Introducing the best teacher (in my eyes), and my beloved fiancé (hence why he is the best teacher… wink wink). Although he will never admit it, he is the science nerd, loves the weird ‘did you knows’ and the crazy facts (he even has an app for all the weird ‘did you knows’) and will kindly bring them to your attention whenever he gets the chance. Russell also claims, with a degree in hand mind you, to be the health ‘guru’ understanding in detail the ins and outs of the human body. Teaching science, health and PE – Russell or more appropriate Mr. C is a fun-loving-easy-going-cool teacher. The one you remember years after graduating. His natural ability to relate and engage with his students is one of those of a teacher who is very passionate and takes the time to gain an understanding of his students and their needs. He makes teaching seem cool and learning even cooler.
I quote ‘I am lucky enough to have found a job that I love, right off the bat’.
Russell Curyer – Health, PE & Science Teacher at Urrbrae High School
Brief description of your role:
Normal everyday secondary teacher. I teach Year 12 Health, Year 8 HPE, Year 8 Science and Year 9 Science.
So… what do you actually do?
Most of my time is spent either actually teaching in front of a class, preparing for a class or marking work from a class. There isn’t a lot of spare time within a day. For instance on a Friday I arrive at school around 8:20 and grab any bits I need from my pigeon hole. School starts at 8:45 with Home Group – 15 minutes to let students know of any important events etc coming up and to check over attendance. Once this finishes the real day starts. 9:00 to 10:45 is HPE and depending on the topic – Health or a particular sport – entertain the students for this period improving their skills, participation in the activity(s), motivation towards the subject, improving their ability to work in group scenarios and to make it fun. 20 min break for ‘smoko’….(recess) then back into in. I change hats and teach science for the next hour incorporating the same elements as above. I change hats again – this time from junior science to senior health. This also goes into lunch on most occasions with students sharing experiences and checking work. After lunch back to the junior science before a free lesson at the end of the day…If I don’t have any admin stuff to complete. Did I say free…I meant planning for Monday. Then I go home and have a sleep.
How did you get to your position of being a teacher?
It was a little bit of a ‘fall into place’ becoming a teacher. When I finished high school I never really knew what I wanted to do. I had thought about getting a trade like many of my friends had done but the lure of university got me. Next part was deciding on an area of Uni to do. I decided on Human Movement through UniSA – a sports science course looking into basically the science behind sport. Upon completing this course, I was in a predicament. I hadn’t completed the course to the highest of my ability ruling out moves to occupational and physiotherapy and with the lack of jobs available for Human Movement degrees I decided to transfer into to teaching. To start with the idea of playing PE all day and 12 weeks holiday was really advertising to me. Quite a few of my mates transferred in teaching as well and so it was a logical step. By completing the Health Science course previously, I was also able to gain credits in the science area for teaching – very handy! Little did I know at the time that it would be the best decision I would make.
I remember quite clearly before undertaking my first practicum for teaching ‘you will know if it’s for you or not after your first day…you will either love it or hate it’. Never a truer word was spoken in my case as I found extremely natural and fulfilling despite having a difficult time of it – mostly because of a few curly questions!
I completed my final practicum at Urrbrae Agricultural High School and haven’t really looked back. When I finished Uni, I spent a couple of terms reliefing at Unley and Urrbrae before getting my first break the following year when one of the P.E staff abruptly retired handing me my first official contract. It’s now been seven years and not a lot has changed. I am still on contract and have taught an array of subjects within the school. Right now, I am the year 12 Health teacher and have been for the last five years. I am looking to gain permanency at some stage and hope that it comes in the not to distant future. For now, its just teach what I teach and enjoy what I teach because that, in essence, is the easiest way to ensure your students also enjoy their class.
Have you always wanted to work in the Education area?
Simple answer is no. As I previously stated I didn’t really see myself becoming a teacher. It wasn’t until I was in my third year of Human Movement that I decided to transfer into teaching and that was firstly through necessity. The lack of jobs for sports scientists at the time was very limited.
