When I was in high school, I wanted be a primary school teacher. I’d looked into several universities which offered degrees in primary education and I was really excited. That’s when I made the mistake of telling people.
I was that kid in school who was super quiet and fairly ‘intelligent’. I use that word with trepidation somewhat; high school had decided I was ‘intelligent’ because I was good at memorising slabs of information and regurgitating it on exam papers in the exact format my teachers expected and liked. That’s the Australian education system for you, but I’ll save the ins and outs of my subsequent criticisms of it for another blog post.
There’s mistake number one. The ‘smart kid’ studies law, not primary ed. The first teacher who asked me about my career goals sort of folded her lips together, tightly. All she said was “oh”. I could tell she was surprised and I felt an odd air of disappointment exuding from her. I still have some friends in high school who have the same teachers I did; a number of those teachers have just assumed I enrolled in a law degree. They never bothered to ask.
I also told my friends at lunchtime one day. One girl laughed in my face, told me that I’d be hopeless at it and the kids would walk over me. I would be an utter failure as a teacher. I laughed it off. I went home after school and cried. The same girl made fun of me on more than one occasion for wanting to earn a place in university so badly (regardless of the course I chose). I should have seen that as the foreshadowing it turned out to be; sometimes you just can’t please people, no matter which path you decide to take.
A friend of my parents’ came over one day. She asked what I was planning to do after year twelve. When I told her I wanted to teach primary school children, she sort of smiled at me, but leaned over and whispered something to my mother. It made me uncomfortable. Later, mum told me what she had said; “Claire’s too smart for that”.
How does that make sense? How can one possibly be “too smart” to teach? Yes, the ATAR for teaching is significantly lower than law, but that’s a reflection of supply and demand, not course/career difficulty. How can someone be ‘too intelligent’ to teach children? Isn’t that a job which should be entrusted to intelligent people? That comment still bamboozles me to this day.
I was young and I cared way too much about what other people thought of me. When that teacher looked at me with that look on her face, when my friend told me I’d be hopeless, I believed that.
That was the end of that particular dream.
When it was time to choose course preferences, I had no idea what to do with my life. I did well in English, so I chose a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies with a journalism major. I also liked maths and business studies, so I decided to study the BCMS as a double degree with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in economics.
But then I changed my majors. Although I had enjoyed nearly all of my classes, none of them burned a passion inside me until I started writing about, and creating digital media. My marks have remained fairly constant throughout the subjects I have studied. The thing is, receiving a high distinction in accounting, statistics and management was a big deal in the eyes of the people who know me. When I get the same grade, or higher, in a digital media or public relations subject? It’s not the same impact at all.
Last year when I saw my Dad’s side of the family for Christmas, my Grandpa asked me what grades I received for my subjects that semester. I told him I received two distinctions and two high distinctions. He told me none of it counted because I study a “bludge degree”.
Why did he even ask?
Merry fucking Christmas.
During one of my previous jobs, from which I ended up resigning early last year, I copped constant criticism for being enrolled in university. I stopped mentioning anything related to uni at work simply because the wrath was too much to bare. They were constantly salty that I had three days ‘off’ each week to attend class, whilst they had to work full-time (even though I was only part-time).
They brewed gossip that I only decided to go to uni because I wanted to copy my friend (who started university a year after me . . . logic?) and were furious when one of my exam days clashed with the night of another worker’s soccer training. It was constant shaming for attending university and it made no sense. I’ve had two new jobs since then and I’m lucky enough to work with decent, kind people and managers who understand that my roster is generally inflexible and who support me in what I do.
I try so hard not to let this kind of negativity manifest itself inside my head, but I’ll be honest, it’s truly difficult. The only thing that makes it bearable is knowing for certain that what I study is perfect for me and I love it.
The Million-Dollar Question; what is Digital Media? Will I get a job at the end of my degree?
“Digital media? What’s that, Facebook?” (someone. legit.)
When asked this question, I give vague explanations because there really isn’t a simple answer. There’s so much to what we look at. If you’re genuinely curious, see the blog posts for my subjects BCM112 and DIGC202 in particular.
