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What it’s really like to be a primary school teacher


Primary school students in classroom
ECU has links to around 650 schools throughout Western Australia.

No one ever forgets their favourite teacher. If you want to leave a lasting impression – and help shape tomorrow’s generation – then a career in the classroom could be for you.

ECU currently offers the four year Bachelor of Education (Primary) course for those who aspire to teach children in Years 1 through to 6.

Who makes for a great teacher?

If you want to become a teacher, then obviously you’ll need to like children. But as Dr Matt Byrne, ECU’s Associate Dean of Primary School Education, explains, it goes far beyond that.

“Remember, primary teaching is not just about teaching them academically, such as reading and writing skills. It’s about ensuring they can get along with others and it’s about improving their soft skills,” he says.

“Primary school years are incredibly formative. We know that life outcomes are more influenced by social capabilities than knowledge.

“A good teacher is also a good learner. Our children also need to be lifelong learners so we can empower them with knowledge.”

Chalking up more than a century of teaching

ECU can trace its education lineage back to the Claremont Teacher’s College, which opened more than a century ago in 1902.

It’s now estimated that around 70 per cent of teachers working within WA are ECU alumni.

“We have the second biggest intake of education students in the country, so we have some great resources to support that cohort.

“Currently ECU has links to 650 schools that provide practical opportunities,” Dr Byrne says.

Students teacher on practical placement with student.
Practical placements are an invaluable part of each teacher’s journey.

Course structure

Students are taught core subjects on the four-year degree course including Maths, Science, English, and Humanities and Social Sciences.

Other areas studied include special educational needs, children’s growth and development, psychology and a child’s mental well-being.

Students in the course are encouraged to incorporate technology in all its forms in every aspect of teaching.

“The role of a teacher hasn’t changed but what is changing is this world we live in,” Dr Byrne explains.

“We don’t know what jobs will exist in the future because of changing technology and so while we harness different types in the classroom such as iPads, we mustn’t forget that our children also need to be taught skills for day-to-day life.”

What lies ahead for tomorrow’s teachers?

Statistics from the Australian Government predict a huge surge in the need for teachers. It’s due to a combination of many teachers reaching retirement age and more babies being born.

“As long as people are having children, there will always be a need for teachers,” Dr Byrne explains.

“Yes, it can be quite competitive to secure a job. There may not be as many teaching posts in the major cities but there are plenty in rural areas. Remember WA is a big place with lots of country towns.”

Testament to teaching

ECU’s Bachelor of Education (Primary) course has a strong practical element. For example, in the last year of the four-year degree, students have ten weeks’ continuous practise.

Soccer enthusiast Shannon May graduated with the degree from ECU. She balanced study and playing professional soccer.

“I received valuable experience from mentor, supervisors and tutors, especially while I was trying to juggle study as well as play for the Perth Glory Women’s team in the national W League,” she says.

“Time spent on practical placement really helped me and put me in a good position for the first two years of my career.

“Winning the National OfficeMax Exceptional Teacher Award was a real highlight of university life and a very humbling experience,” she says.

Want to learn more?

If a career in teaching sounds like the career for you, head over to the Bachelor of Education (Primary) course page.

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