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Royce Vagg - Teacher, Kingsford Smith School

Royce Vagg teacher spotlight image

What drew you to teaching initially? What inspired you to become a teacher?

I love learning new things and sharing them with others, but I often struggled in school myself. Learning is such a fundamental part of our lives - we learn by talking with others, experiencing new things and asking questions about everything and anything. As a student I struggled with new content or concepts until the teacher explained or created experiences that were meaningful to me. So, in my own teaching I use formative assessment to track understanding and check in with students to find ways of making the content meaningful, so they leave each lesson with something.

Tell us about your job. What does a typical day look like?

Part of what drew me to education is that very few days could be described as typical. In saying that, I have some set routines that support me through each week. I start a work day by reviewing the lessons for the day to make sure I have the resources I need. I also try to check in with classroom teachers to see if there are any special considerations or needs of students that I should be aware of. Once the morning bell rings I collect my first class and begin the teaching day. A busy day involves teaching six lessons of about 45 minutes, with a play support duty and lunch break somewhere in the mix. Once the final bell rings it’s either time for meetings, planning for future lessons, updating teachers or contacting families with any important information about student progress.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part is easily having the opportunity and privilege of working with some of the brightest young minds in Canberra. I get to support students to develop a range of skills and understandings that open up possibilities for their future. And I get to be there when they have those powerful 'light bulb' moments in their learning.

What is it like to teach Mandarin? Why is language teaching important?

Teaching Mandarin has been rewarding for me. I get to work with all the students from preschool to grade 5 which has given me more of a whole school perspective than I'd get if I was focused on teaching a single class. This has meant that I've watched the journeys of many students from their preschool beginnings all way to reading, writing and speaking in two or more languages.

Learning a language has so many benefits from developing cultural understanding and empathy to learning how languages are structured. I teach children to look at word order in sentences, to listen to how people express feelings in different contexts and with different people as well as the vocabulary and sentence structures that enable them to communicate in another language.

Have you been to China? If so, can you share your three favourite things about China?

I worked in China for just over two years, teaching English in a private language school. My favourite memories of China are definitely the passionate and inquisitive students I taught, despite attending my lessons after a full day of school they were eager to find out new things about Australia and how to express themselves in English. Secondly, despite Chinese cities being incredibly busy places, the people I met were courteous and incredibly welcoming. Finally, teaching in China was what showed me I had a true passion for teaching and led to me returning to Australia to formalise my ability to teach and enter the field of education.

What is something about your work people may not realise?

I work hard to give everyone the time and attention they deserve, if I do this well then people may not realise that they are one of over 400 students or additional family members that on a good day I can address by their first name. Each one of these children and their families deserves to be treated individually and to play an active role in their own education. This is a complex task - but relationships form the core of what we do as teachers, so I feel good about the extra effort I put in to learn names and interests.

What is the most important lesson you have learnt throughout your career?

In my short career as a teacher I've learnt that in education you can only get out what you put in. No matter how high we set our expectations children are always able to exceed them and it's been wonderful and humbling to watch students putting in the effort and surpassing their expectations as they achieve their learning goals. The more time, energy and resources we put in to students the higher they reach.

What would be your best advice to a starting fellow teacher?

As a beginning teacher you need to be supported and nurtured in order to reach your potential, and be willing to ask for help. Children will surprise and amaze you every day you teach. I believe that in order to reach high quality teaching you must be ready to learn from mistakes, especially the painful and emotional mistakes because those are often where the most powerful lessons are hiding.