From second preference to first choice

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Written By

Hannah Gray


College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

19 May 2021

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A moment of clarity

For several years, JCU Education Student, Hayley Steele, danced her way through life — and into the physiotherapist’s office many, many times. When it came time to choose what to study at uni, Hayley’s familiarity with the work of a physio drew her to explore the career further. However, a moment of clarity has her moving to her own beat as she studies education.

As a dancer, Hayley wasn’t afraid to push herself to the limit — but it may have been a different limit than she had intended. “I had a certain number of times I could visit the physio in a year, and from thirteen to eighteen, I maxed every single time I could go to a physio,” Hayley says. “I’d say there’s not one part of my body that hasn’t been injured by dancing.”

When she was in Year 11, while one of Hayley’s injuries had her in the wings, she took up teaching dance while she recovered. Although she had already decided to pursue studying physiotherapy, this change from being the dancer to the teacher began opening her mind to new possibilities.

“I began to really enjoy it,” Hayley says. “Later that year, I lost my nan and she had always wanted me to be a teacher. So, it became a sort of back and forth in my mind about the two options, physio or teacher. I decided to go for physio and sent in my application and set education as my second preference.”

But when Hayley received her results, she had a moment of clarity. “I actually don’t even know if I was offered physio because when I was offered education, in that moment, I knew that I just really wanted to do teaching. So, I decided to pursue it and it’s been the best decision of my life.”

Nothing is set in stone

A big part of why Hayley had difficulty in initially choosing what she wanted to do was because it seemed like her choices would determine the trajectory of her whole career.

“Through your eighteen years of schooling, you can feel kind of stuck, in a way,” Hayley says. “You either go all the way through high school and then do uni or you don’t have a career. At least, that’s how it can seem!

“When we were going through the information about QTAC at school, I remember them saying that you can only change your QTAC preferences three times and then that’s it, that’s what you have to do. No changing, no swapping halfway through. I was going, ‘oh my gosh, this is a bit scary!’”.

The truth is that life — and specifically your university experience — is rarely a straight path. Whether you change your mind about what you want to do, find an opportunity to pursue something new, or start down a path and discover that it’s not the right fit for you, you’ll likely play many different roles across your life.

For Hayley, choosing to change her mind in spite of being told that her first choice would be her only choice has led to finding her place in education. “If I had listened to what they were telling me, then I would have waited for the physio results and potentially have missed out on the best opportunity I’ve ever been given,” she says.

Teacher sitting on floor with five young students doing an activity with blocks
Teacher sitting at desk listening to young student talking about his drawing on the desk in front of them

What it’s all about

Although physiotherapy and education are quite different career areas, the similarity between them is at the heart of Hayley’s motivation: helping others.

“I’ve always been very involved in other people’s lives, checking how they feel and if they’re okay,” Hayley says. “I’ve always wanted to help people out, and teaching is all about that. When I was doing placement the other day, I taught students how to do subtraction when they carry their ones. Even something as simple as that was the best feeling ever.”

Doing practical placements has confirmed to Hayley that she’s right where she’s supposed to be.

“When I’m on prac and I get to see the kids and interact with them, and when I get an opportunity to teach, it just feels very natural,” she says. “And when I do assessments — even though they’re not the most fun part of uni — I really understand the theory. It makes sense to me. Whereas, if you put a sheet of anatomy questions in front of me, I’d be staring at it for three hours and still have no idea what I’m doing!”

Having a passion for what you’re pursuing can be the key to seeing it through and finding success. For Hayley, it’s the driving factor of her study.

“It’s not just that education and teaching make sense to me — it’s that I love it so much,” she says. “And because I’m so well-suited to teaching, I’m much more engaged with my studies and with my placements than if I had tried to do something that I’m less suited to, like physio.”

To students who aren’t sure which career to pursue or which area to study, Hayley gives this advice:

“Take a deep breath. Pick the area that you’ve been offered and that you think might suit you. And if you don’t feel like it fits you after a semester, there are so many ways to transfer between areas, especially at JCU. It’s so easy to switch it up and find the place that suits you best. You’re going to be okay!”

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