Teaching student Daniel Henderson isn’t what you imagine your average university student to look like.
At 55 years old, Henderson is in his final year of the Master of Teaching Practice (Secondary Education).
Henderson made the career switch after 34 years of being a professional soldier in the army, which he joined in an attempt to grow his chances of employment later in life.
“When I finished high school, employment opportunities were highly competitive. My father was a soldier and suggested I enlist and gain some experience from the army,” he said.
“I did have some enjoyable times in the army and the knowledge and practical applications positioned me well for life after my military career.”
But after such a long time spent with the military and seeing his daughter work as a primary school teacher, Henderson decided to pursue the education sector.
“Teaching seemed to be similar to my previous instructing in the Defence Force,” he said, “and I also understood the profession requires continued personal development.”
“This sort of approach may enhance resilience, sustainability and ability to be a good teacher of youth in society.”
But as someone approaching university later in life, Henderson found he had some hurdles to overcome.
Worried about whether universities would accept his Defence Force training, he also had internal fears about the fate of his career and the opinions of those around him.
“Honestly, at times I was anxious and doubtful of success. I felt the decision to change career this late in life may have been a mistake.”
“I was concerned about failure and coping with change. I thought I would be letting my family down after leaving such a secure position in the Defence Force,” he said.
Henderson soon found that RMIT’s environment and resources made his life-defining change easier to manage.
“RMIT University has provided me with opportunities to achieve recognition and reward for spending the past five years pursuing my choice of career in education,” he said.
While he initially felt out of place with younger students who were more attuned to technology, Henderson said he gradually grew out of his army indoctrination.
Now, he has realised the benefit of both his past military training and new career change coming together.
Henderson said he never would have been able to achieve what he has so far without how he had been shaped during his previous career.
“My experience in the Defence Force has given me skills and behaviours which have assisted my approach to study and practice in education,” he said.
It’s not impossible for older students to continue to make friends at university either, with Henderson saying university camaraderie has been one of the highlights of his studies.
“My friends at RMIT have contributed to my experiences and supported me.
“Having friends at university who share their highs and lows with you gives you confidence to continue.”
And for those who, like Henderson, have considered whether it will pay off to chase their ambitions in later life, the former soldier said it’s important not to dwell on the past.
“If you have a passion in your life you have always wanted to follow, then take the steps towards your journey and do not look back,” he said.
“I have taken time to reflect on my journey and I believe life’s choices are a part of what shapes you and your identity.”
Story: Jennifer Park