Guest Blogpost: Living and Teaching Down Under (Teacha_Efa)

G’day guys,

My name is Aoife Condron, best known in the Instagram-Teacher-World as ‘Teacha_Efa’. I completed my B.Ed at St. Pat’s, back in the day when it was a three year degree course. Since graduating I worked in the same school in Ireland for five years. I was fortunate enough to be made permanent in my second year there.

My partner and I felt that at the end of those five years we should probably start sorting our lives out and begin adulting. We had two options.

  1. Save for a mortgage, get engaged/married and start a family
  2. Travel some more of the world and experience living somewhere different for a year

Option B won! 

I applied for a career break and a Working Holiday Visa for Australia. They were both granted, and we were soon journeying our way across China, UAE and South East Asia with the Land Down Under our final stop. 

I selected Brisbane, Queensland as our final destination and place to settle. My partner had some family living in the area at the time and we just loved the constant sunny weather. Brissy is also considerably smaller that your other large cities such as Melbourne and Sydney and this appealed to me too as it didn’t feel so overwhelming. Initially, I intended to have a complete year off from teaching but I soon really missed it and began looking into pathways to teach over here. In hindsight, if I knew I was coming over to Australia or any other country to teach I would have been a great deal more organised. 

Below I will outline, the route I took to start teaching. It’s important to note that all States and Territories in Australia have their own rules, requirements and such for having your qualifications assessed etc. I can only speak from my Queensland (QLD) experience, but from conversations with others, I have learned that it is quite similar. My pathway to teaching here was a little more complicated as my degree was a three-year course and the Queensland College of Teachers are entirely non-negotiable on the requirement that you must have completed a four-year degree course in order to be grated teacher registration. They accept further education e.g. Post-Grad, Masters and previous courses you may have been enrolled in but perhaps dropped out of and didn’t finish. I had none of these, so this was the pathway to teaching that I took…

  1. Firstly, I got my B.Ed qualification assessed in New Zealand (NZ). NZ recognise three-year degrees as it’s based on a national quality framework model, not just the course length. NZQA required an assessment report of my qualifications – The Council will look for evidence that you have appropriate tertiary qualifications for teaching in the New Zealand education system, and appropriate qualifications for teaching in the public education system in your previous country.

https://www.educationcouncil.org.nz/

  1. To do this, I needed and would recommend bringing overseas with you: Police Clearance (you can get this drawn up for you in your local Garda station), college transcripts of each year, teaching practice records, hard copies/originals of my degree and written references.
  2. I received my ‘practicing certificate’ from NZ. All up the process took me about three months. Bear in mind, I did not have a lot of the documents mentioned above so I had to spend some time looking for them.
  3. Transfer you NZ teacher registration to QLD: If you hold current teacher registration or accreditation in another Australian state or territory, or in New Zealand, you can apply for registration in Queensland under the mutual recognition principle. This means that a person who is registered for an occupation in a relevant jurisdiction is entitled to registration in a second jurisdiction, for the equivalent occupation.
  4. All the information you need to do this is on https://www.qct.edu.au/
  5. After a period of six weeks or so I was recognised and able to teach in both NZ and QLD. 

Let the job hunting commence….

Below are some of the steps I took to help me find work in a very competitive industry. I found it helped that I had five years’ worth of experience behind me.

  1. Created a cracking CV. Include your written references as contacting people overseas with a ten-hour time difference is a nightmare!
  2. Log on to ‘seek.com.au’. Make a profile and see what’s available in terms of private schools. Most private schools will advertise on this site or their own school site. I started off doing some teacher aide/school officer/special needs assistant roles while I waited for my qualifications to be assessed and it was such a great way to get an insight into teaching here, without the stress of it all being on your shoulders. 
  3. I registered with the Catholic School system too. It is called ‘Brisbane Catholic Education’. https://bcejobs.nga.net.au/cp/

I set up a profile to alert me to contracted vacancies and to register for relief/substitute work. It’s a very similar set up to ‘Education Posts’ at home e.g. there is a generic standard application form. 

