Keeping up with the modern classroom requires lifelong learning, writes Kristie Kellahan.
In the 16 years Helen Bezzina has worked at Thomastown Meadows Primary School, she has taught grades 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. Hundreds of students have passed through her classroom and taught her, she says, "to never miss an opportunity to laugh with the kids".
The need for humour may be a perennial fixture for teachers, but other things have changed over the years. In the time since Bezzina joined the ranks of education professionals, she says teaching has become much more data-oriented.
"Teaching today is focused on collecting, processing, analysing and responding to data," she says. "We must assess where the students are at and how to teach each student at their stage of development."
Another shift in the valued skill set is the modern-day focus on IT in the classroom setting. Teachers are now required to keep up their skills in computing, interactive whiteboards and use of the internet in order to create a stimulating technological classroom - a "huge part" of teaching today, Bezzina says.
"It's virtually impossible to be bored or stagnant with a job as challenging as teaching," she says. "My brain is constantly engaged in creative ways to make learning curious, stimulating and engaging for every child I teach."
This year, Bezzina has been appointed to the role of acting leading teacher.
She says continuing professional development and adopting the attitude of a lifelong learner who "relishes" the chance to grow and evolve has been essential for maintaining enthusiasm over the long haul.
Bezzina says she has learnt over time the need to question her own performance and look for ways of improving it. "There is a need to observe other teachers whenever possible and identify practices which are worth emulating."
Sherryn Owen began her teaching career 23 years ago. For the past 16 years she has taught upper and middle grades at Glen Katherine Primary School in Eltham North.
"I still love teaching and it definitely requires a love of children and the learning process to maintain enthusiasm," Owen says.
She notes that teaching has evolved to focus more on individualised learning. "Gone are the days when students all did the same task at the same time."
Today, primary classrooms focus on targeting specific learning needs. Literacy and numeracy groups challenge students at their own level, rather than "one size fits all".
Owen also points out there is now a greater emphasis placed on values and problem-solving strategies.
"Grade teachers now plan weekly as a team and regularly moderate students' work together to ensure consistency between classrooms," she says.
Her advice for new teachers is to treat all children in a friendly and consistent manner so they enjoy being part of the class.