Forging a career in education: A tale of many hats

If you’re reading this from a linkedIn or related social media prompt then my cunning plan has worked. 

Call me a sentimentalist, but I miss the days when websites were an ad-hoc affair parading animated mouse cursors and ‘under construction’ gifs. These days, social media platforms have become the prime means for us to stake our claim on a little patch of cyberspace and make our presence known, but by clicking or tapping whatever nonsense brought you here, you’ve momentarily escaped the clutches of Zuckerberg, and landed on my wee blog.

In likelihood you followed some awesome clickbait title devised by yours truly that was ‘auto-magically’ propagated to every competing social media platform under the sun. Statistically you’ve already gone back to watching funny puppy videos - which indeed are just adorable - but for those still reading - I thank you, you really don't need to be here, but I promise a funny puppy forecometh.

So how did this come about? What events led you to be here right now, and can I keep your attention? Garner your affection? Annoyance? Indifference? Let’s find out..

My adult career spawned largely from the VET environment. After completing a number of Cert IV and Diploma-level courses at NSW TAFE I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to try my hand at teaching - a journey that I loved and found myself passionate about, despite having very little in the way of ‘official’ teacher training, or indeed any embodied knowledge of pedagogical theory. Today, I can thankfully look back and see how I was undertaking ‘reflective practice’ and adopting ‘student centred learning’ before I was aware we had titles for such things (and, of course, ways in which I did my students a disservice, having only begun to understand the theory and mechanics of how people learn).

Fast forward a few years and I had jumped ship from vocational education into the higher ed sector. Surrounded by people sprouting pedagogical theory far more developed than what I had amassed, I enjoyed many-a-work-meeting swathed in generous lashings of impostor syndrome. Over the years my informal learning would continue as I sought footing, but my professional identity persisted in resembling (at least in my own eyes) someone who was dedicated but also flying by the seat of their head-in-the-cloud pants. 

As luck would have it, a series of fortunate events soon helped immensely to foster an intrinsic confidence, and pride in the value I was bringing to UNE. Such fortunate events would see me wearing a students hat, engaging with the very media, resources, and systems I had helped develop in my formal UNE position of ‘Learning Media Producer’.  In my offical job role, I had been collaborating with colleagues in the design and development of bespoke courses at UNE. Specifically, our attention was focussed toward our flagship course - the Graduate Certificate in Professional Practice. What I did not know at the time, was that I would soon be given the opportunity to undertake the very course I was helping to develop - and a year or so later I found myself experiencing life as a university student for the first time.

This proved to be a fortuned opportunity to experience the fruits of not just my own work, but the work of our entire team's ‘bespoke course’ initiative. While we had feedback and continuous improvement mechanisms in place to 'assess and address' aspects of the course, I was soon to realise just how valuable it would be on a personal level to have first hand experience of engaging with our own creation. Did this course provide for the needs we had identified? Did it serve me, as a student, in the way we had hoped it would serve our students?

I certainly fit the profile of our intended market - mid career and in genuine need of additional education and scaffolding to progress and grow efficiently. Could our ‘Develop your professional practice’ bespoke course help me to do just that - to develop my sense of my own professional practice, up-skill where needed, and expand my value to UNE? (Spoiler alert: Yes).

Some take-aways I am very grateful for:

  • Undertook two computer science units that boosted my (already regular) coding activities toward Learning Media Development.
  • Developed a ‘professional persona’ blog (the one you’re now looking at) and linked it to a bunch of social media accounts, in particular Instagram
  • Created a professional pitch to showcase my skills.
  • Participated in a pilot program for “University Teaching: Core Skills” - a course that helped immensely to find models and theories that aligned with the hodgepodge of knowledge I had absorbed over the years. (A course finished while flying by the seat of aforementioned pants - also a valuable insight toward student life as a busy single father in full time work!)
  • Shared my gratitude, and hopefully a little insight for the 2-3 people who may end up reading this article (hi, mum!)

So where to from now? The culmination of my experience in this course is to be found in the very words you are reading. This reflection is actually the final element of my final assessment task for the course - a reflection of my experience. An experience I am very grateful for - and, I hope and trust, an experience our future students will have too. Also I would love to think my little clickbait experiment may help encourage others to seek similar career opportunities and grab them if they arise.

And if you work with me and feel like an 'impostor' at times - know that I've 'got your back' and probably think you're pretty neat :-)

As promised, an adorable puppy. This is my dog Bemo ('bee-mo') before and after his haircut.

TLDR: Lucked/impostured my way into a career. Helped design a course for people who, in part, had done the very same*. Undertook said course as a student, and it did what we promised on the tin.

* mostly everyone.

You made it! That's a wrap.