Michael Cox

Michael Cox

Postgraduate Research Student

Bachelor of Arts

Subject Area: Theatre & Performance
Current Position: High School teacher (English, Drama and Society & Culture)

Discipline: Theatre & Performance

1. What role / position do you currently work in and what are the best things about it?

High School teacher (English, Drama and Society & Culture). I’ve acted as a Head Teacher English/Drama and also Welfare recently, but I love being a regular classroom teacher. The connections I get to make with young people are by far the best part. Bringing Mirra Todd’s play ‘Fearless’ to life with 17-year-olds, staging lived experiences of marginalisation, or talking with students about the ongoing inequalities faced by Indigenous Australians. I get to cut through the dominant culture in my teaching, to open my students’ minds to the world around them. It’s such a privilege, and endlessly rewarding.

2. Between when you graduated and now, what five steps or experiences (jobs, funding, further study, internships, travel or other) would you list as being key to leading you to where you are now?

I went straight into teaching. You learn so much on the job, every day, so this is the first thing. Second, I’d say travel. It feeds so much into what and how I teach. I love teaching with stories, and travel is the best story maker. The Honours year I did was also pretty pivotal. It allowed me to focus on my passion - teaching about Indigenous issues to non-Indigenous students. Four, I’d say my relationships. I’m engaged to another teacher, and I think this definitely affects how we approach the profession. We’re so totally immersed in it. Lastly, I’d say the casual work I’ve done with Nura Gili at UNSW, while I’ve been a teacher. I’ve always stayed in touch with old friends from the Indigenous Centre at UNSW, who I worked with through Arc. These connections continue to shape my passions and attitudes.

3. What knowledges and skills that you had when you graduated have you found most useful?

It was all so relevant. I often think about my teaching for example, from a Performance Studies framework - the different performances required in different classrooms and situations, and the discourses that criss-cross between the rooms of a school in terms of values and knowledge. I learnt how to time manage at uni pretty efficiently as well. This has been so important in my line of work.

4. What knowledges and skills did you really need to build on your own?

No amount of Uni can truly prepare you for teaching. You have to learn how to manage 30 teenagers in one room. In that, you’re definitely all alone. I’m still learning though, but much more comfortable. You also need to learn how to balance life and work as a teacher. It’s so easy to work and nothing else. My social life has definitely suffered, but teaching isn’t a job. It’s definitely a way of life. Or I think it should be. There is a way to balance things, but it requires constant negotiation, sacrifice, and careful judgement.

5. Is there any piece of wisdom or advice you would send on to graduates to help them craft meaningful careers in the performing arts or broader cultural industries?

I always wanted to go into the performing arts industry, in any capacity. In the end though, I realised that teaching allowed me to be the actor I always wanted to be, and also to make a difference in the world. That’s what the performing arts needs to always be about. As an industry, it’s about affecting people and performing their lives back to them in creative and paradigm-shifting ways. Build a career that allows you to do this - to do what the arts has always done best...foster inclusivity and acceptance and creative thinking. It’s easy to lose sight of this once you’re in a position, meeting deadlines and doing jobs. It would be so easy for me to get lost in marking and reports and paperwork, and to teach out of textbooks or follow syllabus documents like manuals. But I make my career work for me, and for my students. I make it about change and positivity and self-improvement, not just tests and reporting and systems. That’s the key. Building and moulding your career to make the mark that you want to make.

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