Life is too short to spend your working days dreaming of the weekend.
We know the only cure for ‘Monday blues’ is to love what you do. It may take a lot of hard work and personal reflection to get there, but it is an achievable dream. Take it from Janelle, who is living her passion every day. Janelle Connor grew up in Sydney, in a family of educators. With her aunts, uncle and mother teaching, she saw how much they cared about their jobs and learned about the reality of education from an early age.
She always knew that she wanted to teach, but teaching is a diverse field. She had to go on a journey to discover what kind of teacher she would be.
After studying teaching and entering the classroom in her twenties, she ended up in the support class in her school. One student, in particular, needed her help. From her profound experience with this student, she knew that special education was the field for her.
“There are lots of differences between a special education class and a mainstream class. In special education, I am more able to tailor the learning to each individual needs. I love the out of the box thinking and problem solving I need on a daily basis.I get to take traditional ideas and strategies about education and modify them to what the individual student needs for their education.”
Two and a half years ago, she started working as the Autism Support Class Teacher at Padstow North Public School in Western Sydney.
Finding a school that’s supportive of innovation opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities.
“It was great to come into a school that was excited and wanted to set up this class. The school places a big emphasis on inclusion of all students in all school activities such as SRC, running assemblies, choir, playground programs and school planning.
We work well together as a team to help each student achieve in the classroom and playground. The staff and particularly the principal are great with ensuring that these students positively supported and praised when they achieve.”
Every day, Janelle supports kids on the spectrum to overcome their individual challenges.
For her, the biggest moment of satisfaction comes when she sees a child make a breakthrough with something they’ve been struggling to grasp.
“It’s the little things that others take for granted but my students need to work twice as hard to achieve.”
I love it when you get to see a student finally achieve something for the first time that they have been working on for a long time.
“They have a special look on their face. It’s a mixture of joy and pride, and they want everyone to know what they can do. When they do succeed you have to tell everyone so they can also share the fantastic moment.”
Helping kids with special needs overcome their challenges is a community activity.
Janelle is always working with parents, speech therapists and occupational therapists to create a holistic learning plan, driven by common goals. These close relationships and sense of community are a big part of what it means to be working in education.
“Parents really appreciate the large amount of effort special education teachers put in for their children, and when they say thank you, it is clear to see the depth of emotion and sincerity they are attempting to convey.”
Janelle’s job is about doing something positive for the kids and the community, but it’s also got a fun side. There are always plenty of laughs in the classroom, too.
“I love the humor you experience. I have the most random things occur and they just make you and the students laugh. I love how every day I have at least one story that will bring a smile or a giggle.”
Janelle is now studying a Masters of Education (Special Education) at Torrens University. This course is designed for educators like her who have experience but want to grow. She’s decided it’s time to take the profession she loves to the next level.
What advice does she have for anyone thinking of starting a career in education?
“Teaching is a full on but rewarding job. You have a big impact on a child’s life and see them grow. You will be underappreciated for the amount of work that is involved from the wider community, but your colleagues understand why it is so important that you make that effort. It is a lot of hard work, but if you love a challenge then check it out.”