  1. There is an app for Catholic schools too, it is called ‘Class Cover’. It is super easy to set up and nearly all schools book through this now.
  2. Public/State schools are very similar in terms of how to go about job hunting. I’d suggest registering with Education Queensland and checking out this website for all the details. They have a relief teacher booking system too. It is called ‘TRACER’. 

https://education.qld.gov.au/careers/teaching

  1. I also joined some recruitment agencies, such as
  • ANZUK Education
  • Randstad Education
  • Hays Education
  • Smart Teachers

I found job hunting very similar to home. Once you got ‘your foot in the door’, you were sorted. It’s hugely helpful to have recognised Australian schools on your CV and then ‘word of mouth’ and ‘personal recommendations’ can massively help you to secure your next contracts. The visa situation makes things tricky too. On the Working Holiday Visa I could only work with a school/one employer for up to six months. Luckily, my partner then got sponsored by his company and I went on his new visa too. It was significantly easier to secure work with no work rights limitations, as you can imagine. 

So, what exactly is teaching like over here? That is a question I get asked regularly on my Instagram platform. Be sure to check out my ‘Q&A Highlight’ and feel free to ask me anything extra if you need or just DM me if I don’t answer it here for you. 

Teaching in QLD:

(This section will be based on my current school, all schools will differ and vary slightly)

Teachers arrive at school: 8.00-8.25am

School starts at 8.30am

Children leave at: 3.00 pm (Year Prep-Y6)

Big lunch: 40 mins (20 mins play, 20 mins eating)  Little lunch: 30 mins (20 mins play, 10 mins eating)

On a weekly basis, you will teach:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • HASS (Geography, History, Civics/Citizenship and Economics and Business)
  • Religion (in a Catholic school setting)
  • Digital Technologies 
  • Arts (art and drama)
  • Health

Your children will also attend specialist lessons:

  • PE 
  • Music
  • Art
  • Languages (Japanese -at my current school)
  • Library

While children attend these classes, the expectation is you will use this time to do your planning, preparation and corrections for the week ahead. I teach Y6 i.e. 6th Class. It is a three streamed cohort. My school timetables our specialist lessons so that all grade level teachers have non-contact time at the same time, for at least two hours per week. This allows us a chance to plan collaboratively and have a team meeting. Our non-contact time falls on a Friday, which I love as I can get myself sorted and organised for the week ahead and catch up on all my marking. It makes an incredible difference to your work load and creates a sense of work life balance which is so needed in this profession.

As mentioned above, planning is undertaken as a ‘grade level’. Maths and English are planned in short term cycles, usually in three week blocks so that the plans can be fluid and move with the pace that the children are setting in terms of their learning. The other subject areas are generally planned per term. My team (who are Scottish by the way, we are affectionately known at school as ‘Celtic Connections’) and I share out the planning, this means that we all might take one/two curricular areas and create the unit plan and the assessment to go with it and then share it and any resources to go with the plan of work. We have a school portal which acts as a base for us to store all our plans/data/resources. This was work-life-changing for me, as prior to this I had only ever taught in my rural country school where I was responsible for planning for my multi-grade class entirely alone and the workload was astronomical. It saves so much time and it also means the children are getting taught some high-quality units by people who possess different skills/talents e.g. I love planning our English units as that is my passion, but my colleague may be super interested in history and would plan a terrific history unit. There are no weekly/fortnightly plans required as such, you take your termly plans and are trusted to deliver the content, however you see fit. I do a general weekly overview for myself with dot points of what I am aiming to cover.  I am blessed to have a school officer/special needs assistant in my room nearly every day for two hours and all the children have their own, school provided 1-1 device for home/school. These are invaluable to my teaching and the children’s learning experiences and outcomes. 

https://www.instagram.com/teacha_efa/

In summary, I could not recommend Australia enough for people to come to explore, travel or work in. I absolutely love it and feel I have become a better teacher because of it. Teaching overseas has allowed me to develop and enhance my teaching pedagogy and methods and to relax and practice self-care. All my Irish teaching service was recognised, and this allowed me to climb up some band scales in terms of pay. I am earning a substantial piece more of take-home pay here than at home in Ireland and for less overall work and stress. I also get to enjoy a brilliant Aussie lifestyle. My partner and I are also able to save up for Option A) for when we eventually move home. The small downside is literally being on the other side of the world. Friends and family are such a long way away and that can be hard. However, I have visited, and family have visited in the past few years, so I have been lucky in that respect. Visas are also tricky to navigate and get sorted, depending on your situation. However, all in all it’s a once in a life time opportunity and one that I am delighted that I have taken. If I can be of any more help to anyone, please just let me know on my Instagram page and I will get back to you.