For Sashika Gunawardana, having children changed the way she thought about work.
After five years at home with her kids, she couldn’t imagine going back to a 9–5 office job. She is now completing her Bachelor of Education (Early Years) at Melbourne Polytechnic and can’t wait to start her new career as a kindergarten teacher.
“The most important thing is you can contact them (the teachers) if you need to, even ring them or email them and they send answers as fast as they can. They are always available, that’s what I really liked about that.”
Sashika Gunawardana is studying for her Bachelor of Early Year Education full-time at Melbourne Polytechnic. With one year of the course completed, and three more to go, she couldn’t be more excited about her new career path.
“I am enjoying the course very much and I’m looking forward to next year.”
Having spent five years at home with her young children, the idea of returning to accountancy work didn’t really appeal to Sashika. She enjoyed the time she had spent with her kids and wanted to find work in an area that would fit in more easily with her family life.
“Before I started this course I did accountancy, and it’s pretty much a 9–5 job. Until I had my children, I didn’t really have much experience with kids but I really enjoyed playing with them and being with them.”
The idea of studying early years education seemed to be the perfect fit, and with Melbourne Polytechnic so close to home the decision seemed simpler still.
By far, Sashika’s biggest highlight has been her professional placements spending two days a week working with children in childcare centres, kindergartens and primary schools.
“I loved the placement. We do three days on campus and two days of placement, getting experience with what we are doing while we are studying. Instead of finishing all of the bookwork and then going to placement, while you are studying you can put all of the things you learn into practice.”
There was one moment in particular when Sashika understood what a difference she could make in a child’s kindergarten experience. It brought all of the hard work and juggling her family life into perspective.
“When I was doing my kinder placement there was a little girl who didn’t speak English. She was quite new and she didn’t want to eat or play with anybody. She refused to do anything; she’d just sit on the couch and look at the door. It was pretty sad, actually.”
“When I started my placement I sat with her and did my observations. I didn’t talk to her; I just sat close to her. For some reason she just attached to me, if I asked her to eat she would do it, if I asked her to go out and play she would do it. And then when my examiner came, the girl came to me and sat on my lap … my examiner couldn’t believe it and asked ‘how did you manage that?’ Even the teacher who spoke her language couldn’t reach her. It was really amazing for me.”
It has certainly been quite a big change for Sashika and she is very grateful for all of the support she has received from the Melbourne Polytechnic staff. Studying has been hard at times but the encouragement and practical help she has received with her assignments has made the experience incredibly positive.
“Pretty much all my life I had studied numbers — maths and accounts — so this is the first time I have studied and had to do a lot of reading and write essays. I’m good with numbers, but I’m not so good with words.”
“It’s kind of hard for me because English is not my first language, but the teachers were really good. They helped me a lot and taught me how to find the right words. When the subjects get harder and harder you can always get help.”
Sashika also loves that her classes relate directly to what she will be doing in her placements and eventually in her career.
“We do a lot of practical stuff like singing or playing games and those are really nice. Instead of sitting down and writing and looking at power point presentations we can participate. We learn a lot of ideas, but it’s not boring.”
With two more years of study ahead, Sashika couldn’t be happier with her decision to come to Melbourne Polytechnic, and she’s really excited about the future.
“I’m looking forward to being a kinder teacher. If I get a job and have time, I might study further to be a primary school teacher, but mainly being a kinder teacher is what I want to do.”
Bachelor of Early Years Studies