A secondary school teacher at St Aloysius College, Laura Flynn says she never has to describe her role to people as they “usually start telling me their teacher stories and opinions on what makes a good one”.
That said, Flynn is more than happy to explain. “In a nutshell, I teach girls from Year 8 to Year 12 two subjects that I absolutely love, and do my best to get them to understand it and hopefully love it, too.”
You feel Flynn’s passion for her vocation when she describes the subjects she teaches: maths and science. “What draws me to mathematics and science is that, in terms of pure theory, I like how objective the subjects are. You can be right or wrong and there are no opinions involved.
“My aim is to create a classroom where students can ask questions and want to ask questions. I run activities where a student builds confidence and becomes curious. I also try and build trust in the classroom. I take my job and responsibilities seriously, but I have never been the ‘serious teacher’.”
For Flynn, the key tools of her trade are whiteboard markers and stationery, noting “any lesson can happen as long as there is a whiteboard marker”. Flynn says “teaching is not just an 8.30am to 3.30pm job”. She will interact with up to 150 students during a work day, knowing all their names and, importantly, understanding how each student learns and operates as an individual.
“I usually spend eight hours a day at school, and then bring homework to do either in the evening after my son is asleep or on the weekend while he naps. Sometimes, the work is marking, other times it is preparation for lessons or extra-curricular duties such as training and sport supervisions, debating nights or camps.”
When teaching, Flynn says “you can’t show that you’re having a bad day nor can you reorganise your day to prioritise different tasks”.
“The most challenging thing is that when the bell goes you are on,” she says.
“I was very fortunate to be taught by some exemplary teachers, who were both passionate and knowledgeable about their subjects. The teachers who inspired me to become a teacher were the ones who I got to know on a personal level.”
Flynn completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of Adelaide, specialising in chemistry and pure mathematics, before becoming a teacher though a Graduate Diploma in Education.
“When I left high school, I didn’t want to admit that I wanted to go back to school to teach,” she says of her career pathway. “However, when I chose my initial university course, I always had it in the back of my mind.”
Teaching often takes Flynn outside of the classroom. Over the course of her career, Flynn has taken time off to work with publishers such as Haese Mathematics to write questions for maths textbooks and other resources. She also supervised a team of students from Annesley College as they drove a hybrid car from Darwin to Adelaide in the Global Green Challenge.
School projects like this get to the heart of what Flynn finds most memorable about teaching. “I hate to sound cliché, but seeing that moment when the lightbulb goes on in a student’s mind, seeing the moment when the kid ‘gets it’ is very rewarding.”
Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator