Outstanding Teachers - Joseph Janiszewski, Primary Teacher, ACG Parnell College
What do you enjoy about being a teacher?
The opportunity to challenge children’s self-perceptions and their perspectives on the world. I love guiding them into the discovery that relationships underpin all learning, regardless of the subject. It’s very rewarding to build trusting connections with students and watch them exceed their expectations.
What’s great about primary students?
Students are often less inhibited. They are freer with their opinions and have less cognitive biases, so discussions in the classroom are often very organic. The teacher has the same class every period, every day, so you can observe and track progress in attitudes, work habits and academic results on a daily basis. I find this exciting and rewarding.
What do you consider your greatest achievement as a teacher?
There are many ways of evaluating the effectiveness of a teacher – like appraisal systems and academic results, but some of the most important indicators of success are difficult to measure. W.B. Yeats said that education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. If I can be known for that, I would consider that my greatest achievement.
What initiatives have you spearheaded?
My influence has been around curriculum development. As Year 6 teacher, I have made adjustments to Science and English planning and entirely rewritten the Humanities programme. I have also been running the Junior Choir.
What makes a great primary teacher?
Someone who is highly organised, considers the needs of all students and does their best to cater to them. Someone who makes it their priority to build meaningful connections with students and families. A good teacher should be truthful, but gracious, remain open to learning and constantly strive to improve and upskill. A good teacher knows when it is appropriate to be flexible, even if that means deviating from the objective.
What do you most like about ACG Parnell College?
I like the depth of collegiality that exists in our small primary faculty and the high expectations around school values. The school is well-resourced and the focus is predominantly on quality teaching and learning with minimal distractions to the programme.
Were there enlightening moments or inspirational people to set you on your way to a career in education?
I have a distinct recollection of standing in my parents’ conservatory at the age of 18 where I announced my sudden change of career direction from journalism to teaching. To say that I’d had a sudden epiphany would not be entirely true. For a number of years, I’d worked holidays at camps that predominantly catered for children associated with CYFS. I suppose it was a gradual realisation as I interacted with these kids that I wanted to choose a life direction that would make a difference in some tangible way. I decided to take a gap year, which I spent teacher-aiding with children on the autistic spectrum. The year served to further consolidate my desire to enter the teaching profession.
What are your thoughts on the benefits of independent schooling?
I believe that independent schools offer a very structured approach to learning. With quality staff, good resourcing and comparatively low class sizes, independent schools can offer an environment with high expectations of character and academic achievement within a setting that is caring and backed by the substantial support of the parent body.
In your role as a teacher, what do you most want for your students?
I want my students to know their worth, to be deeply engaged in their world, to be intrinsically motivated and to have the moral warehouse to exercise wise judgements as they go through life.