Two schools in the Cairns Diocese are encouraging students to consider a career in teaching through pilot-program Aspire to Teach.
Cairns Catholic Education has partnered with the Department of Education Queensland and James Cook University to develop Aspire to Teach. The program is designed to encourage Year 10 students to consider teaching as a career and was trialled at St Andrew’s Catholic College, Redlynch and St Mary’s Catholic College, Woree in Term 4, with a plan to roll it out to other schools in the Cairns Diocese in coming years.
“The response has been positive. The students really enjoyed the time in the classrooms and hearing their positive feedback was very affirming,” tells St Andrew’s Careers Coordinator, Renee Campbell.
“The feedback I received from the junior school teachers was also amazing. They were so happy to have the students in; they took initiative and the kids loved them. It was a real win-win for everybody.”
Working with the Younger Years
The ‘Ready Reading’ component of the program required the Year 10 students to understand how children learn to read and then put those skills into practice by assisting younger students in the primary years with their reading.
“I felt really proud listening to the other students read and making them feel confident about themselves,” tells St Mary’s student Kelly Kaine.
“If you don’t want to become a teacher, it’s still a good way to learn leadership skills. It gives you another skill and another perspective on how kids learn.”
Fellow classmate Angela Miller believed the program would help younger students struggling with reading by teaching them step-by-step skills.
“If I got this opportunity when I was in primary school, it would have helped a lot and I’m really happy that I get to help younger kids that are having issues with reading” tells Angela, who is considering a career in teaching or childcare after graduating.
Student Khobi Evans enjoyed the leadership skills he gained throughout the course and the chance to get to know the St Gerard Majella students, who could be attending the neighbouring secondary college in the future.
“It’s really cool to be able to meet the younger kids especially because there is a chance that they will be coming to St Mary’s. It’s nice to see how they are progressing and be able to guide them in the right direction,” tells Khobi.
Talking to the Teachers
The course content is open-ended, depending on each school’s context, and St Andrew’s students were given the opportunity to interview their teachers about why they chose teaching as a career path as part of their program.
“I think it was a great experience. We learnt from our teachers that it wasn’t just about how to teach kids but what’s behind it and how kids think,” tells St Andrew’s student Loretta Wolters, who plans to return to St Andrew’s as a teacher after graduating university.
Fellow Year 10 student Grace Adams-Jones felt inspired after the program and had a greater appreciation for her teachers.
“I just find it so inspiring going into the classroom and all the kids are just captivated by this teacher. I find it so beautiful and an almost magical experience sitting in the classroom and seeing how it all works,” explains Grace.
“You have a greater appreciation for your teachers because you know what goes on behind the scenes. It’s interesting to see what they put in and what they get out.”
National Teacher Shortage
A recent report by KPGM indicated there are not enough students studying to be teachers, particularly in regional areas, and that population growth is driving school enrolments, which is leading to a profession in crisis.
National statistics also indicate that up to 30 per cent of teachers leave the profession in the first five years, contributing to the declining workforce. Data also suggests that teaching has become an increasingly part-time profession, meaning we need more teachers to make up the full-time hours.
“In rural and remote locations, it is incredibly challenging to replace and attract staff. There is a national need and we need to be encouraging our students to go into teaching,” explains Leanne Webster, Catholic Education Services Senior Education Consultant – Professional Learning.
“There simply aren’t enough teachers. If we grow our own teachers in our own area, they are more likely to stay and work in our area,” adds Leanne.
“If we can grow our own teachers, then we are going to be set up for the future.”
And that’s exactly what they’re doing at St Andrew’s Catholic College, with a total of six ex-students set to teach at the college in 2020, according to Renee.
The Future of the Program
The trial has been a great success and students at St Mary’s and St Andrew’s have felt honoured to have been involved.
“I feel really privileged,” tells St Mary’s student Ethan Stingel. “I think St Mary’s always does really well at supplying different opportunities to the students, especially ones like this.”
The program will continue in 2020, with the possibility to continue the course beyond Year 10 based on the students’ overwhelmingly positive feedback.
“I think the program has raised the teaching profession as a real option and having the experience in the classroom has increased the knowledge of teaching. It’s given the students an idea of a choice that they could make,” tells St Mary’s Careers Counsellor Rebecca Ambrose.
St Andrew’s student Grace encouraged other students to consider the program in 2020.
“Definitely try it. It’s an amazing experience even if you’re not thinking about doing teaching yet.”