Michelle Grace Hunder

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Class Is in Session: 9 Career Lessons From Teachers

Who better to take career advice from than some of Australia’s best teachers? We ask for their top tips, so you don’t have to.

In Partnership with the Australian Government

Thinking about becoming a teacher? It could be one of the best decisions you ever make. As it turns out, teaching is so much more than whiteboards, homework, and grading papers. In fact, it can be one of the most fulfilling careers out there.

For Matt Barber, being a teacher is about building discipline and pride through surfing. Luke Springer proves how teachers can play a nurturing role for students, while Aidan Prewett shows that teaching can truly fuel your life’s purpose.

Throughout our Rolling Stone Australia ‘Be That Teacher’ series, we’ve highlighted how each of these teachers find joy in guiding the next generation and, in the process, discover more about themselves. After hearing their stories, it’s no surprise that, as a teacher, sometimes the one person who learns the most from the classroom is you. Just take it from Luke, Matt, and Aidan. 

After decades of experience, here are their top lessons for aspiring teachers.

Teaching Advice From Aidan

1. Make your classroom unique

When Aidan started as a music teacher back in 2008, it didn’t take long for him to start adding his own flair. He started by adding records on the walls, then bringing in a record player, and a giant School of Rock poster. For him, it’s all about creating a space that feels like home.

“A lot of people would say be yourself, which makes a lot of sense in the classroom, because kids want your authentic self. But I would take it one step further and say it’s your classroom. So, you get to mould that and change it and create it however you want it to be.”

2. Learn your students’ names straight away

Simple, practical advice you can apply on day one – whether you’re a teacher or starting any new job.

“Make sure you learn their names straight away, because if you can connect with someone by their name, they know you know who they are and they’re going to be more interested in who you are.

3. Tell ghost stories

Ok, not literally (unless you’re Aidan). Culture is created through stories and shared beliefs, so create these in the classroom. Have fun and make it your own.

“Come up with a bit of culture that can exist within your classroom and your kids can connect to. I have a (completely fake) ghost story about this theatre. The kids are always like, ‘Oh, there’s a ghost in the theatre?’ Yeah, of course there’s a ghost. It’s a theatre. Come on.”

Mr. Luke

Teaching Advice From Luke

4. Find the joy

The first thing you notice about Luke? His happiness. He loves what he does because he takes time to stop and appreciate the small joys each day.

“Find the joy in the small things and the big things. Being a teacher, there’s a lot of joy that can be found. It’s about experiencing that, not only as an educator, but also with your class. The smallest things make each day magical.”

5. Learning doesn’t stop

Surprise, surprise… becoming a teacher doesn’t mean you stop learning. In fact, it’s the opposite. According to Luke, that’s one of the best things about it.

“You’re going into a career where there’s constant growth and there’s constant learning. Learning doesn’t stop. I think it’s rewarding to be involved in a career where you’re constantly learning new things. Each year, you get a new batch of students, and you have to understand what they’re bringing to the table.”

6. It’s okay when things go wrong

Just like any job, sometimes things just don’t go to plan – and that’s normal. The trick is to turn the moment into something positive.

“I’ve learned it’s okay, as a teacher, to make a mistake. If it happens, you know what? It’s a perfect learning opportunity for your students to see you solve problems. It’s a teachable moment that you can share with your students when mistakes happen.”

Teaching Advice From Matt

7. Never lose your sense of humour

Teachers are human, too. According to Matt, it’s important to remember to bring your humanity to the job, because that’s what makes you special.

“The person who gave this advice to me was Robin Moore, who is the voice of Blinky Bill. She said to never lose your sense of humour and fun because it’s how you connect with the kids. There’s enough seriousness going on in their life.”

8. Teaching is about building rapport

What does this little maths equation mean? You can have all the knowledge in the world, but it’s wasted if you can’t connect with people.

“This advice was given to me on my very first day of teaching. It’s all about the rapport you build with them. A large portion of it is putting yourself in their shoes.”

9. Walk the talk

Matt’s final advice? Do what you expect of the people around you. Simple as that.

“If I expect the kids to go volunteer surf life saving, and give up their Saturdays, then I’m gonna be there doing that as well. Walk the talk, be as real as you possibly can, because kids see through that, they see through any superficial stuff.”  

There you have it – nine lessons from real teachers, living their advice day in and day out. It doesn’t have to be hard. Just do your best, empathise with the kids, and have fun. 

Learn about becoming a teacher in Australia at BeThatTeacher.gov.au. Already a teacher? Share your own story in the Online Teacher Gallery

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