Ellie loves explaining how the world works
Why did I do this to myself? Ellie Penman remembers thinking this in each of the science units she completed for her teaching degree. But learning about the “intricate way the world works” is “one of the best decisions I’ve made,” she said at the time. “I can now confidently answer the question every student asks, ‘Why do I need to know this?’.” Ellie is now imparting this love of knowing why the world works to Year 8, 9 and 10 students at Northpine Christian College in Queensland. We asked her about her experience as a new graduate in the workplace.
“I confidently answered questions about content at the beginning, but as students learnt more and asked more difficult questions, I felt more confident telling them I’d do some research and get back to them.
“My degree prepared me for the classroom, but can anything prepare you for administration? I found the first few weeks overwhelming, using the teaching and learning system SEQTA, completing unit plan templates, logging information about working with children with disabilities. I learnt quickly about what the school required for documentation and reporting.
“I’ve had two memorable moments in the classroom. The first? We were extracting chromosomes from fruit and one student ate the fruit. He got in trouble, but I saw the funny side: ‘Are we seriously eating DNA?’. The second? A student told me they’d never been able to understand Pythagoras’ theorem until I’d explained it. That was super exciting.
“My advice to teachers-in-training: choose your final placement wisely. I did mine at Northpine. Getting to know the staff members, listening to their experience and understanding the culture of the school made the transition to full-time work a lot less daunting. Making a good name for yourself on your final placement is important because schools talk to each other when employing teachers.
“One more piece of advice: manage your work–life balance. Make and maintain boundaries between school and home. Staff members and students will notice if you’re not looking after your mental health because you’ll be pouring out of an empty cup.”
Photograph: Emmerson Grey.
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