In saying this though, I have always been somewhat of a coach doing so at sporting level so I guess in a way educating others has always been there just perhaps as an underlying feature of my personality.
What do you love about your role?
I have to say it…I absolutely love having as many holidays as I do. That is seriously the bait that firstly got me but after that and once being involved in and around classrooms many different things become lovable.
Every day is different! I can teach the exact same lesson the following day to a new set of students and it will be completely different. This is defiantly an area I love. I love the fact that I will never be bored teaching the same thing the same way achieving the same results. Nothing is the same.
Being the senior Health ‘guru’ I thoroughly enjoy teaching the year 12 cohort. Between these students and the junior groups, it is incredibly different. I love being able to impart as much of the things I have learnt onto them…whether it sinks in or not is another question. There’s just something about the senior school that changes the kids. I think they finally realize teachers are there to guide and help them make the same decisions I had to make; the same difficult decisions I had to make. It’s a good feeling when you’re able to impart some sort of knowledge or experience you have had and the student uses or appreciates that knowledge. It can have nothing to do with anything from the curriculum yet be really important to the student. Also…we have morning tea on Friday mornings and I get free food…that’s pretty good!
In your current role, what has been your biggest achievement?
I guess my biggest achievement has been my 12 health class. When I took over the subject a few years back I had never taught senior school nor had I ever had to write Learning and Assessment plans. I was thrown in the deep end a little but I have managed to work my way through it. Some of my students have received high achievement and Health has been identified on a couple of occasions as achieving above state averages in the school. I think the greatest achievement from this is that when I first started teaching health, we had one class of nine year 12 students and a single class of 14 year 11 students. Over the years I have been able to re-write and tweak the course and now we have two year 12 classes of 20+ and 2 year 11 classes of 20+. The fact that the classes have grown through what I would say are predominately my courses is a pleasing achievement and one I am quite proud of.
Over your career, what has been your ‘love this’ moment?
Teaching wise I would have to say the ‘love this’ moments have been the numerous school camps I have been on. Whilst all extremely good fun and enjoyable from bike riding to kayaking to rock-climbing and snow skiing all have been super cool. Certainly my love snow skiing probably takes the cake. The fact that we can take 100 odd kids to the snow and I am able to go and share that experience with them is pretty cool. Being an avid skier myself it’s great to share things like that with students; be able to share something I love doing and hope it becomes something they love too. It’s all feel good…
What would be the least favourite aspect of your role?
Marking and reading. Not a huge reader and the time it takes to mark work, particularly senior students work, is quite long. It’s not all bad though because often the year 12 assignments are quite interesting.
I do have to admit that dealing with kids being knobs is not cool. One bad apple can spoil the bunch so certainly one of my least favourite areas to teaching is the Behavior Management side of things. What is great though is that I don’t really have all that many. I try to make my classes’ fun and student driven and that way I tend not to see many behavior issues.
Admin can also be a bit of pain. Quite often you feel as though the heel is being reinvented with ‘new’ things teachers have learn. I guess everyone has to so you just jump through the hoops. It does get a little tiring all the politics but it is what it is and you just deal with as best you can.
Any advice for anyone aspiring to be a teacher?
Be sure to have a go and give it a good go before you decide whether it is for you or not. Can you see yourself enjoying your work? Can you handle dealing with kids every day? It’s really funny but I think you have to be cut from the right mold to be a teacher. You are an actor that imparts knowledge. You have to want to teach otherwise the kids can see straight through you. Be fun and enjoy what you teach. Be enthusiastic and prepared to share your experiences with them. If you meet them half way they will meet you back. I think some of the greatest learning experiences come from informal teaching and that in itself is a highly sort skill. Not all learning has to be assessed. Education is not just about knowing the three R’s or scoring high in your tests. It’s about giving kids the ability to make informed decisions about any obstacle that may get in the way. If you can create a learning situation from something as simple as a conversation then perhaps teaching’s for you.