Teach, Learn, Live Podcast: Jemima and Alec

Image of students Jemima and Alec with Tim Bullard for the Teach, Learn, Live podcast

Tim Bullard: [00:00:02]

Welcome to the Teach Learn Live podcast. I’m your host, Tim Bullard, Secretary of the Department of Education in Tasmania.

Tim Bullard: [00:00:10]

Through this podcast, we’re going to shed some light on how we are connecting students and young people to succeed. Every day in our classrooms. we’ve got teachers working hard to inspire our learners. And I see great school leaders making a real difference in many people’s lives. Join me as we get to know more great teachers, curious learners and inspiring families and communities who teach, learn and live in Tasmania.

Tim Bullard: [00:00:43]

In this week’s episode of Teach, Learn, Live, I’ll be talking with Jemina and Alec, two of our year twelve students at Elizabeth College. Both of my guests have reflections that they’ve had some wonderful teachers growing up and this has really inspired them not only to learn at school, but to think about how they can work with others in the future. Jemima reflects that good teachers are integral to student life and the success of every young person. And both Alec and Jemima hope that they can inspire others into the future. Welcome, Jemima and Alec.

Alec: [00:01:13]

Thank you very much.

Jemima: [00:01:15]

Thanks for having us.

Tim Bullard: [00:01:16]

Alec, would you just like to tell me a little bit about yourself?

Alec: [00:01:19]

Yeah. So, I’m a Year 12 student at Elizabeth College. I’ve just turned 18 recently. I do martial arts outside as an extracurricular activity. That’s mainly my main thing outside of school. I have a part time job at a restaurant in Hobart. And yeah, just a regular 18-year-old from Hobart.

Tim Bullard: [00:01:39]

And what about you, Jemima?

Jemima: [00:01:40]

I turned 18 in March and I’m studying to do sociology at the moment, but pretty much that’s all I do. Study, study, study.

Tim Bullard: [00:01:49]

A course I can absolutely recommend. Sociology was my major at uni. So, I’m very surprised at the number of intersection points that I have with my guests. It’s great. Now, I understand that both of you are interested in pursuing teaching. And obviously through the series of this podcast, I’ve spoken to teachers and school leaders and students that have been in our system. Haven’t spoken to anyone yet who’s considering a teaching career, so I’m really interested in understanding why.

Alec: [00:02:19]

Well, firstly, for me, my main thing is just the teachers I’ve had in the past and what I do outside. So, I’ve had some fantastic teachers going through primary school and just the values that they show make me want to emulate that. And just being able to give back because they gave me so much. And through, you know, through my martial arts, I’ve helped with teaching children to adults, children with disabilities, teenagers with disabilities. And it’s very fulfilling to see, you know, the child’s eyes light up. And, you know, that’s just something that really connects with me. So it’s something I think it’s the thought that I’d like to pursue maybe.

Jemima: [00:02:57]

I’m quite the same. I’ve had quite a few very good teachers who really helped me to achieve what I aspire to. But I’ve also had a few teachers who weren’t the best. And that impacted my ability to learn, my ability to grow as a person in great ways that I think have made me realise that teachers are really important in a student’s ability to grow as a person. And I would like to improve future students’ abilities to grow and to learn.

Tim Bullard: [00:03:27]

So if you’re thinking about those teachers who’ve inspired you, not only just inspired you to continue to learn, but obviously inspired you to think about teaching as a career, what’s made them special?

Alec: [00:03:39]

One of the biggest things I found with the teachers that I’ve had is their ability to connect with the students. It’s not just standing there, going through the curriculum and teaching. They individualise for each student. So, they know, they learn about the students throughout the course of the year and they know everybody learns differently. As we know, every single person has a slightly different way that they gain information. So, you might need to explain the same thing in ten different ways for everyone to get it. And it’s their ability to understand that and connect with everyone and know who learns in what way and who understands in what way. And that’s something that’s that was a big thing for me that I didn’t realise when I was younger. But now I’m a bit older, I have realised, you know, the way that especially with younger children, the way that they can morph their teaching style around to suit each individual.

Jemima: [00:04:27]

I think for me, it’s become increasingly obvious over the years that some teachers really love to teach and really want their students to learn. Whereas a student is aware when their teacher doesn’t think they’re capable. And it’s very important for teachers to encourage students. And the ones that really encouraged me to study the higher-level subjects are the ones that have really inspired me to be better.

