Life of an 1850s Teacher

Teaching from the Catechism
Teaching from the Catechism

Since the start of 2014 I have been working as a teacher in the Sovereign Hill Costumed School, a shift from my previous role as an Education Officer.  Since April 2014, marking a year now, I have been full time as the Ma’am in St. Peter’s Denominational School.  This role sees me running a 2-day costumed role-play experience for Year 5/6 students twice a week, with one day spent on administration/organisation.

It’s been an easy move in some ways, a big shift in others.  Most notably I have moved from focussing on innovation and social media to working, predominately, with technology of the Victorian Era, such as the slate board (which is eerily similar in shape and size to the iPad!).  I love living the past.   I was also fortunate that my previous role had equipped me well in terms of background knowledge, thus enabling the role-play to come more easily.  But I still continuously find gaps in my knowledge that makes it hard to be respond to some situations authentically – such as knowledge of country names, boundaries and rulers as they were in 1854.  It is motivating to keep learning contextual information about the era.

But the nature of the role and the associated workload means that my knowledge about, and experience in, social media and technological innovations in education is suffering.  Consequently my blog has been rather dormant over the past year.  This can also be attributed to having a toddler who (delightfully) keeps my ‘free’ time to a minimum!

16x Tables
16x Tables

I’ve consequently realised how difficult it is to stay abreast of changes and innovations without a concentrated effort to keep reading, learning, trialling, posting… I do still read and follow, but the active learning and trialling hasn’t been happening.  I feel so fortunate to be in the job that I am, it is great fun, so it has been a positive sacrifice in many ways.


I have kept tapped in to the social media world through following, but also posting about my own unique working experience.  I use twitter and instagram to offer some commentary and reflection.  I use the hashtags: #schoolhistory and #lifeofan1850steacher.  I have also been recording a few of the memorable words written by my students using #StudentsOfStPeters.  Each student writes me a letter before their visit in preparation for them to take on the role of an 1850s student.  They speak about their family, life and journey to the goldfields.  Sometimes the children are beautifully eloquent in their descriptions, showing amazing insight into the era.  Some of those gems are worth recording and sharing, hence #StudentsOfStPeters.

I hope over time I will find more ways to mix old and new.  I value the authenticity and simplicity of my 1850s classroom.  But I’m sure there are more ways to connect with students before and after their visit.  Perhaps teachers curious about changes to their profession too.  I also see opportunities to reach a wider audience interesting in Sovereign Hill and School History.  Do you have any ideas for me that you can share?

5 thoughts on “Life of an 1850s Teacher

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