At James Cook University (JCU), teachers make the real difference.
While academic grades remain a priority, the teachers place equal importance on non-academic growth. While they do not have PhDs in mentoring or life coaching, they still strive to impart important life lessons.
In teaching students how to become well-rounded adults, teachers don’t just prepare graduates for careers, but also for societal impact.
Passing down life lessons, from one generation to the next
Such life lessons leave lasting impact beyond the classroom. In some cases, they are passed down through generations.
Dr Robyn Anderson, Senior Lecturer, Education, says that great educators are not just teachers, but role models too.
“As educators we provide our students with the theoretical knowledge and its application to practice in their respective professions. However, there is much in life that is not learned from a book but acquired informally through social learning. As such, it is important that as educators we also emulate the behaviours and practices that we are promoting.
“For instance, if we believe that fairness, courtesy and respect are important in our interaction with others, we need to display those behaviours; if we teach that inclusivity is important, then we need to understand our students and include their perspectives and preferred ways of learning in the teaching and learning process.”
One of her ex-students at JCU, Ms Shareffa Hodge, is now a teacher herself at the Australian International School.
Ms Hodge acknowledges that during her Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education) course, she gained a great amount of academic knowledge.
But beyond that, she recalls the valuable life lessons that continue to impact her own experience as a teacher today.
She says: “One particular life lesson is that when working with young children, ‘Nothing ever goes exactly as planned’.”
“You may plan a lesson to the tee and have everything envisioned; however things change and children are unpredictable.”
As a result, she learned to have alternative methods, quick reactions and impromptu strategies and tasks.
This helps ensure that her students receive the best quality education possible — just as her teacher had once hoped for her.
Loving the learning process, not just the results
Mr Chia Bing Xun, who is now a project officer at Nanyang Technological University, graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) from JCU.
He remembers the important lesson that steered not just his academic journey, but also his life goals. He says: “I learned to love the process, not just the results.
“When you love the process and the learning, the results will naturally follow. Don't focus solely on the end results — it steals the joy of learning.”
His teacher at JCU, Dr Lidia Suárez, Senior Lecturer and Head of Academic Group, Psychology and Education, concurs.
“As educators, we want to empower students to become lifelong learners and resourceful individuals throughout life.”
Learning to tackle life’s challenges
During her career as a teacher, Dr Suárez has seen students from a range of backgrounds who share the same uncertainty about the future. For instance, some are unsure what jobs suit their interests or skills, and what they are capable of achieving due to inexperience and lack of confidence.
Without clear goals in mind, students often have trouble staying motivated.
She says: “I try exposing them to different experiences and possibilities so that they can find their own niche.”
Her ex-student, Mr Chia, seems to have taken this lesson to heart. Not only did he learn to be open to different possibilities, he also became unafraid of tackling new and unfamiliar tasks.
He says: “You’ll never know what you can do unless you show up.”
He recalls an incident where he asked to conduct workshops and mental health talks to a large group of pre-school teachers and principals shortly after graduation.
While speaking to an audience did not come naturally to him, he was determined to show up and do his best.
The experience paid off in a big way, not just in terms of crossing a personal career milestone but also for his confidence.
“To date, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had,” he says.
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