Tim Bullard: [00:04:52]

I think that that’s a really interesting reflection. So, the idea of belief. A belief in the ability of children and young people is actually what inspires you and, you know people that believe that you can achieve, and I think it does make you achieve. So that’s a really great reflection of yours. We’ve been talking throughout this podcast around a number of themes, but one is around student wellbeing. So, one of our goals as a department is the wellbeing of children and young people in the public education system. Can you think about how you think teachers have contributed to your wellbeing or the wellbeing of your friends and colleagues?

Alec: [00:05:33]

I think just being there day to day, being learning, because a lot of people, a lot of people in general have a tough time at home. And sometimes, you know, they obviously don’t feel comfortable talking to everyone about that. But I’ve had some friends who have become really close with certain teachers and they feel comfortable talking to them about it. And it would be, it’s quite interesting to see the way that teachers can connect with them. And act as a significant role model in their life and someone that they feel comfortable opening up to. And then can be helped along the way, whether that’s putting them in contact with the right people that they need to get assistance, or just be someone that they can chat to if they need to. It’s amazing to see how open some teachers are to that. And that’s one thing I definitely think.

Jemima: [00:06:28]

I’ve had a few teachers over the years who’ve been very receptive of my needs and have listened when I’ve asked for help. Be that with my education or with my wellbeing in terms of mental health. But I think it’s really important for students to have adult role models in that position of authority who can help them when they need it.

Tim Bullard: [00:06:50]

Now, I’ve seen statements from both of you about your careers I suppose, in public education. And I’ve been really impressed with the number of awards and the recognition that both of you have achieved throughout your schooling. Do you think, though, that academic ability is the only thing that’s going to make a good teacher or are there some other things that you would need to bring to that?

Alec: [00:07:13]

I definitely don’t think academic ability is the only contributing thing towards it, because if you think about primary school teaching it’s more about creating connections outside of family. Because when you’re a young kid before school, you don’t really have any outside connections apart from family and family friends. It’s about learning to meet people, introducing yourself. So I think that’s definitely an important skill for teachers to have, is to be able to relate with different age groups, understand how different age groups work whether whatever level you’re teaching, understand how that age group works.

Jemima: [00:08:09]

I agree. Teachers, regardless of their academic abilities and their achievements in their own education, to be successful in teaching and to actually teach young people they need to be able to connect with them. They need to be able to build a relationship and relate to them and understand what they need.

Tim Bullard: [00:08:27]

You’ve both been involved in community programs and both been recognised as leaders in the community. What do you think it means to be a young leader in Tasmania today?

Alec: [00:08:39]

Definitely, especially the way everything’s been in the past and is going in the future. It’s not all about having such an autocratic leadership style or standing at the front. You must do this. You must do this. You must do that. It’s about adopting a more group scenario. So, you know, being in the group, leading from within, not necessarily from the front, not necessarily from the back, but being able to do all three in different situations. If you’re in a dangerous situation, for example, we might need to lead from the front and go, okay, this is what needs to be done. If it’s in a school environment, for example, that might not be as required. So you need to be able to understand how a group, not necessarily an individual in all cases, but a group as a whole is feeling and how the group dynamics work and being able to enter into that circle and work from within, maybe.

Jemima: [00:09:29]

My experience in Tasmania, I always felt very small because Hobart is a very small area and in our globalised state, I never felt like anything I did would make any difference. But through my public education, I have come across people who’ve really inspired me. And through that, I’ve taken on the role of a Tasmanian young leader. And that has really helped me as a person. And really made me confident that no matter what I do, if I teach, I can inspire other people to aspire to great things as well.

Tim Bullard: [00:10:05]

So you see that leading through teaching is a way to make a difference for the future that’s positive?

Jemima: [00:10:12]

Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Bullard: [00:10:14]

If you continue with your proposed career of teaching, do you think that you would continue to teach in Tasmania or would you be looking to move elsewhere?

Alec: [00:10:25]

I’d like to continue teaching in Tasmania, but I understand, it would be interesting to go and explore the opportunities in different places with teaching. You know, whether that be volunteering or actually getting a career paid career somewhere outside. But I always, you know, for me personally, Tasmania’s home. I’ll always come back. Whether I leave, here’s home, this is where my heart is. I will always come back. But, yeah, that’s my thought at the moment.

