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‘Early in my teaching career, the first job was to split chips with an axe’

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Early in my career the first job each morning was to go down to the school’s woodshed and split chips with an ax for the school’s wood fire. Fortunately, I was a farm girl and was handy with an ax having this as a chore while I was growing up.

As a teacher in the bush you have to be able to deal with the unexpected, including visiting animals to the school grounds. Over the years this has included cattle, horses and dogs as well as venomous snakes, echidnas and tawny frogmouths.

What is the worst thing you have had to do?

Being a teacher and a teaching principal in small schools means that you make very strong connections with all members of the school community. You share the good and the bad. Having to help members of a small school community cope with the loss of a loved family member has been the most harrowing experience of my career.

How has the start of this new year of the pandemic been going?

This year we are delighted to see life returning to near normal with parents and carers back on site each afternoon as their children play at the end of the school day.

A significant challenge this year has been leading our school community celebration of 125 Years of Learning at Hernani Public School. I’m privileged to be the educational leader at the primary school that I attended as a child and four generations of my family did before me.

How transferable are your skills?

The skills we develop as teachers are readily transferable to many other jobs. Teachers must be good communicators, great organizers and be able to prioritize.

What advice do you have for people wanting to get into this career?

Be prepared to work long hours and don’t think that teachers only work from nine to three, get lots of holidays and have it easy! Be passionate about learning, as teaching is a lifelong journey.

What personal skills do they need?

Working with students means we spend many hours with them and if you don’t enjoy this aspect of your work forget it. It can be a noisy and chaotic environment. As a teacher, you will need to be a good communicator, and most importantly a great listener. The ability to be resilient and cope with difficult situations, moments and challenging people is paramount.

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