Interview - Angie Wilcock

Interview: Angie Wilcock, High Hopes Educational Services - 26th June 2008

Media Man Australia continues to interview the best in the education sector.

1. What is your family background?

My dad was in the army and we lived in army housing until I was 5 years old and had just started school. He was discharged with a degenerative spinal condition soon after, and we had to move from Ingleburn – I don’t know how we ended up at Jannali, in the Sutherland Shire, but we loved it. We moved house twice after Jannali, but remained in the Shire. I still live here! I had a very happy and carefree childhood and, although I know mum and dad did it tough at times, my sister and I were well-loved and always encouraged to follow our dreams.

2. When did you realise you wanted to work with kids?

I don’t know that the ‘realisation’ ever occurred – I just ‘fell’ into it!
I had an absolute passion for sport and was always active as a kid. Unfortunately I suffered very badly with asthma and, under doctor’s orders, was referred to either swimming or running to help build my lungs. I hated swimming, probably because I had learnt to swim in a river with mud, sludge and jelly blubbers! No fancy pools then! My asthma dramatically improved due to my involvement and training in athletics, and I made a conscious commitment to be the best athlete I could be. I retired from competitive running at 28, after representing Australia many times internationally at the highest level, in distances from 400m (as a relay member) to the marathon! My single most disappointing moment in life was missing the 1976 Montreal Olympics, after being the sole Australian 1500m qualifier, due to injury.
I always assumed that my interest and passion for sport would lead me to a career in sports administration, or something similar, but I won a teacher’s scholarship after my HSC, so I thought I would give it a try!

3. What was your first impression of teaching?

Boy, I didn’t know what hit me! I actually didn’t take up teaching straight away. I finished my Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney, with majors in English and Education, and then completed my Diploma in Education. I was supposed to start teaching the following year, but accepted a part-time position with a Sydney newspaper to write my own women’s sports column and opened up a small sports store as well! Three years down the track, I decided to give teaching a go and was very nervous about the prospect. I started doing ‘casual’ work and my very first class was a Year 6 group – I’m sure they saw me coming and used all the tricks of the trade to test me out. My first impression of teaching was ‘survive’!!

4. What was it about teaching that made you stick it out?

I guess after the initial shock and nerves, I grew to enjoy both the spontaneity of kids and the ‘newness’ of every day. In my first few years I had some really tough classes but, when I reflect on how I handled different kids and different situations then, I like to think I would do a better job now in those same situations. Teaching is a very demanding, but rewarding job, and it’s a pity that we are under so much pressure to deliver curriculum that we can so easily miss the ‘small joys’ along the way - like the joy of a 5 year old showing a favourite birthday present in ‘Show and Tell’ or the Year 6 boy keen to tell ANYONE he scored the only goal in the soccer Grand Final! We need to keep looking for the ‘small joys’ if we want to teach – if we lose that, it’s time to move on! Of course, having children of my own changed my perspective on kids enormously - more patience, empathy and resilience!

5. Do you think our education system ‘inspires’ kids?

Depends on what you mean by ‘inspire’. Modern education provides lots of opportunities for kids to excel, to follow particular subjects of interest in high school, to set them on a path for a career, vocation etc. Unfortunately, because there are so many choices out there and so much ‘material’ to learn, we lose a lot of kids who simply can’t keep up. The academic ‘cream’ will always rise to the top, but we still judge our system and our students on their academic ‘achievement’ – achievement that has very little to do with ‘inspiration’ but more with ‘perspiration’ and hard work. I heard Sir Ken Robinson speak about ‘creativity’ in our education system, and I think he’s right when he says that it is ‘mined’ out of our students in favour of pure academic achievement. ‘Creativity’ and ‘Inspiration’ seem to go hand in hand, and I don’t think our education system (or any international system for that matter) really caters to our ‘inspired big picture’ learners.

6. Why did you leave teaching and start your own business?

I still teach on a ‘casual’ basis, but after more than 20 years I felt I needed a change. Actually, starting this business was NOT what I had in mind!
I was sitting as part of an audience, with my Year 10 son, listening to a presenter talking about study skills for high school students. It was very enlightening and extremely useful information for both parents and students – but what appealed to me was the fact that BOTH groups (kids and their parents) were hearing the SAME message at the SAME time! It was a great opportunity for lines of communication to open.

At the time, I was teaching a Year 5/6 class of gifted and talented students – very full on! It occurred to me that this kind of open dialogue in a setting like this was not available for primary students. My current students were about to embark on the ‘high school journey’ the following year and the prospect of exams, study, time management – all those tools you need to survive high school – were generally not on the primary school agenda. Over the years I have heard SO many parents bemoan the fact that their son or daughter didn’t know what hit them in high school, and many struggle with the change. Despite the fact that all of my Year 6 students had been accepted into selective high schools, I felt certain they were not nearly prepared enough for the dramatic changes ahead. So, I decided to package a program of transition to high school ‘issues’ – concerns raised with me over several years – and offer it to schools. Lots of research and reading, an interview with Professor Tony Vinson (an expert in education and particularly this area) and asking parents what are their most common fears, evolved into my B.O.A.T program – and my company HIGH HOPES EDUCATIONAL SERVICES was born!


High Hopes Educational Services

High Hopes Educational Services blog


Angie Wilcock

High Hopes Educational Services