Teacher (TAFE)

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David, early 40s

What does a TAFE teacher do?

For non-fiction writer David, TAFE teaching is a good way to bring his practical experience as a journalist into a classroom. Unlike university or high school education, TAFE is strongly orientated toward industry knowledge. As David says, "The T of TAFE is technical, so it's that bridge between student life and working life."

While classes have familiar elements like assignments, lectures and reading materials, David reckons TAFE teaching is more about "melding a class together as a peer group and creating this environment is one of my challenges and pleasures." TAFE students are often mature aged so they bring their own careers and experiences to a class as well.

How did you become a TAFE teacher?

For David, TAFE teaching accompanies his job as a writer. "I always wanted to be a writer and then I was a magazine writer and I'm still both," David reflects, "But now I'm a TAFE teacher as well which is a pretty rich loop to be part of."

For most TAFE teachers their main profession is the subject they teach, be it non-fiction writing, photography, welding or aromatherapy. "I believe that a TAFE teacher ideally is a casual teacher, because they're engaged in the working environment as well as an educational environment."

David first worked as a casual teacher for TAFE seven years ago, by "just doing a guest tutor spot for a couple of classes which got my name in the loop."

What does a typical TAFE class involve?

David's classes are known for being dynamic, regularly mixing his presentation methods in any lesson. "I do like to be unpredictable in the classroom," David grins. "That might not suit every student or every subject, but in an evening class it's important to keep the interest level up."

David uses quizzes, workshopping of assignments and even gives students the chance to interview each other, all to keep his class vibrant and interesting. "There is an element of entertainment," David concedes. "You can't rely on the material being the sole reason for the class."

What sort of skills and qualities do you need?

While David agrees that there is an element of entertainment in TAFE teaching, it's not the most important skill required. "The biggest skill is a confidence to know that your experience counts for something, to be confident enough to express that experience helpfully and practically, and to be able to listen, too."

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

The biggest thrill David gets is seeing former students going on to careers in magazine or newspaper writing. He remembers one student who "is practically her own brand" with regular work on Melbourne magazine. "I kept encouraging her as a stylist and she had sharp humour, really faddish, and a really good eye for trends."

The downside is students who aren't really interested, which doesn't happen very often in adult education. "I had one student two years ago who was a chronic yawner and I now know that he had a job that made him get up early, but for the first few months I did take it personally."

Are there any tips for getting a job as a TAFE teacher?

While having an area of expertise is important, potential TAFE teachers need to develop teaching skills. "You can't rely on your own expertise to give you virtuosity as a teacher," David advises. "I have a Dip Ed [Diploma of Education]. It's a 12-month course, a post-grad qualification."

For David TAFE is a unique form of teaching: "You don't have a mortarboard on your head - this isn't academia or Hogwarts, this is pretty much more of a mentor role."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).