Week 5 in Melbourne has been one of the most exhilarating, challenging, and enlightening weeks of my entire life. I was chucked into the deep end of teaching, found a great group of girls from different countries that created a brunch club, and spent some much-needed quality time with Rory.
I was extremely nervous to start my first teaching job at Mill Park. I couldn’t believe that they had actually chosen me – an inexperienced college grad who looks like a mixture of Sarah Silverman and Wednesday Addams – to be in charge of 100 or so teenage students. On Monday, I was given my own laptop, my own ID card, a pigeonhole, desk, and classroom. Many of the staff were extremely welcoming and very helpful when I asked stupid questions like ‘how do I fix this copier?’ or ‘How does this computer hook up to the projector?’ They have made me feel so at home in the English Department office and beyond. The IT department and I are now on a first name basis because I had to go in and get my laptop fixed at least 70 times. The English department has its own office, so we have our own desks and just eat lunch as a team every day. It’s a very tight-knit community and I am absolutely in love with the fellow staff. They are a good mixture of people – a couple old, a couple around my age, and split evenly down the middle gender-wise. We all get along really well and I just love the vibes!
The school is half inside, half outside. All the classrooms are bunched together by subjects and they are linked in a circle. There is a huge staff room where we meet for ‘morning tea’ on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We also have CPT (department) meetings on Mondays and PLT (Professional Development) meetings on Tuesdays. The principal is in charge of my CPT and he is the greatest! I love him dearly. Everyone has been extremely kind to me and given me a ton of their resources, time, and attention. I’ve now got at least 30 people looking after my wellbeing and every time they see me they ask, ‘how you going?’ This is apparently Aussie slang for ‘How are you?’ Who knew? haha it’s so cute and I am really loving it.
My schedule is a bit weird. I have 2 ESL classes, 1 10th grade English class, and 1 11th grade English class. But each class only meets 2 times a week – so I usually only have 2 classes a day! The classes are longer though and last about 2 hours. We have lots of downtime to plan our lessons and collaborate with each other. They also have a 30 minute recess in high school – which I find extremely helpful – and they eat their lunch all around campus. The discipline here is very relaxed and they are often allowed to use their phones and laptops in class. There really isn’t a consequence system in place – they pretty much hold their students to a high standard and every child comes in knowing that there are expectations and rules they must follow. Most of the time they are just fine in class and very studious. I think giving the kids time to themselves and not imposing so many rules gives them space to breathe and achieve!
I was given two Year 12 EAL classes, one Year 10 English class, one Year 11 English class, a beginning EAL class, and a Year 10 Pastoral class. I am qualified as a full time teacher at Mill Park and have 4 unit plans that were shown to me right before I started the job. So basically I was flying extremely blind for this first week. I had no clue how their roll system or curriculum worked, even though I had looked at both thing several times during the break. I felt like my head would pop off from stress at any moment in time.
Year 12 is reading I Am Malala and comparing it to the film ‘Made in Dagenham.’ My year 12 EAL classes are made up of Chinese international students and refugees from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Macedonia, and Iran. Each and every kid in these classes had to travel a long way to get here and many have been through intense hardships. They understand the value of education and come in every day eager to learn and eager to please their teachers in any way possible. I don’t think I have ever loved students as much as I love these kiddos. They are so uplifting of each other and so optimistic in life. I seriously love them like my own children! They have so many ideas and their discussions over gender equality and discrimination in the education system are out of this world. I think I’m learning more from them than they are from me…
Year 11 is reading the play “Twelve Angry Men” and comparing it to the film “The Crucible.” I found it strange that they weren’t actually reading the play “The Crucible” like we do in the US, but I think I like it better this way. The kids are able to role-play with “Twelve Angry Men” and really get into the story. This bunch is very lethargic, but most of them are curious and willing to wake up from their haziness and learn something each day.
Year 10 is a rough bunch. I have quite a few studious girls who are always very dedicated to their text annotations and on top of their game. Even some of the boys come to class ready to read “Night” and compare it to “Life is Beautiful.” But there are about 4 boys who just never bring their book and want to wreak havoc on their entire class. They are a handful, but I love them all the same.
My beginning EAL class is made up of international Vietnamese and Chinese students that are homestaying in Melbourne. They know very little English and sometimes have no clue what I’m saying. But they are extremely bright and really love the activities I have been throwing their way. They try so hard to learn English and I can’t help but commend them for their determination.
I also have a Year 10 Pastoral class, which is basically like homeroom. We work on picking out their subjects for the next year and discuss what career path they would like to take in the future.
All in all, it’s a really lovely school and I already feel so close to the staff. I even have some friends that ride on the same metro as me from work and we just chit chat about life and our favorite yoga studios. It’s been so nice to be at one school and actually develop a work community in such an inclusive environment. I feel like I have a lot of room to grow and really commit to a job that I adore. I got so lucky to be able to work at such an amazing school that really looks after its employers.
But through all this, I can’t help but feel like I’m just a college kid playing dress up. I don’t feel old enough or wise enough to be teaching these kids or be given my own desk, laptop, and classroom. It feels like all of a sudden I simply woke up with an amazing job that pays me well, living in a decent apartment of my own with a boyfriend that loves me well, and prancing around a new city with new friends that I feel like I have known all my life. We started a brunch club that will meet every Saturday and I am over the moon with how much these girls inspire me and make me laugh. I keep discovering new parts of Melbourne and just can’t seem to grasp that I actually live here! It all seems surreal and too good to be true.
My 20’s feel like such a time of growth, change, inspiration, and challenges waiting to be conquered. There have definitely been some rough times mixed in with the good, but I can’t help but pinch myself and think that all of this is too good to be true. No matter what, I just want to stay as happy as I am in this moment. There’s so much more waiting for me to discover in this city and inside of myself. I can’t wait to start digging and see what I come up with.
All the best,