Ambarvale High School students have been finding out first-hand, thanks to an ingenious Teachers in the Making program which has thrust young aspiring teachers into local primary schools to give them a taste of the profession and its demands.

“A lot of kids think they know what teaching is because they sit in a class all day, but being a teacher is very different to being a student”, English teacher Danielle Vandenberg shares.

“So we asked students from Year 9 to 12 whether they were interested in becoming a teacher or investigating that. We thought it would be really good opportunity to not only create partnerships with our feeder primary schools, but also to inspire the kids for their future career.”

With a group of about 25 keen youngsters in tow, Vandenberg and her small team went about laying the groundwork, dissecting the curriculum, syllabuses, teaching frameworks and even the Code of Conduct with the group.

The kicker was then to devise their own 20-minute lesson plans, suitable for primary-aged children. 

“We really tried to [pair] it with 21st century skills as well,” Vandenberg explains.

“So we gave them a driving question, like a project-based learning question, of ‘how are you going to make an engaging lesson?’  

“We gave them all the tools but the key was to make it engaging and exciting for the kids,” she adds.

While nerves were running high at the initial prospect of taking charge of their own class, Vandenberg says the process of feedback and lesson repetition really allowed the students to build their self-confidence – and fine-tune their lesson plans – with each school visit. 

“A lot of kids when they write something they go, ‘oh I’m done!‘ But they don’t realise the drafting process is so important, so this was kind of like that, not a written draft but a teaching draft, so you get feedback and you tweak it a bit…” 

Learning to deal with the unpredictable and perfecting the art of improvisation were key skills the aspiring educators had to nail throughout the “eye opening” experience. 

“Definitely confidence and empathy as well, because you don’t know who you are going to get in your class and they all have different needs, especially primary school kids can be a bit needy.

“So they had to really learn those skills of empathy and flexibility and ‘hey my lesson is not working because of X, Y and Z, I’ve got to try and be flexible and change this around a bit’,” Vandenberg reflects.

There was certainly no shying away from the harsh realities of the job. 

“We explained to them the volume of marking you’ve got to do, and the planning, and all the admin stuff.

“I would hope that they have a little bit more of an appreciation about what we do, but we didn’t want to scare them as well; we wanted to make sure we were kind of inspiring them…” Vandenberg says.