Angie Wilcock, High Hopes Educational Services
- 26th June 2008
Man Australia continues to interview the best
in the education sector.
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
When did you realise you wanted to work with kids?
I don’t know that the ‘realisation’
ever occurred – I just ‘fell’
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!
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’!!
What was it about teaching that made you stick
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.
Why did you leave teaching and start your own
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!
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