Lionel Cranenburgh is an experienced and passionate educator, who currently directs a WA based career development and training company specialising in teacher and principal progression.
Q. What led you to become a teacher?
I’d love to say it was my passion to make a difference, but in reality, it was the only job I could get in Bangalore, India so I became a secondary teacher in an independent boys school.
Q. What is your career path as an educator?
I’ve been associate professor of English Literature at a university in India, senior lecturer at TAFE in Communications, head of English in the West Australian education system, as well as stints as an education officer and principal.
Q. How did you become a teacher in WA after emigrating from India in 1970?
I only had three pounds sterling, a wife and child to support and twins on the way. I applied to the Armadale senior high school to be a gardener.
The principal was surprised to learn that I was one of the few teachers with a Master of Arts degree in WA. I was happy when he offered me a job as an English teacher.
Q. What are you most proud of in your career as an educator?
There are several things. In the 70s schools in WA did not cater for gifted and talented children.
I formed an organization called the gifted and talented children’s association of WA; it’s still going.
As schools didn’t want to do anything, to get things moving I started small enrichment projects run by volunteer parents.
I organized sessions where famous authors like Elizabeth Jolley and university lecturers did workshops for gifted kids on Sunday. We had programs from pre-school to year 12.
Q. What was the outcome?
The Australian newspaper placed banners on Perth’s streets saying ‘WA Super Kids In New Test Program’, and schools across Australia asked me to tell them how they could start programs like ours.
I was asked by the Education Department of WA to plan a program that would launch gifted and talented programs in WA and I did. Q. What led you to become a journalist? The Regent Institute of London trained me in short story writing and journalism. I worked as a freelance journalist for
Education World, the West Australian and Australian Broadcasting Corporation for many years and have over 50 years’ experience as a journalist and lecturer in journalism.
I started a group of cadet journalists called The Classroom Press.
I taught them how to interview politicians, research stories, create reader interest, and report on local government and personalities like former Prime Minister Paul Keating and the first female Labor senator Susan Ryan.
One of the cadets became a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald and others won awards in writing competitions.
Q. What advice do you have for graduates in teaching or those wanting to teach?
Each teacher is unique. You need to build your own identity as a teacher.
Share your special talents with students as kids know when they are getting a ‘real deal’.
The best training is to observe master-class teachers and get them to mentor you. Let them observe you and give you feedback.
Q. What kind of professional development would you recommend for teachers?
Professional learning should be future-focused and relevant.
I see little value in doing professional learning to show that you have attended lots of courses.
I believe teachers should conduct trials of key concepts and refine their practice to achieve long-term gains.
Q. Is it more challenging being a teacher today than when you began your career?
Yes. There is more competition for jobs, an over-crowded syllabus, the system requires you to assess students continually and bureaucrats put pressure on teachers to comply with government agendas.
Teachers deal with the pressure in much the same way that surgeons or athletes do when facing challenges.
Deal with challenges, learn from them and light a spark by bringing your own brand of innovation to teaching.