Geography Teacher — Wendy Grogan

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It would be fun to be in Wendy Grogan's Geography class. You can sort of tell. She's bright and enthusiastic, and it shows. All around her equally bright unit are memoirs of her travels—silk from China, artwork from Europe, a plaque from Florida and a wall hanging from Vietnam.

These days Geography is a large part of Wendy's life, but it wasn't always so. 'I ended up in Geography by default', she says. 'At secondary college and at university, some of my Geography subjects were there because other classes were full. I've kind of discovered Geography by accident—but I love it!

'During university, the more I did Geography the more I liked it. I ended up with a double major covering both the human and physical sides of Geography. I just liked the learning and the skill development.

'At the end of my degree, I wondered about teaching, but I took a job as a personal assistant. One year of that was alright, but it wasn't for me long term. There was too much routine and not enough challenge. And so I turned to a Diploma of Education the next year.

'From my first teaching round I knew I was on the right track. I could tell that teaching would give me the right mix of people contact, variety and challenge.

'Beginning teaching was a struggle though. It wasn't easy to find regular work at first. And then I had to prepare and control my classes, and to make it through the term. But I kept trying for my first two years when there were only casual jobs. Then I scored my first permanent job and I've been there ever since.

'Now there's a change! From my office and a phone as a personal assistant with not too much to do to 25–30 Year Sevens, all to be organised five or six times a day, nine or ten weeks at a time! I loved it!

'I'm teaching Years 7–10 Geography and a couple of other subjects. Kids need to be inspired. You've got to 'suck them in', enthuse them. I try to relate Geography to their lives: football, food, travel and the multicultural experiences they are having just growing up. All these things can be mapped, graphed and discussed. And we do lots of fieldwork—at least once per term. We go to the local park or shopping centre, to a forest or to a coastal location.

'Then, back at school we report by talks, AVDs (posters) and personal stories. The boys I teach like to learn what their friends think, so to some extent they feed off each other. And I'm in there too with my stories about Israel or Indonesia or somewhere I've been in Europe. I love to travel and I hope I convey the excitement of travelling to my students.

'I've probably got a few more years in me at my current school, but soon I'll be at a turning point. I'd love to teach Year 12 one day; which would mean a change of schools for me as we only go to Year 10 here. For now, I'm just enjoying broadening my students' minds.

'Geography has a way of being relevant to anyone, and I like getting that message through.'