Anna Carswell currently teaches year 3 in the Primary Years Programme managed by the International Baccalaureate in a school south of Sydney. Here, she shares her career story that spans the extremes of eastern and western Australian. This is one of a series of posts featuring careers in teaching.
How do you describe what you currently do?
I am currently teaching a Grade 3 class, based on the PYP (International Baccalaureate programme) at a school south of Sydney, after spending the past two years as a Head of Junior School.
How did you get to where you are now?
It has been a long journey. I’ve always been a teacher (straight from university), but I have taught in a couple of different states and also overseas. I like to keep current and teaching is one of the many professions that is dynamic. I started my career in a goldfields town in Western Australia, then moved to a private school in Perth where the laptop programme was commencing. After spending time in both the Junior and Middle schools, it was time for a change so I headed to New South Wales. I taught in a well established Sydney school before moving north to a coastal town and a one year old school. Working in a green school has its challenges, but I loved the opportunities it afforded (sports co-ordinator, stage co-ordinator, curriculum co-ordinator, assistant head of primary, acting head of primary). This gave me an excellent grounding for taking on the role of Head of Junior School at a southern coastal school, where I introduced many much needed initiatives. The only problem with this post was the distance – 3 hour round trip. The travel eventually took its toll, so I applied for a classroom position at my current school, a decision for which I am most grateful.
Why do you do what you do?
Why teach? Funnily enough, it was not my first choice, but it was one that I quickly changed once I decided that Vet Science was not for me. I love the joy of learning and seeing that ‘aha’ moment on a child’s face. Not much beats that! I see my job as a guardian of the next generation. It is our global responsibility to nurture and encourage them through their educational journey, so that they can continue the cycle.
What has been one of the highlights of your career?
There have been many highlights, from World Teachers’ Day accolades to being a state winner of a National Teaching Award last year, but nothing beats when students ask you to come to their Year 12 graduation because they want you there – their primary teacher! That’s all kinds of awesome and shows the impact that primary teachers have on their students.
What were some of the problems you faced?
There will always be problems to face in any career, but I figure that it is best to try and turn them to your advantage. I am a positive person, so I tend to look for solutions rather than dwell on issues.
What has been the most difficult thing in your career?
Most difficult things in my career are (in no order) seeing parents struggle with accepting that their children have difficulties. It is a mourning process and one that must be hard. I also struggle with students who don’t have the same opportunities as others. I am all for a level playing field, so try to even it out where possible.
If there was one thing you could change in education what would it be?
What would I change? There are so many things that I would love to change – probably the main one would be allowing more flexibility in learning, to make it truly differentiated. We are so locked in to meeting outcomes and ticking boxes, that sometimes the fun of learning is taken away. I try to keep the learning fun there as much as I can.
What would be the top three things someone should know if they are considering doing what you have done?
- Commitment – teachers are teachers 24/7, whether at school, down at the shopping centre or out for dinner. They are always noticed.
- You have to want to teach, not just use it as a ‘good’ profession. Students know the difference between someone who wants to be there and someone who doesn’t.
- Know that you will pick up every virus and illness in the first few years of teaching – be strong.
What would you suggest as the best way to get started?
Volunteer in a school, whether sporting, in the class, at functions. Get to know students, how they learn, what works, talk to teachers. I did this all throughout my college degrees and it helped once I had my own class.
If you had one secret to tell others what would it be?
A secret – Keep your sense of humour – it is a much-needed commodity in teaching! Other than that, learn to eat at irregular times of the day! 🙂
You can follow Anna on twitter @dothinkeducate