Meet Jessica: Master of Teaching (Early Childhood and Primary) student

For Bachelor of Science graduate and Master of Teaching (Early Childhood and Primary) student, Jessica Lee, the University of Melbourne has provided a space to discover what she’s passionate about, build new skills and feel empowered to make a positive impact.

Jessica's journey to Melbourne

When Jessica made the decision to study at Melbourne, she took a leap of faith leaving her family and friends in Indonesia to move to a city she had never visited. Today, she has no regrets.

“I had been travelling in the States, China and Japan, but I had never been to Australia. When I came to Melbourne, I just fell in love with how friendly everyone was and how welcoming, diverse and multicultural the city is,” says Jessica.

“At university, we have a common purpose. We don’t really care where you’re from. We’re just here to learn from each other. I think that’s what I like the most about being at Melbourne.”

Jessica arrived aged 17 and found herself living at College Square on Swanston, one of the many student accommodation options in Melbourne. This was her home throughout both her undergraduate and masters study programs.

“Living in student accommodation, people are really friendly and there’s a lot of free events,” says Jessica.

Why the Master of Teaching?

Jessica’s path to teaching began with the decision to major in psychology during her undergraduate degree.

“A lot of the psychological attachment disorders start when you don’t have a strong attachment to your significant other, or carers and things like that. There’s a lot of research around attachment theory during early childhood that indicates if you’re in a good educational setting, but you don’t have a really good family life, it can actually kind of offset it.”

“By being a teacher, I can be part of the equation of remedying the problem in a broader way. As a psychologist for example, if I did go on to be a psychologist, it would be one-on-one. As a teacher you have a lot of other students. I thought my impact would be wider.”

This sentiment was reinforced for Jessica by a teacher who said, “you’re not changing the world, but you are changing that child’s world.”

I thought, why don’t I be the person who is there for them when they need it?

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Life as a graduate student

There’s little doubt graduate study came with its own set of challenges. A coursework degree, the Master of Teaching is a two-year program with intense practical learning opportunities.

“There are a lot of strategies that have been tested and researched, we’re in the forefront of applying those strategies. When we teach, we’re using these evidence-based methods, and I think that really prepared me for when I actually worked with children. I know what I’m doing, and I know why I’m doing it,” says Jessica.

For Jessica, the research options in her degree allowed her to explore the intersect of her new-found passion for nature with education practices.

“My favourite subject was Researching Education Practice. We had to research our own topic, which we were free to choose. I chose outdoor environment education for Early Childhood and Primary. It was interesting to read the research. I never knew how important it was for children to develop a connection to nature.”

Jumping into the classroom

Practical learning is integral to the Master of Teaching (Early Childhood and Primary). Over 100 placement days at teaching facilities are included in the two-year study structure.

“Placements are like professional teaching practice,” says Jessica. “While on placement you are assigned an experienced teaching mentor to visit you, go over your paperwork and give feedback. You also have a mentor teacher at the practice centre who supports you throughout the placement,” she explains.

Jessica’s early childhood placement wasn’t only great work experience – that lead to a casual job – it was also the first time she had ever worked closely with young children.

“I’ve never been around little children, especially from birth to five years old. It was pretty much a shock. You had to change nappies. You had to carry them a lot and comfort them. I’m not used to handling babies, but my mentor teacher was really supportive,” says Jessica.

“The centre I was at for my first placement was amazing. They had a lot of professional development for the staff, really enforcing the early years framework that we’d been using. I learnt a lot from watching them. Being able to get feedback on how I was engaging with the children is what made me confident enough to continue.”

So how did she land that casual job? Well, good things come to those who ask.

“My first placement was really good, so I asked if they had any space available for casuals. You have to be out there and ask. Even if they say no, what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll never see them again, I guess.”

Managing the workload

The workload and expectations during postgraduate study proved both challenging and rewarding for Jessica, who has built lasting supportive friendships with many of her classmates.

“I’ve never known a group of people so well. You see them nearly every day. That bond is a big highlight of my postgraduate study,” she says.

For Jessica, the key to persevering through her workload was learning to stop procrastinating, “If you want to take a break, just take a break. Rather, than force yourself to study when you don’t feel like studying, go out and take a walk. What you’re doing now will contribute to something in the future, even when you’re just sitting and reading, it may be useful for an essay.”

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