Reflection: A Year On In Melbourne

On June 7th 2017, I relocated from Sydney to Melbourne to take on a new position at Swinburne University of Technology. Today is exactly one year on since then and as I reflect on my first year of work at Swinburne, I must say that it has been quite the journey. I am truly blessed and grateful for the unwavering love and support that I have received from my family in New Zealand. They continue to be a source of strength and light in my endeavours with work here in Australia.

In my first semester at Swinburne (Semester Two of 2017), I took on the following roles as a Course Director, Lecturer and Unit Convenor under the Department of Education, at the Faculty of Health, Arts and Design. These roles provided me with firsthand insights into the institutional acumen, the academic knowledge and teaching experiences that are necessary to help shape the education degrees, and the units (aka papers) within each degree, in order to provide pre-service teachers with a high standard of content for teaching and learning. While I appreciated all the tasks and responsibilities that I had been allocated, I decided towards the end of the last year that I wanted to move away from the Course Director role and to shift my focus onto leading a research project as a Principal Investigator in 2018. As a result I am grateful that I was granted with an opportunity to do so by the Chair of the Department of Education.

Shortly after, I received a small grant from the Faculty of Health, Arts and Design at Swinburne which meant that I was able to fulfil a research goal that I had set for myself for 2017 and this was one of the highlights for me in 2017. Another highlight was having received an email from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology congratulating me on obtaining an average rating of 9.0 out of 10.0 for overall satisfaction with my teaching in the 2017 Student Feedback on Teaching surveys. Given that this was a result of my first semester of teaching at Swinburne, I am truly honoured by the acknowledgement that I received from the students as well as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor. As I reflect on all that had transpired in my first semester at Swinburne, I appreciate the successes and challenges that I had experienced as it helped me to further develop and enhance my teaching and research skills.

SUT Grad 2017
Professor Ninetta Santoro (Chair of the Department of Education, FHAD, Swinburne University of Technology), Dr. Wendy Goff (Lecturer) and Dr. Maryanne Pale (me) at the Swinburne University of Technology graduation ceremony in December 2017.

In my second semester at Swinburne (Semester One of 2018), I took on the following roles as a Principal Investigator for my research project, a Lecturer and a Unit Convenor. In addition, I have worked with the fantastic staff at Swinburne Online on a number of tasks related to the units offered under the education degrees. The research and teaching workload for me this semester had increased which saw me find quiet environments that allowed me to maximise on uninterrupted working hours. In doing so this semester, I must say that it has felt so good to be able to tick things off the to-do lists each week. I knew that transitioning from 2017 into 2018, that it was going to be a different kind of semester for me and indeed, it has been an incredibly productive period and I am thankful.

So what have I done to mark this one year anniversary of work here in Melbourne? Well, as a member of the Australian Literacy Educator’s Association (ALEA), I decided to attend Melbourne’s Local Council for ALEA’s Annual General Meeting dinner and workshop this evening (Yes, you read right… I celebrated the end of my first year of work by attending a work related event lol). And it was wonderful! The focus of the workshop this evening was on “Supporting English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) Students in Mainstream Classrooms”. This is fitting because it is an area of research that I am interested in and it is an area of education that I am familiar with as I grew up in New Zealand as an EAL/D student who attended mainstream schools, I have taught as an early years educator in schools that had predominantly EAL/D students enrolled, and now in my role as a university lecturer in the field of English Language and Literacy.

Margaret Nutbean
Margarent Nutbean – The facilitator for the workshop that was delivered at Melbourne’s Local Council for the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association 2018 AGM

Margaret Nutbean was the facilitator of the workshop. Over the past 39 years, she has had extensive teaching and leadership experience working in this area. Her roles have included Co-ordinator – EAL/New Arrivals Program and a Literacy Educator with the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, EAL/New Arrivals teacher and Coordinator, Literacy Leader and classroom teacher. She has also had experience as a lecturer in ‘The Professional Certificate in EAL (Year 4-10)’ at Melbourne University, which she was instrumental in setting up.

Margaret is currently working as an independent EAL Consultant alongside classroom teachers/leaders as a mentor and facilitating Professional Learning sessions/courses to support them with EAL/New Arrival/ Refugee students in mainstream classrooms. For the past nine years she has also facilitated the ‘Teaching ESL Students in Mainstream Classrooms (Yr. 3-Yr 9)’ course in Primary and Secondary schools and more recently the ‘Teaching Young Children in Multilingual Contexts (Foundation -Yr. 4)’ course. Margaret has presented at a number of VicTESOL and ALEA Conferences over the years and has written units of work, alongside mainstream teachers, for the recently published TEAL Website (Tools to Enhance Literacy Assessment for Teachers of English As an Additional Language).

You could just imagine my excitement at the AGM, dinner and workshop this evening. The AGM was interesting and I was able to connect with a number of executive and committee members of ALEA. I found Margaret’s workshop to be inspiring and thought-provoking. And by the end of the evening, it was confirmed that I am now an executive member of the Melbourne Local Council for ALEA which I am grateful and excited about. This was indeed an unexpected outcome but it is a lovely way for me to celebrate a year on in Melbourne.

Am I happy with the outcomes of my first year of work at Swinburne? Most definitely, I am.

Swinburne Colleagues
A talanoa session with a few of my amazing colleagues at Swinburne University of Technology. From left to right: Dr. Kristina Turner, Dr. Maryanne Pale (me), Dr. Anat Wilson and Dr. Wendy Goff.

Within my first year, I have developed and formed productive working relationships with seven female academics here in Melbourne (within and outside of Swinburne). I have been inspired by, led by and empowered by these women. We have met regularly to discuss research, teaching and educational ideas, as well as future plans. This has been particularly important and beneficial for me as an academic because work can become overwhelmingly busy especially when there are competing deadlines to meet. So it was always lovely to catch up with colleagues and friends, and it is encouraging to know that I have a supportive network here in Melbourne.

In addition, the pre-service teachers whom I have had the honour in teaching within my first year at Swinburne have been great. Their contributions in class and the effort that they have put into their work have been fantastic to bear witness to. I trust that they will continue to excel and thrive in the field of education. Undoubtedly, they will become inspiring teachers one day.

My aim for the next 12 months is to complete the research project which I have embarked on and to continue to grow and develop as an academic and as an educator. The academic workload is hectic but I am looking forward to what lies ahead. Watch this space.

To the staff and friends within and outside of Swinburne University of Technology – thank you for making me feel welcomed here in Melbourne and for providing me with opportunities to learn, grow and develop both professionally and academically. I am truly grateful. To all of my family members in New Zealand, Australia and abroad  – thank you once again for your love, prayers and support. You all continue to play a significant role in my life and I am thankful. To my academic and professional mentors, thank you for the past 10-20 years! I appreciate the advice, encouragement and support that each of you have provided. Last but not by any means the least, thank you to the panel of senior academics for providing me with the opportunity to take on the lecturer position at Swinburne University of Technology in 2017. I have taken this position seriously. With all that I have, I will continue to put my best forward in order to teach, inspire and empower the pre-service teachers that are coming through this university. I am where I am meant to be.

For the young readers of this blog, I would like to encourage you to pursue your area of passion and work hard to attain your goals. As you progress from one stepping stone to another, celebrate each moment because success does not come without challenges. More importantly, remember that you are unique and that you have qualities and attributes that will contribute positively to any space that you walk into, so smile and be unapologetically you. In the words of the late poet, Dr. Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Best wishes,

Dr. Maryanne Pale

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