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You are not alone: the journey of a graduate November 4, 2012

Posted by Editor21C in Early Childhood Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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from Angel Mok

Definitely unexpectedly, and almost contrarily, a mixture of emotions about life gushed to my heart when I finally sat down to write this article. It is ONLY five years ago that I left the University of Western Sydney but so much has happened. I’ve seen a lot of transformation in both my friends and myself, and this really makes five years feel much longer than it is. We are no longer the new graduates who doubted every step and decision we made. We are so much more confident because we know we have chosen the right paths for ourselves.

No matter where you are on your career path, I hope you are doing something you are passionate about and using what you have learned from UWS or your own insitution.  If you are not very sure about this, perhaps you might consider contacting some of your lecturers and tutors at UWS and discussing options with them. Or perhaps you might have been thinking to connect/reconnect to some people who would understand your current circumstances. I hope your Alumni can bridge this connection and provide you with the support we all need.

Entering the workforce with a teaching qualification opened up a whole range of possibilities for me but like many new teachers, the initial excitement was accompanied with lots of doubts and uncertainties. I did not follow my classmates to secure a full time position in a childcare setting or primary school after I got my Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) in 2007. Instead, I have been working in different educational settings including long day care, preschools, primary schools and various universities since then. The experience of working in a range of settings has really enriched my understanding of teaching and learning, as well as of myself.

Inquisitive minds in the classroom always excite me and make all the hard work in schools worthwhile. But I was also aware of my thirst for intellectual stimulation which had become a driving force that took me back to University. Eventually in 2010, I followed my heart and did something I am passionate about but really never expected that I would do. I embarked on a journey to do a PhD. Embarking on research has been a very steep learning curve but I am loving every moment of it. I often doubt my capacity to finish such a big project as a PhD but I have never considered giving up because I believe this is an amazing new path.  

I am not sure how the leap into doing a PhD actually happened, but I am sure it would never have happened without my experiences at UWS. I still vividly remember sitting in the lecture rooms, listening attentively to my lecturers – Ros Elliot teaching ‘Constructions of Childhood’, Jean Ashton on ‘Literacy’, Chris Johnston on ‘Additional Needs’, Criss Jones Diaz on ‘Postmodernist theories’. And who can forget making sherbet and flying hot air balloons in Colin Webb’s science curriculum classes as well as the EXPOs which showcased students’ talents and hard work? Those were some of my fond memories of studying at UWS from 2005-2007. What an amazing couple of years I had at UWS. It just feels like yesterday.

Like a lot of young people, I entered university right after high school and got my first degree without thinking too much about what I really wanted to do in the future. It was not until I did my masters degree at UWS as a mature student that I started to realise how much I love learning. And now this is the second year into my PhD research which aims to explore the cultural identity of Chinese residents in Sydney, and how that influences their children’s performance in mathematics. It is still too early to share any of the ‘findings’ but this autoethnographic study has helped me to understand ‘my people’ and myself.

As mentioned before, I spent a couple of years exploring the possibilities of applying my knowledge before I eventually committed myself to one of them. As exciting as it might sound, I have to admit that this journey of exploration was not easy at all. In fact, it was a rather lonely journey which was full of self-doubt. I am lucky to have classmates and friends who have been very supportive along the way, but I still wish I knew someone who was also exploring his/her professional identity as I was. I needed to know I was not alone.

I think that one of the greatest values of the UWS Alumni is that you can talk to someone from a similar background, who understands your situation and can provide you with the social and professional support we all need. Perhaps you can find this person(s) from the Alumni. And I guess this is all it’s about – creating a network of support that is much needed for all of us.

Angel Mok is a former a PhD student at the University of Western Sydney in the School of Education. Angel has previously undertaken a Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies and Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) at UWS.

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