Interview with Mara Rawlings
Tell us about your current role – what does a typical day look like for you?
I work at Serpell Primary School in Templestowe which is a C.I.S. accredited school (International school). I have taught mainstream classes from year 1 to year 6. I am also a trained Reading Recovery teacher and so my current role in the mornings is to teach an individualised literacy support program based on the Reading Recovery model to year 2 students. Each individual child has a half hour session of reading and writing with me as they have been identified through assessment data as requiring extra support. In the afternoons I teach small group maths classes to children also requiring some extra assistance with certain concepts in numeracy. My leadership role across the whole school is coordinating the Performing Arts Program. We have 1100 students at Serpell Primary school and they all participate in three separate school concerts of which I event manage.
What is the best/most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is observing my students achieving success with both their literacy and numeracy strategies. Working one on one allows me to really focus all my energy on the individual child’s needs and give and receive immediate feedback to facilitate their learning. Providing the right amount of scaffolding for their learning encourages them to be risk takers and allows them to transfer their new skills and strategies to other contexts.Being a professional flamenco dancer myself, I have always shared the passion of performing arts. So when it comes to event management of large school concerts, I want to promote and develop the skills of confidence, self-esteem and give them the wonderful experience of being on stage. Many of my students have furthered their love of singing, dancing and acting and continue to participate stage performances as teenagers and adults.
What were some of the memorable experiences you had at Deakin? i.e. social, academic, intellectual.
I socialised a lot but in particular I made four friends for life and we still have a great friendship which has lasted 25 years. We are all currently working in the education field involved in different areas of teaching. I really enjoyed the Union Nights organised by the Student Union. Great bands performed and were always well received by audiences. Back in the early 1990s they were held in the large Cafeteria – ‘The Caf’. This was also a daily social place for all students and my friends and I to catch up. The Education department at Uni had wonderful lecturers and tutors but in particular the Physical Education dept. had exceptional ones. They were all truly great mentors for me – John Kilpatrick, John Birchall, John Harmer and David Parkin. It didn’t occur to me to miss a tutorial or lecture during my four years. I was so engaged with both the content and the delivery style of these lecturers that it motivated me to fully participate in all aspects of the physical education course. Attending camps and other outdoor activities were real highlights of this course.
Did you learn anything from your Deakin studies to take directly to the workforce?
My wonderful Deakin lecturers have instilled in me a great passion for learning and teaching. I quickly learned that engaging students in real life situations and contexts facilitates the best learning. Mixing it up, setting high expectations, modelling best practise and having fun in class also makes for a great teacher I believe so I try my best to incorporate these qualities and strategies in my daily classes.
Can you give a specific example of a project or collaboration that you have been involved in with Deakin and how this has impacted your career to date? (If applicable)
I have mentored many Deakin University pre-service teachers. I have enjoyed supporting them through their classroom teaching experience and passing on my best advice that I have learned over the past 20 years. I always make them feel that it is a collaborative approach when I have been their teacher mentor and that some lessons are fabulous and others are valuable learning lessons when they don’t go to plan. By mentoring them it always makes me reflect on my own teaching practise and how I can further my skills or knowledge in certain areas. It has been so rewarding when I have been asked to be a referee and then to hear that one of my pre-service teachers has landed their first job.
What are your career highlights?
Being chosen to attend an international teacher exchange in Singapore with three other colleagues at school has been a career highlight. I spent 10 amazing days there, based at Huamin Primary School. Spending time in different classrooms and other school areas was a fabulous experience. Observing children learn in different contexts and watching teachers facilitate their classroom activities in 35 degrees with no air-conditioning was interesting. The school day finished early so we then enjoyed the shopping, hotel pool and the incredible restaurants. Flamenco dancing career highlight – Performing in the VSO stage opera Don Quixote as female principal dancer at the State Theatre in The Arts Centre Melbourne.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about Deakin that we haven’t covered?
I’ve really enjoyed the Deakin Alumni Christmas parties and the seminars they hold throughout the year. They are a great way to network, catch up with good friends and further enhance my knowledge and understanding in various areas.