The paths to becoming a secondary teacher in Australia are well-worn and familiar. Either you complete an Education Bachelor degree, with majors in your specialist areas; or you complete a degree in your chosen field(s) and then (at some stage) put yourself through the one year (or two years part time) of a Graduate Diploma in Education. Then you get to teach. Simple really.
I haven’t signed up for a traditional Graduate Diploma program. Instead, I’m part of the inaugural intake of a program called “Teach for Australia“: an initiative to “improve student outcomes in areas of educational disadvantage by attracting and supporting graduates to teach in disadvantaged schools for two years.” (“Our approach – Teach for Australia“) Teach for Australia is modeled on the “Teach for America” and “Teach First” programs in the USA and UK respectively, where they have been running for some time. So instead of finding a way to scrape through part-time study and some semblance of full-time work: I’ll instead be involved in quite a different approach to how teachers are trained and equipped.
Starting in late November and running up until school is almost ready to start, I’ll be at the Teach for Australia “Academy”: the six week training program (no, my maths isn’t that bad – there’s a break over Christmas) run by the University of Melbourne. It’ll be living on campus (which my wife isn’t as excited about) and fully catered with a “living allowance” (which my wife is more pleased with). This will be pretty intense training as far as I can tell, and will form the bulk of the theoretical component of the eventual graduate diploma. Apparently there will be some ongoing education throughout the next two years, but it is unclear exactly what form that will take.
Starting in Term 1 next year, I’ll commence teaching an 80% load in an “educationally disadvantaged” school in Victoria. At this stage I’m not even certain where that will be, though we have been able to enter preferences for which general area of the state we would like to teach in. The Teach for Australia placement represents a two year commitment: with the understanding that there is significant support and ongoing training and development.
While there has been some controversy over the introduction of such a different teacher-training model, most teachers I’ve spoken with about the approach have tended to be fairly positive: pointing out that the vast majority of learning to become a teacher happens in your first year rather than during the degree. But I guess only time will tell, but one thing is for certain. The next two years will be quite an adventure!