What does a lecturer do?
Sue has been lecturing in early childhood education - interspersed with kindergarten teaching - for around 25 years. During her career she has worked as a full-time tertiary lecturer. Her current role is as a sessional lecturer and trainer, combining her early childhood experience with the specialist fields of science and environmental education.
How did you become a lecturer?
Sue originally trained as a kindergarten teacher but a biology elective diverted her focus and inspired her to pursue science. She studied a Bachelor of Science with Honours and then a Master of Science. "I thought that I might be a microbiologist," Sue says, "but then the college I trained at invited me to come back and lecture." She jumped at the chance.
What does a typical working day involve?
Sue spends around three hours preparing for a University lecture, TAFE class or training session by reading, writing notes and organising handouts and practical materials. Each lecture usually takes around two hours and is often held in the evening. "My first lecturing experience was standing up in front of 100 people," she remarks. "That can be daunting, but it's more likely to be smaller groups of around 30 people."
During a lecture she uses teaching methods to interact and engage the group. These methods might be fostering group discussions, drawing from people's working experiences and expertise within the group, and leading activities that illustrate and teach skills.
What are some of the pros and cons of the job?
"Flexibility," Sue says. "Once you have a certain credibility you can choose your own working hours, which is great." Sue says that she really enjoys having professional contact with students and colleagues because it "challenges you and keeps you up-to-date in the field". She lists another benefit as students who are positive and interested in learning. "When I read on a student's evaluation that I've inspired them to think differently about a topic it's a real buzz," she says.
Conversely, Sue finds it really disappointing when students aren't committed to learning. Another lowlight is the end-of-semester rush to mark all her students' work and submit the results to the university.
Do you have any career highlights?
A key career highlight for Sue is writing books about science and environmental education, which are used as teaching tools. "I feel proud of putting down on paper what I'm trying to get across with my teaching," she says. Sue also mentions developing early childhood programs at Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens and the Melbourne Aquarium as achievements.
What sort of skills and qualities do you need?
"You need good listening skills," Sue says. "And confidence to be able to speak in front of 20 to 100 people." Other attributes she lists are patience, being creative in how you convey information, acknowledging people's different learning styles, and forming your own opinions and beliefs about teaching practices.
Are there any tips for getting a job as a lecturer?
"You need to be passionate about education," Sue says. "I want to inspire the students I work with and if you're passionate about your topic area then students respond to that. It's really important."
Sue suggests joining professional associations as useful networking forums and for keeping abreast of what's happening in a particular field.
She also mentions that it's important to have some practical experience in the field you wish to work in. "If you're teaching about being a chef, then you need to have worked as a chef," she uses as an example. "You can't just walk out of high school and become a lecturer. You need some practical experience in the vocation."
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).