments most weekends.
Passion is what gives me the patience to try and understand what my students have experienced and what drives them.
Passion is what makes my lessons engaging and hopefully interesting to students.
Passion is what breaks my heart when I see how badly economic and social disadvantage impacts school outcomes.
Passion is what makes me so happy and content in the classroom.
Thank you so much Bec! It’s so important we have teachers like you who keep kids engaged and wanting to go to school.