Everyone has to start from somewhere.

Starting for me is always difficult. It’s never a problem of what I’m going to write about as there is plenty of things just waiting do be written down, but it’s how to start. I guess introducing myself is as good a place as anywhere to start. My name is Matt Black. This isn’t my real name as for professional reasons I have changed all of the names to protect the parties I talk about including myself. I grew up and started my teaching career in Australia. I can still remember the moment when I thought about becoming a teacher. Everyone has turning points in their lives where they could have gone off and done something but fate steps in and you head off in a complete different direction. I put my turning point down to a parent teacher meeting where my well respected History teacher planted the seed with one line "you'd make a good teacher".

So by the time the form came around to apply for a University course I didn’t think twice about writing down Teaching. I always had an interest in history however it didn’t fit into my schedule. So I chose to do Geography and Sociology instead. In my final two years I swapped from sociology to history to improve my chances of getting a job when I finished. Alongside this I did my Teaching degree. I actually remember one course where we spent an entire semester learning how to put kids into groups. Where was the course dealing with the kid who refused to cooperate or the one that never did any homework you set?

I went out on many placements and thinking back they are the best way to learn to be a teacher. Its not until you start interacting with students that you develop your style. I did my internship out at a local high school. I still remember the assessor observing my lesson and some student who never listened colouring his camel in flouro pink and saying he didn’t understand what he had to do. 

In my final year I started to look for a job. I had wanted to get into the Catholic Education system however I had to get the application signed by a priest to verify I had some affiliation with my church. My church attendance had been pretty sporadic so one Sunday I went down and saw the priest after mass and asked him to look at my form. I still keep in contact with him now but his instant reply then was “Matt it would be unfair for me to sign this, How about you come along to the Antioch weekend and then get back to me”.  The weekend was great but the time to get my application in had passed. I see this as another turning point in my life.

By this stage I had sat an interview with the N.S.W Department of Education and I didn’t hold much hope on the priest signing my form. I applied to teach through the state Department of Education who have a points system for appointing teachers. If you teach in a hard to staff area, basically somewhere 'rough' or somewhere remote, you gain points and these points can be used to transfer to a more disable location. So not really caring where I was placed I ticked the “I would go anywhere box” and a few months later I received a call saying I’d been posted out to a small town in the southern western region of N.S.W.  If you know western N.S.W its a big place with not much between towns. 

In terms of situation the town was well out of the way. It had one main street and a large supermarket. If you were driving through it you could easily blink and drive right through the town and miss it. If you have any experience of living in a small town you'll know that everyone knows everyone. It was the sort of town that on a Saturday afternoon the streets are deserted, like those streets on wild west movies, as everyone is down watching or playing footy. Talking about footy, Aussie Rules was like a religion in the town. The footy oval itself is an excellent example of the games status. The area was in drought and farmers were struggling with their water allocation. There was even talk of water rationing, however, the football oval remained irrigated and green all year round.

I still remember my mum and dad dropping me off and disappearing down the road in the truck that we had hired to cart all of my possessions. I can say I sort of know what it must have felt like for the early settlers to pack up everything they owned and move it hundreds of kilometers inland. I taught Ancient history, Australian history and Geography. Looking back I did have some great times out there.

I taught for two years in the school and one day decided I wanted to see a bit of the world. I had an ancestry British passport so I thought I’d use the U.K. as the base for my travels.

I’m sure at the beginning of this blog somewhere I will go into my teaching tales and my first year teaching in England but for now ill concentrate on the present. The school I teach at is a small independent co- Ed school and its situated in an Edwardian building that makes it feel quite posh but it’s far from this when you start to pull back the façade. From what I can gather the school once served the needs of the cities wealthy, in that if your son or daughter was not bright enough to get into a Grammar school then you could send them here.

Well this has remained the same however we have developed a name for ourselves as the school that takes in those children that just don’t fit into mainstream education. Looking over the lists of students we have close to seventy five per cent diagnosed dyslexia and we have over twenty students statemented with special educational needs. Majority of these needs stem from the students being on the autistic spectrum. The other minority group that make up the school population is the foreign students whose parents have high aspirations. It is thought that by sending them to a small school they will get better results

Talking about Statemented students I guess I’m alluding to my job description. After almost deciding I had had enough of teaching I answered an advert in the local paper for a “Study Skills coordinator” with extra duties. So in my first year I ran a small study skills program with the year Tens and Elevens at the school. It was personable and comfortable as most of my classes had around five pupils. To keep me busy I was made second in charge of the learning support department under the schools Special Educational Needs Coordinator (in education speak a SENCO). This basically was an admin position and my time was spent writing Individual Education Plans and helping the SENCO out with pastoral issues.

In my second year the key stage 4 head left the school. This left the post open. I had been covering for him on occasion and also for the key stage 3 head so I thought I would apply for the position. The only competition I had was the Drama teacher. I will admit on the face of it he was a better candidate. He did have a greater presence and had been teaching at the school for over fifteen years. So it was inevitable that I was not chosen. I guess I was a bit disappointed however a few days later the Head called me in said she would advertise for a key stage three manager to head years Eight and Nine. I did feel like it was the consolation prize and to make matters worse the key stage three head, a very capable pastoral head was not really consulted before the post was advertised. The post was advertised internally and I was the only person to apply. So it was a bit like there was no one else to do the job so we might as let you have it. The head stipulated that id had to do a trial year and then id be appointed permanent.  I did my trial year last year and continue the job this year.

So here I am up to the present. It’s a new school year September 1 2008. The students started on Wednesday so I thought it fitting to start this Blog then. I have been so tired this week getting back into the routine so I have not had a chance to write anything in the Blog so I will most likely use the weekends to write the notes up and post them on.