Passion and purpose

Meet Mr Joseph Paton, Tatachilla’s Year 5 Teacher.

What inspired you to work in the field of education?

I had lots of fantastic teachers throughout my own school journey but two in particular stand out as having a pivotal role in steering me on the path to becoming a teacher. My Year 5 teacher was an incredibly kind, patient and stable figure in my life. This was during a time when my parents were going through the separation of their marriage and I, as a ten year old boy, wasn’t sure how to channel all the emotions I had swirling around in me. A year later, in Year 6, I had a teacher who just seemed to fill up the room with her passion for learning and her incredible enthusiasm for every single subject she taught. Combined, these two teachers inspired and challenged me to become a teacher through the effect they had on my own life at this time. I am still deeply inspired by both these teachers and my ultimate aim is to have a similar effect on the students in my classroom.

Describe the pathway that led you to becoming a teacher at Tatachilla.

After graduating from the University of Wollongong I started my first full-time position as a Year 5/6 teacher in Cootamundra, NSW. I taught for two years in this small country town and loved the sense of community and support I experienced as a beginning teacher. From Cootamundra I moved to Randwick, Sydney which was definitely a change of environment and pace of life. I taught at Claremont College in Randwick for the next seven years. I loved my time at this school and learnt a lot from many great teachers I taught with and opportunities I was given. In 2017 my girlfriend (now wife) Natalie and I decided to quit our jobs and go travelling through Europe, with the view of settling in Adelaide, close by her family when our trip was finished. Whilst we were overseas and sailing in Croatia I received an email that I would be interviewing for a job at Tatachilla over Skype. Once we docked in Split, Croatia I managed to purchase a business shirt, a tie and was then ready at 5am the next morning for my interview which, thankfully, was successful!

What do you enjoy most about your role as a Year 5 teacher?

When children are in Year 5 it is such a fantastic age to be involved in their learning. Generally they are very enthusiastic, positive, creative and will give anything a go. They have begun to be curious about the wider world and the conversations we have in the classroom can be incredibly informed, mature and thought-provoking. Children in Year 5 have also reached a level of independence where, as a teacher, it is exciting to encourage this and to step back and help them further develop their initiative and problem-solving strategies. Being a Junior School teacher, I also enjoy creating lessons and experiences across a range of subject areas. Across a day I may teach Maths, Reading, Science, Technology, Writing, Christian Studies or several other subjects and I enjoy the variety that every day brings. Teaching across these subjects also gives me the opportunity to encourage students to see the links between different ideas, knowledge or concepts.  

What is one way that you have included conceptual learning in your teaching?

As a Year 5 teaching team we have been challenging ourselves to step back and look for opportunities to connect ideas across the curriculum. We have found that by connecting ideas, knowledge and concepts together – rather than teaching them in isolation – the depth of student understanding has increased. For example, a concept we explored last term was ‘systems’. We used a systems-thinking approach to first define what a system is and what can make it effective or ineffective. Once students had a clear idea about systems they were pointing out examples of systems everywhere! We then applied this to our Technology unit on ‘computer systems’ and our HASS unit on ‘systems of government’. It was impressive to see how the students were able to visually represent the Australian Government as a system and the different interactions that exist within this system.

Tell us about your passions beyond work.

My wife and I recently bought a house and a puppy. I have discovered that both of these involve a major investment of your time! We have also loved getting to know our community and exploring up and down the Fleurieu Peninsula over the last 18 months. I have always been a passionate reader too and, although this can take a back seat during the school term, I try to make up for it in school holidays. Sport is the other area that I am somewhat obsessed by, particularly cricket and rugby league. My favourite team is the Sydney Roosters and, lucky for me, they actually do play one game each year at Adelaide Oval. 

What do you enjoy about working at Tatachilla?

I start every day with a short drive to work that involves first driving past the beautiful coastline at Port Noarlunga and then through the vineyards of McLaren Vale. Upon getting to school I know I’m walking into a workplace that is professional, encouraging, friendly and child-centred. I know that every day will be busy and some days will be challenging but that every member of the Tatachilla staff genuinely care for, and want the best for, our students. Mostly though, I enjoy working with the kids. Even if I’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed or had a bad night’s sleep, I know they’ll put a smile on my face pretty quickly.


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