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Teach for Australia

  • < 100 employees

Amelia Matthews

I love seeing or hearing all the strange and wonderful things kids do when they don’t think you are watching.

Where did you grow up? Important stages of your life (school, education, experience abroad, jobs etc.)

I grew up and went to school in Sydney. After completing Year 12 I went straight into a Bachelor of Science at Sydney University. During University I worked part-time before getting my first full-time job with a consulting network company once I graduated. This job gave me experience working in a corporate office however was not relevant to my studies in Mathematics. I have always wanted to teach so when I heard about Teach for Australia I applied straight away. 

How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it? 

I got into my current position through the Teach For Australia program. I applied and interviewed for the program in 2018, completed the intensive study period and began working in January of 2019 at St Johns Catholic College in Darwin as a maths teacher. 

How did you choose your specialisation (compared to others)? / Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?

I am a Maths teacher currently, however, have the qualifications to teach Science as well. Your specialisation as a teacher has primarily based off what school subjects link best to the subjects you studied at University. I Majored in Maths and Minored in Biology so automatically am able to specialise in these subjects. I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching maths this year so will probably focus on maths as my key teaching area, if possible. 

What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?

The interview process with Teach For Australia was interesting and like nothing, I have done before. To begin with, there is a preliminary written application where you provide your qualifications, a little about yourself and why you are interested in teaching through the TFA program. If successful in your application, the next round was a phone interview. The interviewer asked some broad questions about your attributes and why you want to teach. They also gave a few challenging scenarios that teachers would face and asked you to problem solve for a solution. One example was that a school had a parent-teacher night, however, very few parents attended. I was asked to give some examples of ways a teacher could increase parent involvement with the school. The final step in the interview process was a selection day where we had in-person interviews, group sessions and had to do a mock lesson.

What does your employer do?

My school is a small catholic high school in Darwin. We have boarding students from remote indigenous communities, international students from West Papua and day students from Darwin. 

What are your areas of responsibility?

I teach maths to Year 7 and 8 as well as General Maths for Year 11 and Maths Methods for Year 12.

Can you describe a typical workday? 

I arrive at school at 7:30 am most mornings. Lessons start at 9:00 am, the students are all pretty well behaved but getting them to focus on the maths can be difficult. I usually have a double period free in the middle of the day where I do marking, prep lessons and follow up on behaviour/well-being issues. After school, I like to stay finish all my work at school before going home so I don’t have it hanging over my head. Different times of year are busier than others but on average I will be out the door, leaving my laptop and other work at school by 5 or 5:30 pm.
What are the career prospects with your job? / Where could you or others in your position go from here? 

I am really enjoying teaching in the classroom and would like to stay in this position for a while to develop my skills and build relationships with the students. In the future, I could be interested in applying for Head of Mathematics. Teaching is a great way to build confidence and organisational skills. It also develops your ability to hold command over a large group – often you feel like you are a puppeteer, pulling hundreds of strings at once to try to jostle and coerce and trick a rowdy group of teenagers into actually achieving something. 

Could someone with a different background do your job?

People from all backgrounds make great teachers. It is so important that students from all backgrounds and cultures can have role models they identify with. 

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now? 
I really don’t know what I would have ended up wanting to do if I didn’t go into teaching. All other options pale in comparison!

What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most? 

I love so much about teaching! I love feeling like I am doing something worthwhile each day, even if the Year 8s were particularly ratty that Friday afternoon. I love seeing the kids pick up new skills and learn new concepts then be able to apply it and answer questions correctly. I love seeing or hearing all the strange and wonderful things kids do when they don’t think you are watching. I also love being (mostly) able to leave work and forget about it while the sun is still out. 

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are stress levels high?

I have been lucky at my school that the students are all relatively well behaved. However, teaching is tiring and a long day managing kids, talking, standing and planning and marking can be exhausting. I don’t work on school planning much on the weekends however with the TFA program there are often university assignments due that I have to do on the weekend. 

Which pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your role or even be career-focused. 

  • Consider teaching in smaller, regional towns. The sense of community is fantastic. 
  • If you are interested in teaching, apply for Teach For Australia. They provide fantastic support with dedicated, experienced staff who are there to help you and provide guidance.