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Returning to study

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Educators need education. The focus on both entry level and ongoing professional development is a fundamental requirement of participation in the National Quality Framework and, more generally, one of the hallmarks of a true profession in the modern world.

But sometimes it’s easier said than done. Time, money, confidence, employment, location and awareness can all play a part in whether we feel able to begin and complete our own education at any stage of life.

In her first article for Amplify, Clarence Town Preschool director Rebecca Boland reflects on how times have changed between her Bachelor’s degree in 1991 and her exciting new venture into a Master’s degree this year.

That was then

I started my Bachelor of Education at the University of Newcastle in 1991.

It was a time without mobile telephones. The internet was not in our homes. Computers used floppy disks that held a little less than 2 megabytes… to get an idea of that in terms of space, a photo file of that size can print out at a tiny 7cm wide!

Assignments were completed on paper and placed into a box at the university (or the post office). Professional journals were held in heavy print bindings within the university library.

The learning was long-hand but filled with rich content: curriculum studies, introductions to politics and research. The social side of university life was filled with fun and many late nights.

This is now

Jumping forward to 2018 I began to think about returning to formal study.

While this would not have any financial benefit to my work as a teaching director, the idea of focused, contemporary study was very appealing. It felt like time.

Researching my options I found an array of courses in universities across Australia. Almost too many. The postgraduate world for early childhood teachers provides a wide range of options for awards and content and the first task was to narrow that down.

Rebecca Boland
Clarence Town Preschool Director Rebecca Boland

The big questions

Refining my search I focused on my professional interests: pedagogy, curriculum content and the identity of the Australian early childhood sector.

The more I researched, the more questions I began to ask myself?

  • Am I too old to study?
  • Can I juggle full-time work, a family and study?
  • Have I been away from academic ways of thinking and writing for too long?
  • Can I afford this?

The revealing answers

Quickly I decided that age was no barrier – after all, Winston Churchill didn’t become Prime Minister of England until he was 62!

The commitment of study was something that I felt very ready to accept. I’m not a believer in worrying about having “enough time”. My philosophy is that we each have the same 1440 minutes in our day. What we choose to do in these minutes is up to us. With the full support of my family I knew I would be able to dedicate myself to study.

Cost vs benefit

The cost was a big consideration and for a while my imagination ran wild guessing what postgraduate studies might cost.

As a young undergraduate my fees accumulated to a HECS debt. The fear of having to pay to repeat a unit if I happened to fail didn’t cross my mind.

Further research into Masters courses showed me that, in some institutions, early education specialties were provided through the Commonwealth Supported Program which brought the course fees down considerably. There was also the option to defer payments.

I decided the cost was manageable for the benefit I hoped to gain.

Making a start

With my fears pushed aside and my determination strong I applied for my course and was thrilled to accept a place in the Master of Early Childhood program, studying externally through Macquarie University.

 I chose this university for its content and also the course convenors, many of whom are contemporary researchers and well respected in our field.

I attended an orientation day which was very interesting and also very daunting.

After my 250km drive I arrived at the introductory session where I was directed to sit at the front “with the other faculty members”. Much amused,  I explained that I was a student and took my place with my new peers instead.

Changed scene

I had my pen and notebook ready and was surprised to see most people using their phones or devices to take photos of the presentation.

I began to realise that while I’m not afraid of technology, I would need to embrace it more whole-heartedly! Letting go of my own nervousness, I found that help was everywhere and the support for all students – even mature ones from the country – was easy to find.

So glad I did

I now find myself beginning my first unit – “Introduction to Educational Research” – and wondering why I waited so long! The content is highly relevant to my teaching. I feel more confident to look critically at readings and articles than in my previous studies (because, let’s face it, we early childhood professionals are very well practiced in critical reflection!).

If further study has been on your mind you have many options. You don’t need to dive into a major study program straight away. Perhaps a Graduate Certificate is a place you could begin if you have a degree, or look for the scholarship programs out there to help take you from Diploma to Bachelor’s degree.

I believe the hardest step is to make the decision to begin. After that you’re on your way. I have a quote above my study area that I read each day:

“If it excites you and scares you at the same time, it probably means you should do it.”

About the author

Rebecca BolandRebecca Boland is the teaching director of a community preschool in regional NSW. In the 25 years since university Rebecca has worked in long day care, occasional care and preschool in the community, private and corporate sectors.

Rebecca has taught in the vocational education sector while also hosting professional development sessions and team building days.

Rebecca is currently undertaking a Master of Early Childhood through Macquarie University.

Clarence Town preschool

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