Jemima: [00:10:50]

I’m kind of the same, I think, irrespective of where I’m teaching, the relationships you build, the students and the impact you have on their lives is the fulfilling part. Is the part that will make me love teaching and will make me want to keep teaching.

Tim Bullard: [00:11:05]

You’ve both attended public schools, for example, Rosetta Primary, Glenorchy Primary? What have you got out of having a public education that you think is of value to you?

Jemima: [00:11:15]

I think the diversity that comes with the public education is really important. Through my public education, through public primary schools, high schools and now college, I’ve come across many different people. And of course, many different levels of socio-economic status and ethnicities and genders and all academic abilities. And I think that’s really helped me as a person to understand that we as a race are very diverse. And I think if I do go into teaching, that’s very important. It’s important for teachers to recognise that no student is the same. And I think that’s a benefit of going to public school my entire life.

Alec: [00:11:56]

Yeah, I agree a hundred percent. My experiences in public schools there is so much more socio-economic diversity and just diversity in general. Because in a public school, you get a huge range of people with, you know, from multiple socio economic backgrounds, multiple academic abilities, multiple pathways that they’re intending to go on. Whether that be gaining a trade, going to university etc. And it’s great to be out to connect with everyone. It teaches you to connect with people from all walks of life. Not just people like yourself, but expand and get to know people and meet people and understand their experiences. And the more you do that, the easier it becomes. And it’s fantastic just learning people’s stories and their lives and it can affect you in ways good and bad about what you learn about people.

Tim Bullard: [00:12:54]

If you could change one thing though about public education, what would it be?

Jemima: [00:12:59]

Ideally, I think the resources available in public education could be improved upon. Because even within the public school system, different schools have different resources, such as running ovals and some have pools or cricket grounds or more teachers say. Ideally, I think everyone, regardless of their status, or their ability, should have the same opportunity to learn.

Alec: [00:13:24]

I think another thing is that the stigma towards public education. Because it is looked down upon by some members of society. You know, I’ve attended both private and public schools. And my view is, especially with colleges, they’re extremely similar. Basically, the same courses are offered, teachers are very similar. And it’s yeah, it’s just trying to show that people who necessarily don’t have a lot of money and can’t send their children to private schools doesn’t mean they’re at a disadvantage. Public schools … A school is a school. Most people can say, but still, I think there needs to be some education to the public as to, you know, reducing that stigma behind public schools are bad as such or worse than private schools, because it’s not necessarily the case.

Tim Bullard: [00:14:10]

I think both of those reflections are really great. And certainly the Minister for Education was on my podcast well, I think he’s up this week. And his reflection was absolutely around looking for equity across the system and providing the best for everyone and ensuring that there is parity between schools in our system. And I also think last year with 150 years of public education that we celebrated absolutely front and centre of that was, raising the status of public education and recognising some of the great things that people have achieved. And I had John X on and I think he was on last week talking about his amazing career, nationally and internationally, in musical theatre. All coming from a base of Lindisfarne North and then going to Rosny College. So they’re both very, very great reflections. I’m really interested as two people who are leaders and talking to you today, have some really great ideas and insights about what actually excites you about the future that you’re moving into once you leave school.

Alec: [00:15:18]

One thing for me that definitely excites me is that, as I said before, being able to give back in a way which I’m starting to do with the teaching in my extracurricular activities. And just the way it’s very heart warming, the way you see the children react. Children and even adults, you know, the way they just grasp on to certain things. Some things they’re not interested in, and some things they really grasp on to. And they want to pursue that. And they like, you know, take it by the take the bull by the horns, as they say, and just run with it. And it’s fantastic to see. And that’s something that I think I’d like to see in the future for me personally, is being able to provide that for people, you know.  Everyone’s searching for something, but they don’t know what. I know personally, you know, I’m searching, but I don’t know what I’m searching for. And it would be great to try and just, you know, you can’t give someone something, but it would it be nice to be able to help them, push them in the right direction and guide them as to where they’d like to be going.

Jemima: [00:16:17]

For me, my entire life, something I’ve always been intrigued by, fascinated by is learning. All I want to do with my life is continue to learn every day. And I think teaching especially would provide me with an opportunity to inspire other young people to seek what makes them feel alive.

Tim Bullard: [00:18:49]

So we’re at the end of term two and it’s been a really different term, in terms of starting off the term learning at home as we framed it. And then coming back onto site. And you’re obviously in year 12, which is your final year of public education. What was your experience of term two?

