Teach for Australia: Where are they now?

In 2010, Rebecca Ferretti was a graduate teacher and part of the first cohort of Teach for Australia associates.

Now in 2017, in the hustle and bustle of a very busy Term 4, the articulate English teacher at Williamstown High School's senior campus in Melbourne, Victoria, found a few minutes to sit down with Kilmore Primary School Leading Teacher Brendan Thompson.

The former schoolmates discussed her experiences over the past eight years and the advice she has for graduates about to embark on their teaching career.

Prepared for teaching in the classroom

The Teach for Australia program gave me an opportunity to directly apply the teaching and learning theory I was studying through university into my classroom.

Developing an ability to think on my feet and learn on the job was invaluable to shaping me as a teacher.

I was lucky enough to initially work in a school with a diverse range of students that had a variety of different learning needs and cultural backgrounds.

When you are thrown into the deep-end from the outset, you need to hone your skills quite quickly, because if you do not things become quite hard. This approach might not suit all teachers, but for me I thrived in this type of situation and it allowed me to establish skills that I still use in my day-to-day teaching practice.

The reward of working with children

Seeing the growth of senior students as they become young adults is incredibly rewarding. The students I work with are at a point in their life where they are not just developing academic skills, but also their values and opinions, political views and philosophical outlooks on life.

Kids turn out really well! At this point, I feel like I am sending adults into society. I find it really optimistic to know that I'm sending out good people into the world.

Reflections on teaching as a profession

I think my ideas on teaching have not necessarily changed, but they have been strengthened and shaped by teaching VCE. The pressures of VCE can sometimes mean that success looks different for all students.

Some students will get marks that they are setting out to achieve, while others may get results that indicate they have not been successful. I believe that for some students it is less about them being successful in their VCE year and more about helping them understand that it is a stepping stone towards success in the future.

Keeping touch with past students

I love it when students come back who are on their way to becoming teachers. Whether it's a visit to say hello, a visit when they are on their teaching round placements or even an email when they need help with university assignments. It is incredibly rewarding to see students that you have taught become the next generation of teachers.

Advice to graduate or aspiring teachers

My biggest piece of advice would be to not be afraid of making mistakes. Part of being a good teacher is trying different things and being highly reflective of your practice. It is not about doing it perfectly in the first few years, but reflecting on what is and isn't working. Remember to have a work/life balance. Teachers in their first few years have really good intentions, but also a capacity to overwork. You want to be excellent for 30-40 years and not burn out in your first few years as a graduate.

Advice to my past self

I would tell myself to not be too hard on myself. For the times I was not able to react or handle challenging classroom situations, where I felt like I should be able to instinctively resolve the issue. Permit yourself time and space to grow as a teacher.

I also think there is a misconception that the harder you work the more successful you enable your students to be.

The longer I teach, the more I realise that balance of facilitating learning and not doing everything for them.