The world is changing in ways that most people don’t seem to consider nor understand. Yes, everyone’s connected to the internet and that means big changes – but it goes so much damn deeper than that. I’m sure people could understand if they took the time to, but they don’t. Why?
Much of what we study looks at people. Perhaps the best way to illustrate what we learn is to pose what we ask;
- How do we interact with technology and the media? How does the media and technology interact with us? There is a distinct and important difference between those two questions.
- What kind of business model will be sustainable in the future? We explore the slow death of the legacy media (book publishing, newspapers etc.) and analyse the growth of produsage, an image of the universe whereby the consumer and producer of an information product are one and the same. What is the attention economy and how does this relate to the above? How do we communicate in this new economy?
We have a strong focus on the production, curation and aggregation of content online. We learn how to reiterate information using various platforms and technologies, noting the implications of each. We explore the philosophies behind intellectual property and the internet of things. We are taught to take nothing at face value. I could go on forever.
Unlike any other class, we are given the freedom to design our own assessments. The criteria? Make something publicly available online, gain traction and implement some core ideas from the digital media content we study. One of my digital media lecturers was interviewed last year;
“The process of random experimentation without a goal is very important … that’s how students discover the affordance of a medium. So it’s not about me telling them do this and that, it’s about me telling them take the drone and see what happens.” (Teodor Mitew, The Standard, 2016)
Collectively, we make awesome stuff in these subjects. I created an online Sim story called The Life of Mindy. I wrote stories, made videos, made film trailers, experimented with persona and coding and created an online Twitter bot. I have never worked so hard on assessment, nor learned as much, enjoyed as much or received a grade higher than I did in this subject.
Other assessments were incredible and diverse in nature. UOW Admirers, a successful Facebook-based matchmaking service began as a digital artefact. 5 Second Summaries, a hilarious vine channel (RIP vine), won the bloggie for best artefact in my cohort last year. A variety of start up businesses have been born from class assessments in this field.
We do a magnitude of practical work; podcasts, memes, blog posts, YouTube, Vimeo, infographics, online commenting. We use Twitter, WordPress and Reddit. In other subjects, we not only learn how to undertake valuable, respectful research, but we actually do it.
I’m already contributing to a field of study, even as a student. I’m building myself online, this blog secured me a job writing for a website and a subsequent internship. Will I get a job? We’ll see. Of course it’s not 100% guaranteed, but there’s no job guarantee for any degree. But for some reason, this argument only gets brought up when we’re talking about a degree like arts or digital media. Digital media graduates work in film, social media analytics, public relations (I’ll add PR has experienced a 52% job growth rate over the past five years), marketing, project management and more! How is this less important or less valued than balancing equations in an accounting book? I have nothing against the accounting profession at all, I am merely posing the question; in changing my majors, how did I go from land owner to peasant, in the class system of yesterday, when I work just as hard and do just as well academically as I did doing a different major?
I’m calling it, there is so much judgement when it comes to what we study at university. It isn’t easy to earn a place in a higher education institution, we fight against numbered ATAR requirements which act as invisible dragons who guard seats in a lecture theatre with an inherent maliciousness. The weapons we use to fight with are called rankings and we use them against each other. The day we arrive at university we are ranked again. This time, it’s a social hierarchy, but we aren’t ranked from within. In my experience (and if you disagree, please leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments), so much of this stigma comes from outside of university, often it comes from people who have never even interacted with a tertiary education institution.
I consider myself lucky now to be strong enough to look past negative remarks about my degree. If I’d had this experience and mentality back in high school, who knows? Maybe I’d be almost finished a Bachelor of Primary Education by now. But I’m stoked to be studying what I do now, and I’ve learned that I need to make choices in my life that are right for me, regardless of what people I care about say.
A Final Note
I detest being asked about my grades. It’s nobody’s business. It’s never “do you enjoy your degree?”/”what did you learn this week?”/”tell me about your assessment”. All people want are the tiny numbers at the end. Sure, they’re important. I work hard to get decent grades and I take pride in them, but those numbers are not what defines my degree. Nor do they define me.