Posted in Learning, Life, Schools, Teaching

An inspiration

I was already a grandmother by the time I started teaching at university in 2000. Phil, who turned 20 earlier this week, and his brother Scott were my only grandchildren till Ronan arrived in the world eight years after Phil. Then Jordan and Hunter and Sakye – and then more and more and more!

As my list of grandchildren grew I started to think more and more about the student teachers I was teaching and I’d often say to them ‘You never know, one day you might be teaching one of my grandchildren – they’re scattered all over Australia – and that might mean me popping into your classroom to have a chat and see what the grandkids are up to’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s come to pass. Some of my grandchildren have had the pleasure of being taught by some of the very special people I taught at university and it’s always lovely to wander into their classrooms and see them as teachers now, after seeing them as students. I don’t pretend to have any influence on who they are as teachers, but it’s lovely to see them nonetheless.

I’ve been teaching for over 20 years now. Being a teacher was something I never imagined I’d do. Debbie, my sister, had always wanted to be a teacher, but it hadn’t been on my list of career choices.

I no longer teach those preparing to be teachers in primary and high schools; rather I find myself running workshops for academic staff who are teaching university students studying for degrees in commerce and accounting and information systems and business analytics. While I know nothing about accounting and commerce and business analytics I do know something about teaching.

And, what’s more, after running six workshops in the last week I’ve been reminded that I love it. I love teaching. I love asking questions that generate thinking, I love putting ideas out there and seeing how others develop them, or consider them, or debate them, or draw insight from them.

Those who know me in person, know that I’m not a dynamic person in ordinary life, but I seem to get another sort of energy when I’m teaching and as I get older and therefore more comfortable and confident with my teaching persona I find I turn into a warm and funny and energised person who is enthusiastic and passionate and insightful.

Well, at least that’s what I’ve been told.

I’ve had a few positives in terms of my teaching and supporting teachers over the last twelve months. I (successfully) supported a team of academics in their application for a VC’s award for outstanding contributions to student learning, and on the back of that award the team was encouraged to apply for a national award.

We found out earlier in the week that we’d been successful at the national level and so, as part of a team, I now have an AAUT (Australian Award for University Teaching) citation for outstanding contributions to student learning under my belt. They only awarded 60 across the country this year, so I’m pretty chuffed with that.

Last year I was successful in applying to become a Senior Fellow of the (UK) Higher Education Academy. Being a Senior Fellow means I ‘demonstrate a thorough understanding of effective approaches to teaching and learning support as a key contribution to high quality student learning [and] impact and influence on other colleagues through, for example, responsibility for leading, managing or organising programmes, subjects and/or disciplinary areas’ (www.heaacademy.ac.uk).

It was a 6,000 word application supported by two referee statements (thanks Robyn and Sharon B) and required a lot of evidence to support my claims.

The awards are great – even though they require a lot of work and the collection of a lot of evidence from over my 20 years of teaching and are a great recognition of the work I’ve done.

But much (much) more meaningful than the awards and fellowship came in the form of a text message from one of my daughters-in-law last week.

It turns out that Jada, one of my granddaughters, is being taught this year by someone I taught at university. Here are the messages I received:

Met with Scott [teacher] for a parent-teacher meeting this evening. He may have lit up like a Christmas tree when Jada mentioned your name (we had to go through the “Do you know Grandma Sharon” *blank look* “my grandma Sharon Pittaway” dance before he twigged).

He said you were his all time favourite lecturer and that you allowed students to give their own perspective on things and that you never just read or regurgitated information from a textbook. He said this made you inspiring. He also asked for me to pass on his regards.

He ALSO said that Jada no longer needs to come to school as she is now an A+ student because she knows ‘Grandma Sharon’.

I’m glad he took the no school rule back-Jada would have run with that!
I made Scott out as being kind of excited, he was more yelling “oh my god” and “really??” He was flailing his arms around a little and slapping his thighs haha. Congratulations to you on making such an impact on people and allowing them to filter their enthusiasm for learning and growing through to the next generation. I’m especially grateful they are our kids!

He said the way I taught made me inspiring.

That’s worth more (much much more) than a VC’s award or a national citation or a senior fellowship.

That’s real!

Jada, reading … because teachers are amazing!

Author:

I like to travel and take photographs. I like to blog about both.

9 thoughts on “An inspiration

  1. Hi Sharon,
    Congrats on your awards! As a retired educator I know that most of what we do goes unrecognized or appreciated – at least here in the US. In fact teachers are often blamed for all the ills of society! I hope it is different in Australia. Although the recognition is not the reason that we went into teaching (or the money!!) but it is certainly nice when it happens.
    In any event, you have obviously made a difference in the lives of your students, and through them the lives of many, many more children.
    Again, congrats.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Nancy. I hate to say, but it isn’t much different in Australia. When anything goes wrong (drug deaths, road deaths, child abuse, bullying, youth underemployment) in society, there are instant calls for schools to ‘do more’, to ‘fix it’. ‘It should be taught in schools’ is the cry from many people – almost always by those who have never spent sustained time in schools teaching. Picking your kids up from school seems to be a proxy for expertise in schooling.

      Ah, don’t get me started!! 🙂

      Like

  2. You are amazing and dynamic and funny and inspiring and deserve all the accolades you get. I agree this type of accolade is the BEST sort and is well worth celebrating. What a buzz it must have given you coming on the back of all the other excitement this week. I enjoyed teaching too will but my students were very different to yours and I doubt I’ll ever run into any of them ever again 🙂 . Well done, thats a great uplifting post from you and I’m so pleased. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m an ex-Primary School Teacher (so long ago, some of the schools I taught at have been demolished!) I remember a couple of my lecturers, one in particular. The good ones (inspiring) stood out in a sea of tired and shell shocked people escaping from the classroom.
    Well done you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your comment Terry. Your comment gave me pause to consider the very many other things people can do with a teacher degree under their belt, besides teaching. I know some who think that if you don’t go into teaching or don’t stick with teaching for long after graduating as a teacher, is a sign of failure (either personal failure or failure of the university) but I see a teaching degree as a passport to so many other things in life.

      I obviously have a teaching degree and I don’t consider myself to be a failure even though I’m not teaching in a primary or high school. I still get to influence the ways others teach and I draw on what I learnt at university every day in that work. It prepared me well for a whole range of ways of thinking and working.

      I hope I was never considered by my students to be one of the tired and shell shocked people escaping the classroom as a university lecturer!

      I’m enjoying reading/listening to your books. I have to admit to being shocked when I heard you reading one of your chapters – it was at that moment I discovered you were Australian. Not sure why I had assumed otherwise. And not only that, but you live in the same state as me! I’ll be heading into the mountains this coming weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s about to become very pretty up here. In a week or two the introduced trees will begin to change colour. It’s awesome and passes all too quickly. Glad you are enjoying my stories. I often wonder what the North Americans think of my accent haha.

        Liked by 1 person

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