Founder and Coach, Peta Jeppesen shares on her extensive background in education and inspiration around Beyond the Classroom Australia.
“Get support. This is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of courage – looking after yourself is number one in the game of teaching. Value yourself enough to pay for this to happen – you will get so much more out of it as you are invested.”
Tell us a little bit about your childhood:
I lived in South West QLD on a cattle and sheep property near the town of Adavale, approximately three hours from Charleville and two hours from Quilpie. It was a quiet life with my parents. Some of my fondest memories were playing with my brother in the hills and caves. We would play many games like cowboys and Indians and princes and princesses. These are a few I remember best, but we would just play with sticks and stones as the saying goes.
My mother taught correspondence pre-school and I can remember doing a few activities with her. I also had the opportunity to go to school during this year in the UK, as she was British and we made the trip over to England to see my Grandparents during that year.
When it came time for school my parents were going put me into the Catholic boarding school in Quilpie. I remember the name tags being brought for this. However, my father remembered his time at Boarding School and didn’t want that for us. At the time Correspondence did not seem to be an option, so it was decided that we would travel to Charleville. It was 3 hours from our home to go to school. My mother got a job as a Blue Nurse – by luck, the job came up as we were going to school, my parents found a house in Charleville and off to school we went, travelling out to the property on the weekends.
Tell us about why you became a teacher?
I became a teacher as I loved the freedom of the imagination and the games that children played — endless fun. I wanted to be part of this again. I wanted to make school as fun as the imagination allows. The freedom to express imagination is so easy when you’re a child without limits and I wanted to see this in the education system.
Was there anyone in particular that inspired you to become a teacher and what was it about them that inspired you?
I was most inspired by my Year 7 teacher, Wendy Choice- Brooks. I loved listening to her stories of travelling to visit her sister in America. It seemed so, so exciting. The world of stories. She would have been my favourite teacher for the world of stories. She opened the possibility of what life has to offer.
I was not particularly smart at the school and struggled for most of my school years to pass which had a big impact on my confidence and self-worth. It’s been an ongoing mental battle to this day.
I do remember one day when I sitting in the library the last few days of Year 7 and we were watching something on the TV. I remember thinking I am great, I am going to something profound with my life. It was an idle and childishly egotistical thought but it has also stayed with me.
Tell us why did you take the next step to become a Principal? Where do you draw your inspiration in your role as a Principal?
It is the belief that someone has in you. I remember my last practicum at Red Range near Glen Innis and the Practicum Teacher asked have I ever thought of being a Principal. This opened up the idea that this could be possible for me and I was good enough to do this.
I took up my first Principalship at Springsure with an amazing bunch of the teachers who I still keep in contact with when I can. I was inspired to become a servant leader, to make my teachers shine and support them as much as I could. I believed if the staff were looked after then everything would run as smoothly as possible. So I did my best.
Do you learnt from being a Principal in three different schools has it changed you in any way?
I learnt something in each of my principal roles, but the three things I’ve hung onto are:
1. Know your story and who you are.
2. Create the Principal you want to be rather than being what you think everyone else thinks you need to be.
3. Understand all elements of life and how to put boundaries in all area so you can find balance.
What is your funniest teaching story?
My funniest story was with my beautiful teacher aide in Blackall Gaye Crawford. It was in the last week of the year and we allowed the children to have free play. We were sitting together, finishing off marking etc. We had the music playing and a favourite song came on and we – Gaye and myself and another student, Kellen, got up and started dancing to the song between the craziness of the classroom play. We allowed ourselves to get caught up in the fun and were all laughing by the end.
What are your tips for first-year teachers? Especially living in a rural and remote setting?
Get support. This is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of courage – looking after yourself is number one in the game of teaching. Value yourself enough to pay for this to happen – you will get so much more out of it as you are invested.
What is one thing you wish pre-teaching you knew about?
Work on the teacher you want to become and refine it with every opportunity you experience. Become the teacher you want to be rather than the teacher you think need to be.
This takes time to refine and place into your subconscious mind. It takes reflection. It is also lots of fun. Then grow in confidence and become this person.
What do you do to unwind and relax? Is there a favourite place to go to unwind?
Having a nap when I need it is the best way for me to unwind. It’s super important not to allow any guilt to be attached to it. Yesterday I had a nap and I felt so much better and got a lot done after this with such ease.
What motivates you?
I am motivated to make a difference in education to see the value of what teachers do and are, helping them to find balance, so they can connect to their purpose in all that they do as a teacher. I’m motivated to give teachers confidence in what they do, for them to believe in themselves and in their knowledge of their students. I want to help teachers find places to de-brief when things don’t quite right and find the places that give them energy so they can give energy to all areas of their lives. That is why I started Beyond the Classroom. To serve teachers and to help them find value in themselves. To make them feel supported and empowered and to allow them to be the best- version of themselves.
I’m also motivated by my daughters. I want to give myself up to their imagination and fun and live in the present with them every day – even if it’s only for a small part of the day. After all, the part of the teaching that I love most is the possibility of imagination.
Do you have any favourite Blog, Instagram Facebook accounts, that you follow that inspires you in your professional life and personal life?
So many Instagram and Facebook accounts, I love stories of people and how they came to be.
This weekend I listened to a Podcast of Elise Pioch from Maison Balzac, a candle maker and how her business links directly to her story of life growing in the South of France in with her Grandparents and family. The smells are reflected in her candles.
I love Gillian Bell & Annebelle Hickson podcast called Dispatch to a Friend.
It is so lovely and reminds me of all the things I love about the country of Australia and Gillian’s beautiful English accent reminds of memories of England and my mother. It reminds me of my story — the heart of Australia and with the influence of England playing in my heart and soul.
What has this year been like in Education in 2020 with Covid19?
Like, everyone, it has been a challenge to adapt and change quickly, however it has also allowed for innovation and the opportunity to try a different way of presenting and teaching. We got to know the students and families more closely.
These are few words from a number of teachers who described the year in education in one or two words?
A roller coaster. evolving, varied, diverse, flexible, patience, eye-opening challenging, rewarding, unexpected, trying, relationships, connecting, finding meaning, breaking point.
Finally, what is next for you?
My next step is really to put my energy into Beyond the Classroom Australia.
I want to give teachers a space to be free in their thinking, to be able to express who they really are as a teacher and person. Give teachers the opportunity to reflect on their practise, as well as on their whole, broader purpose and how they achieve this purpose in their life journey.
And of course, I will always continue to support my husband’s business and our family and friends.
Teach … [verb]
1) To impart knowledge of or skill in; give instruction in.
2) To instruct by precept, example, or experience
Empowering you, the teacher, to empower our children, the leaders of tomorrow.
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