Last week I joined students on an excursion to my former workplace. As we gathered in the atrium of Melbourne Museum, some teachers went to retrieve the cards that give them free entry. “Down the escalator and to the right,” I said. Earlier this year, I’d visited Immigration Museum with classmates in the history learning area, where a former colleague had introduced us to resources including a video I’d helped produce. Rubbing it in, Oslo said “Philip from the museum” and Jan waved her finger at the very back row.
Teachers view things differently, standing among the uniforms that others skirt around. At Melbourne Museum, being within speaking distance of a student was enough to identify me: without asking, a worker handed me a map of the venue and a large aquamarine tag. “Excursion Supervisor,” it said. Putting it on felt like crossing a river. During a break, I went downstairs to the Discovery Centre. “Philip!” my former manager observed. “Are you studying full time?” I showed her my sticker, confirming something. We talked until she glanced at the clock. In any case, I had to get back to the year elevens.
Careers aren’t linear; I keep circling back. Happily, teaching’s parasitic, drawing on everything I know. Even my work as “the schools guy” at the Uniting Church has informed my teaching practice. In my year ten history class I used the church’s model of consensus decision-making to draft a class statement on reconciliation. Yep, I even made coloured indicator cards to allow whole-class participation, forming a scene eerily reminiscent of a Synod meeting. The students engaged really well with the activity, happily showing blue, orange and yellow to indicate support and dissent. The final statement’s powerful even before you learn that it includes words from many students who rarely contribute to whole-class discussion. We transcribed it onto a poster that everyone signed:
Your rights. My rights. Our rights. We, the undersigned, will endeavour to accept others so that Australia will be the way it should be. We recognise that everyone is human and that everyone has equal rights. We want to show that we know our own human rights as well as those of others. We are going to spread the word.