Today, as I sit in an empty classroom in my current school in Melbourne, I think back on the numerous high points and very few challenges that have presented themselves since first stepping into a class room to teach 9C Maths in late January 2004. This is what I am grateful for and why I continue to teach. It was 2001 when it dawned on me that teaching could be the perfect career for me. I was half way through an 18-month contract at Camp Horizons in Virginia USA. Up until that point, those five and a half months had been what I considered the best time of my life.
Nine of my fifteen years as a teacher have been spent teaching in rural Victoria. At rural schools’ teachers tend to be jack of all trades. I was employed as a teacher of Maths, Science and Biology, but I also had the chance to be involved in the Rock Eisteddfod, reintroduced the Duke of Edinburgh Award, and had various roles as a leading teacher, year level coordinator and sports coach. These positions have challenged me and allowed me to form strong relationships with students.
When I moved to England to teach, I landed a job at a co-educational school in rural Dorset. Working in a school of 1800 students, in a Science Department with 11 dedicated labs and three laboratory technicians, I came home with so many new ideas, activities, experiments and demonstrations. The strong pastoral care team meant student behaviour was exceptional there, which allowed me to push the limits of my classroom. It was rare during those two and a half years that I had students working quietly out of the textbook.
Every place of employment has deadlines. Schools are no different with report and examination timelines. If you’re organised, there will always be a break for lunch or a coffee. I don’t find marking a chore. Once I give a test, I’m as excited to see what my students have got as they are. It’s part of our job and nothing is more rewarding than seeing a student do better than they thought they could. In my first few years of teaching I had resigned myself to preparing and marking work outside of school hours. But I have never worked Friday evening or Saturday. Those 36 hours are mine.
Having worked at my new school in Melbourne’s Western suburbs since the start of 2018, my colleagues are genuinely shocked when they learn that I have been teaching for 15 years and that I’m in my 40's. I have received surprised comments saying that they love my positivity and enthusiasm.
I haven’t worked in a school for more than 4 years. I like moving. I like being challenged. I like being introduced to a new way of doing things. We use Maths Pathways at this college. It's the first school I have worked at where Project Based Learning is front and centre of every class from year 7 to 10. I have already learnt so much, one wonders what I will learn in another two or three years here.
I love my job. I could say I’m lucky to be in that situation. But I also believe you make your own luck. I’ve had the confidence to move on when I get bored and feel unchallenged. I will continue to do this. I’ve always found time for myself as a teacher. Sometimes it’s kicking a footy with kids at lunchtime. It gives me time to stop thinking about my next class, get some fresh air and build better relationships with students.
Naturally, the students I have taught come first. They have a way of getting under your skin and I have cried when moving on from one school. I have played cricket with boys I have taught. I have been served at Woolies and Maccas by students I currently teach. It’s all part and parcel of having previously taught in a small country town.
Many students that I have taught have entered the teaching industry. And as someone that loves their job, I am so happy that they have chosen this career. They are entering an industry where you can make a real difference to the lives of students. I hope they learn to love the profession as much as I do.
Author: Peter Coceani