Megan Dredge is a leading educator in Australia. Originally a primary school teacher from Sydney, she now lives in Melbourne with her young family where she runs her own business, facilitating training for teachers, leading conferences and developing a pool of resources to support teachers at different stages of their careers.
Her initial steps into entrepreneurship came when working as a relief (supply) teacher. Suddenly realising she was getting much more business than her peers led her to analyse the many different approaches she had brought to this unique role with a series of targeted resources, her first book and then a DVD quickly following. This has now evolved to her current body of work including a website followed by thousands of teachers across the country.
I caught up with Megan on my way back through Melbourne en route to Asia. Accompanied by her young son Maddox – who occasionally joins her for work meetings, we chatted about her work supporting teachers as well as the challenges facing them in the modern education system.
‘Lots of teachers seem to have lost their passion for the best job in the world. I work with teachers as that way I can have even greater impact. Often my main focus is about engagement and motivation.‘
It perhaps is not surprising that a main focus of her work is on teacher engagement. According to Megan, Australia has a high attrition rate amongst recently qualified teachers with many often citing a crowded curriculum, unrealistic expectations, poor work-life balance and heavy workload as reasons behind their decisions. This is mirrored in the UK where a similar situation exists – with a high percentage leaving the profession within 5 years of qualifying. This was brought starkly into focus recently when even the Secret Teacher – a regular columnist writing for The Guardian newspaper, also informed their readership of their decision to leave the profession.
‘For me it is all about passion. We need more passionate teachers – they need the ability to learn and to grow, to be creative but also to try things and not be afraid to fail. My concern is whether the mentoring is really strong enough for teachers in their early years in the profession – are the mentors really bought into it? My first boss [a Principal] was a leader – he led the team, the whole school, and this included me as a casual relief teacher. Many Principals don’t even know the names of their casual teachers, let along know them – and yet they are working with the students and talking to parents each and every day.’
We talked further about what passion meant to her, and how this relates to the the inspiration that many teachers seek from her work.
‘I am all for the idea of the engaged teacher. My mum was my inspiration – she was, and still is such an amazing teacher. I still get many ideas from her although there is now a bit of a role reversal as I help her with website. You’ve got to have something which motivates yourself.’
‘I would teach kids to be self-aware. What makes them inspired? I had many of the skills [I use now] at age 11 but didn’t have the self awareness that they were what they were…’
I was also keen to understand Megan’s own reflections on ambitions, and in particular what she has learnt along the way. Hear her thoughts here:
Megan is a very natural speaker and clearly loves presenting to groups. Many of the people I have met have talked about the importance of being brave, and facing your fears. One of the major fears that many people have – both young and old, is speaking in public and yet this is of course increasingly commonplace in many roles.
Working as a professional Public Speaker I asked Megan for her advice to people facing this fear.