‘Eerie feeling’: Rural teacher reveals issue millions of Aussies don’t get

Melanie Grant is the English co-ordinator at Murrayville Community College, three hours east of Adelaide on the Victorian side of the border.

Here, she shares in her words what it’s like teaching in a rural town.

There was a strange, eerie feeling in my English class as hail came down in December.

The students sat there, disheartened and worried, knowing their parents were concerned about the crops and what would happen if there was any more rain, let alone hail damage.

Of course, you’re not going to get them to sit there and do their work when they’re worried about that.

It’s moments like these that highlight the unique challenges of teaching in rural communities — challenges that many people outside of these areas simply don’t understand.

I never imagined myself as a teacher, not until I was in Year 12 trying to decide my future.

Growing up, my family valued education deeply. They were the ones who ignited my love for learning.

We’d sit together, discussing news, sharing opinions, playing games in the car, like listing all the prime ministers of Australia or naming dinosaurs.

Looking back, I realise teaching and a love for learning was always in my blood. I was just yet to know it.

When the time came to choose a career path, I felt lost. But I knew I wanted to make a difference, especially in rural communities like the one I grew up in.

I wanted to be that supportive and inspiring figure for kids who might not have had the same opportunities or support at home.

So, I took a leap and decided to pursue teaching. It felt like a natural fit — I loved reading, I loved learning, and I wanted to share that passion.

I ended up in the Northern Territory for my teaching rounds, and that experience changed everything.

It made me realise that where you teach matters just as much as what you teach.

I’m a country girl at heart, and I knew I wanted to give back to communities like the one that shaped me.

I was fortunate to be one of 30 participants in the Teachers Mutual Bank and Bell Shakespeare Mentorship Program in 2016. This was a turning point for me. It helped me discover my love for Shakespeare and gave me the confidence to step outside my comfort zone as a new graduate.

Suddenly, teaching Macbeth wasn’t something to dread — it was something to embrace, to make exciting and relevant for my students.

Over the years, I’ve seen the impact of my teaching in countless moments. From a student acing a test they once failed to delivering moving speeches, each moment reaffirms why I do what I do.

It’s the little victories that keep me going — the moments when I see a spark of understanding in a student’s eyes or witness their growth and resilience.

Innovation is key to my teaching philosophy. I love challenging myself and my students, whether it’s transforming Macbeth into a CSI investigation or organising a drive-in movie night for the community.

Every class is an opportunity to try something new, to spark curiosity and creativity in my students.

Teaching in a regional school has its challenges, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.

The sense of community and connection is palpable, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Positive feedback from students, colleagues, and parents fuels my passion and reminds me why I chose this path.

Looking ahead, I hope to see greater appreciation and support for teachers.

We’re not just educators — we’re mentors, role models, and advocates for our students’ futures.

By celebrating the dedication and passion of teachers, we can create a brighter future for education and empower the next generation of learners.

And speaking of eliminations, there’s one word I’d love to eradicate from the conversation and that’s “just”.

I’m not “just” a teacher. I’m proud to be a teacher, and I refuse to downplay the importance of my profession.

Teaching is the beginning for all other careers, and teachers have such an amazing opportunity to see the beginning of how students are inspired and learn.

I love that we see their potential and can help foster that. So, let’s celebrate teachers for the incredible work they do and the impact they have on countless lives.

Teaching is the cornerstone of all careers, shaping future leaders and demanding respect and support. However, it often faces unacknowledged challenges. To enhance the support and respect for teachers, three key changes are needed. Firstly, we must see more positive media coverage, highlighting teachers’ dedication and achievements. Secondly, we should shift focus from counting hours to valuing diverse contributions within the school community. Lastly, there should be greater recognition of the demands and emotional toll of teaching, fostering collaboration and appreciation for educators’ tireless efforts.

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