Grads like Margaret rate teaching (and our courses) #1
A community that cares. This is how alumna Margaret Graham describes her new workplace, Noosa Christian College. The Year 5 teacher feels the staff members have “confidence in my ability and back my decisions.” A smaller school, with about 400 students across the primary and secondary campuses, seems a good fit for a teacher in their first year. Margaret also rates her experience at Avondale highly because of the support she received from the staff members here. “The lecturers had a lot of time for you. I got to graduate: that’s a testament to them.”
Students like Margaret have since completed a federal government Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching survey about graduate outcomes. Their responses—almost 93 per cent “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with a statement about the quality of the course—rank our teaching courses as number one for overall satisfaction compared to the 45 other universities and higher education providers offering a similar course. The national average is about 75 per cent.*
A commitment to care “is the way we do things here,” says the head of the School of Education and Science, Dr Sherry Hattingh. “We’re enacting the values of Avondale and our calling as teachers.” The rankings “encourage us to grow best practice. Relationships are what make teaching effective, so we choose to practice this in our workplace by building and developing these.”
Margaret, only 18 years of age at the time, had limited experience and little confidence when she started studying primary teaching. The big turning point came during her last placement—an eight-week block in a Year 5 classroom at Avondale School. The teacher, alumnus Steve Platt, became a mentor. “If I wanted to try something new, or if I wasn’t sure about something, he’d make time to answer my questions. It really helped me apply theory to practice.”
Now Margaret’s a role model for 20 children. “I’m very aware of the things I say and do. I’m not perfect, of course— I try my best to be kind and not grumpy so they can see that’s how we should treat others.” Margaret seeks to build genuine relationships with her students. “I want them to know I care and, at least for the six hours a day I have them, that they are my number one priority.”
Photograph: Anita Mitchell-Kerr.
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The heading, “Study Teaching at Avondale,” is misleading because it leaves unknown the question, “Teach what?” I think there’s no high school university entrance subject called “Teaching.” A teacher usually teaches something like history, geography, social studies. Now that may not be true at primary level, but I know in sixth grade (standard at that time in Western Australia) our teacher taught us basic algebraic equations. So, even primary teachers need a broad knowledge of learning beyond teaching methods alone. Literacy and numeracy, I suspect, need teachers to have a good understanding of the end goal to appreciate the vital foundations laid in the early years of education. Am I qualified to have such opinions? No, so I may definitely be totally wrong.