Sarah: Study round 2: how my perspective changed

Image of Sarah HolcombeSarah Holcombe started studying a music degree before pursuing her lifelong passion for education. She has completed a Bachelor of Education degree (with a focus on primary and middle years) and is now studying a Master of Education (Special Education). Sarah is mum to 2 sons and juggles being a studying parent with work and engaging in various aspects of the performing arts.  


`Cheese!’ I exclaimed into my Mum’s camera! I beamed in my graduation garb. The ceremony was done and I could finally relax. I was valedictorian and had the extra task of a speech to fellow graduates and attending dignitaries to complete. Admittedly, I loved doing this and I always embrace the idea of having an audience. I’m sure I am mildly addicted to the adrenalin rush presenting in front of people gives me. While honoured I received the role, it certainly added to my already anxious state of ensuring perfection on the day. I was determined not to trip on the stage receiving my certificate. Fortunately, any such embarrassment was averted and all went smoothly, although this unflattering mid-speech image taken didn’t help my cause. I was ready to embark on my teaching career with my newly acquired bachelor degree.

Photo of Sarah delivering her valedictorian speech at her graduation ceremony

However, underneath all the grins at graduation day was a hidden sense of relief that I was done having to deal with the anxiety associated with making sure each assessment I completed was perfect (that’s right, my 22 year old self still believed perfect existed) and that I ensured all course readings were read in time for tutorials, despite this meaning no sleep. During my undergraduate degree, I was relentless in ensuring I did the very best in everything. While this can be seen as a huge flaw in the core of my being, I have now turned it around and use my relentless determination for success for good and not self-loathing. Love thyself no matter what.

From a very young age, I felt a calling to be a teacher. At the tender age of 6, I had a diverse class of studious and attentive toy dolls. I exceled in behaviour management and curriculum delivery but my classroom was best known for its musical flare, as I often burst into song during lessons. As a teenager, I moved away from teaching, feeling a strong pull towards the performing arts and opting to go for a music degree majoring in classical singing when I finished school. I had studied singing growing up and loved it but I quickly realised that a professional performance career wasn’t what I wanted, so returned to my original vocation in the classroom—all the while continuing to dabble in various amateur performances.

Life after graduation

Upon graduation, I quickly realised that teaching a classroom of dolls was vastly different to the real-life faces that would arrive before me at the beginning of each school day. I became increasingly interested in how I could most effectively cater for the diverse needs of the students in my classroom. In my first teaching post I worked as the Special Education Teacher in a remote school and even had an opportunity to engage in aspects of performing arts.

As my career continued, I came to see postgraduate study as a real option to increase my knowledge of the research that informed best-teaching practice. A Master of Education (Special Education) would provide me with this knowledge. It had taken me a few years, but I finally developed a true appreciation for academia and its place in enhancing my career. I sent in an application!

How was postgrad study different?

Returning to study the second time around, I was different. I still experience the anxiety that had often made studying difficult for me during my undergraduate degree, but not to the same extent.

There are so many other things going on in my life now that the pressure I put on myself is spread across a number of different priorities, rather than focused solely on achieving academic success.
Now, I have two beautiful boys aged 5 and 3, I work, and I have remained a part of the local performing arts scenes. These are all commitments I have willingly embraced. Some call me a crazy working, studying, hobby-loving mum; I say this life brings more adrenalin and excitement than any bungee jump ever could. This time around, the study for me is exhilarating. While I am a passionate learner, I never thought I would get excited over a journal article the way I now do. I wouldn’t change my multi-role life for the world.

What I’ve discovered about myself as I’ve gotten older is that your perspective changes. I placed a lot of pressure on myself while I was studying my undergrad degree, but when I returned to study the second time around to start my postgrad degree, my priorities had changed and diversified. As a working mum, I am still passionate about furthering my education, but my life overall is so much richer, and that makes quite a difference.

If you're thinking about studying at USQ but aren't sure you have what it takes or how you'll juggle study with your career and family, take this quiz to find out what type of studying mum you are and how your parenting skills can help you Unleash your Fearless.


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