Ms Barbara Fielder

Life before Girton
I commenced teaching in 1983 at Richmond Girls High School in inner Melbourne before being accepted as an Australian Volunteer in Africa. I taught History and Geography at Maun Secondary School in Botswana for three years before returning to Australia. I was posted to Newborough High School (Gippsland) which then became Lowanna College before moving into the Independent School sector. I worked as Head of Year Ten and then Director of Studies at St Paul’s Anglican Grammar School in Warragul for ten years before moving to Girton (and Bendigo) in 2007.

My formal qualifications include a Bachelor of Education (Arts) and a Graduate Diploma in Development Studies.

What I Love about Teaching
Where to start? It is the wonderful relationships between staff and students in a vibrant, ever-changing environment. The students continually surprise me and I love watching them gain in confidence, knowledge and skills. Teaching allows for everyone to share ideas and continually learn. It allows you to be creative and constantly challenge yourself. Having taught in numerous schools, both in and out of Australia, Girton really is like an extension of a family. From having students greet you in the morning, enquiring after your health if you are absent, to sharing jokes or engaging in deep and meaningful conversations. It is the genuine respect and care for each other that is at the core of the Girton ethos.

What do you like best about the subject/s you teach?
How can you understand today’s world without good historical knowledge? History is a window to the world – past, present and future. It teaches you to develop the skills to look beyond the headlines, to ask questions and express your opinions. History teaches you how to think and process information. It makes you appreciate just how complex people and societies are, both past and present. As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Walter McDougall wrote: “History is the grandest vehicle for vicarious experience: it truly educates…young minds and obliges them to reason, wonder, and brood about the vastness, richness, and tragedy of the human condition… Studying history provides a context in which to fit all other knowledge – like math, science, or literature – that a student may learn …”

My favourite classroom activity
I do not think that I have a favourite activity. I enjoy challenging my students to think and being rewarded with those “light bulb” moments when a concept is understood. I work hard to create activities that are innovative, challenging and thought-provoking. If students walk out the door at the end of a lesson still discussing the topic, as a teacher I get a buzz from knowing that an activity has triggered ongoing thought and discussion. An ability to question, reflect, analyse, think and argue a point of view are such vital skills to possess.

What difference can good teaching make?
A “successful student” takes on many guises. To be successful you do not have to achieve the highest grades. Being happy, confident, motivated are all vital components. As are being flexible and possess the ability to adapt to changing environments. Students must know their own strengths and weaknesses, possess a sense of humour and have an ability to learn from their mistakes. An ability to successfully balance schoolwork, family life and social activities are all indicators of success.

I also ask, “What attributes of your own do you hope your students benefit from?”

If a teacher does not love learning themselves, how can we expect our students to love learning? Passionate and knowledgeable teachers inspire and spark a love of their subject in the students. Students also respect a teacher who demonstrates honesty, openness and a deep knowledge of their subject areas. A person who has their interests at the core of their work.

Other Hats
At Girton my co-curricular activities have included Hockey (four years) and for the last four years Volleyball. Being able to work with a small group of students and meet their parents in a less formal environment is always rewarding. Outside of work I love hiking and trekking in various parts of the world. This combined with my love of travel and the outdoors, allows me the opportunity to stop and reflect upon what is truly important in life. There is nothing like paddling down a river or sitting on top of a mountain after a long hike, to put your life in perspective.