Alec: [00:19:13]

Was definitely eye opening. It was different. I personally, as you were speaking about before, you know, the ability of whether it’s digital, paper-based and being able to acknowledge who learns better. I found that especially with the courses that I’m doing, they worked far better in the classroom. So, for example, you know, biology, philosophy. Philosophy was big one, having discussions. It’s a bit hard to have a discussion over the computer because you can’t read. It’s amazing, even in a classroom setting, how much body language and that kind of thing works into a conversation. It’s really hard when you’re looking at a screen trying to figure out who talks, who says what, when and what they think and what they’re thinking as well. And I it was really eye opening. It was a good experience to have, I believe. It kind of woke everyone up as to what can happen. And it gave us maybe an insight into the future maybe.

Jemima:

I agree. It really opened my eyes to the amount of effort that both teachers and students put into their own learning. It was very difficult to get used to at the start. But I think in the end, the teachers that I had, put in a lot of effort to make the courses accessible at home for all students, regardless of Internet capabilities. And that was very beneficial for everyone.

Tim Bullard:

Was there anything that you particularly liked about it?

Jemima:

I did like getting to work at my own pace. My teachers would send me all the work at the start of the week, and I could just do it whenever I liked. There were no direct times to be in class, which really allowed me to do work when I was feeling it, per say.

Alec:

I liked just not necessarily anything in particular, just the whole experience and the way people can evolve so quickly. And into an environment that’s probably uncomfortable. They’re not used to, and being able to just roll with it and do the best they can. You know, everyone was, it was all thrown around rather quick and everyone had to try and work stuff out as quickly as they could. And the teachers did a fantastic job at it. And I think it was just very interesting just to watch the progression of how they did stuff. And even throughout the whole course of it, it was it started off it was a bit trying to get used to everything, trying to figure everything out. And as it went on, everything became a bit more regimented. Everyone kind of got the gist of it. And it started to roll at a much better, more comfortable pace. And I think that was just very interesting to watch and observe.

Tim Bullard:

Is there any questions that you’d like to ask me?

Alec:

Where’s your vision of where public education is going in the future? Where do you think? What do you think the plan is or what it’s going to look like in the future? Is it going to be big changes to what we have now or is it going to be slight adjustments and tweaks? What’s your thoughts on that?

Tim Bullard:

I think that’s a really good question. And we’ve been thinking about what does education look like in 2035? So, if we cast forward fifteen years. Given the COVID experience where we saw that learning can actually start to happen anywhere, and not be tied into physical infrastructure. We’ve really thinking about how do you harness that momentum, to look at how we can have people learning in different settings at different times. I also think with regard to equity. One thing that we saw really clearly through COVID is that some people really thrived in that environment and others didn’t. And we need to differentiate how we provide learning to students. I think the days of coming into a classroom and getting a universal dose of the same thing for everyone need to develop into ensuring that people can interact with learning in really different ways, at different times, in a way that really suits them. For some that’s paper-based, for some that’s digital, for some that’s being on site, for some that’s not. And so that’s where I see the future of education going. That we provide more opportunities for more people to learn.

Tim Bullard:

On your reflection around wanting to learn for life. We’re also really lucky that we have libraries in the Department of Education. And so, we’re actively talking about how do people who might have disengaged from learning when they were fifteen or sixteen, come into libraries and start to re-engage. Whether that’s through engaging in adult literacy. Whether it’s looking at a pathway into training. Whether it’s just going in for interest and wanting to re-engage with learning. Because I agree with you, we should have really great opportunities right across our lifespan to continue to learn.

Tim Bullard:

Well I’ve been really inspired by our discussion today. And I think that if you do go into teaching, both of you will make really fine teachers. And I hope you choose public education as your employer of choice. So, I just want to thank you, Alec and Jemima, for joining me today. And thanks for sharing your experiences at Elizabeth College and what your hopes are for the future.

Jemima:

Thank you very much.

Alec: [00:22:06]

It’s been great to be here.

Tim Bullard:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast to hear more about those people who teach, learn and live in Tasmania. Join us at www.education.tas.gov.au/podcast. Or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Why not subscribe so that you can keep up to date with what we’re doing? Or if you have a story about an inspiring teacher or student, Email us at teachlearnlive@education.tas.gov.au