6 weeks of teaching in an Aussie School…

TEACH!

So, I have reached the end of a short contract in a lovely school in the city. For once, I’ve been teaching my subject. In fact I’ve been teaching both of them… 😉 (Mummy Cow will know that when ever drama teaching was mentioned at Shenley I had to keep quiet about my drama teacher training… not that I minded really.) That’s not to say that it hasn’t been awesome getting back to another subject I feel really passionately about.

I have learnt so much during my short experience. There are so many things that I became really good at in England that simply do not exist in the school I was working in; I was pushed well out of my comfort zone again! Talking to other teachers, I’m pretty sure that they don’t exist – full stop- in the SA schools hereabouts. I won’t deny that it was shock when I asked for a copy of some data for my classes and I was taken down the corridor to look in a filing cabinet, where there was an individual folder for each child containing a paper copy of past reports. No pupil tracking at all; Interesting and a bit scary. Data has always been such a big part of what I do. It’s something that has been so valuable to me and to my students. For all the hoo haa over APP once I stopped seeing it as another stick to beat me with and started using it to facilitate learning and improvement in my students the world became a very well informed and empowering place. Teaching without ANY data at all was like being in the dark. I had no previous grades from lower key stages, no target grades and I was asked to give pupils a D- A grade based on how well I figured they’d met some ( in my opinion for what it’s worth) very broad and general standards.

I have had so many fantastic conversations with the fab head of English about it all. She has been so supportive and wonderful as I got my confused head around a system that isn’t constantly asking me to justify my every move. It’s been a fabulous experience. It really has and I’ve learnt as much as I’ve taught.

On a lighter note, I’ve obviously tried very hard to teach the girls to speak properly. However, they’ve also gotten their own back by refusing to give me things until I use the correct terms. You see, we don’t hand in work instead we ‘Hand up’ work. An essay and an Assignment are very different things 😐 . Apparently an assignment is something you do over a period of time and an essay is something you write under timed conditions (not sure about that one.. lol). You can’t ask for Sellotape… no idea what that is… you must instead refer to it as sticky tape.   There’s no such thing as a Hoover either… that’s called a vacuum 😉 See a wealth of knowledge! Ooh and when you want to ask for sugar paper and markers to do some collaborative work ask instead for ‘butcher paper’ and ‘texters’.
I’ve also found myself letting go of the British teaching acronyms like AFL – which believe me confuses students more than anything. – … TA, HOD, APP, AO, AF etc. A TA(Teaching assistant) becomes an SSO (Student Support Officer) and APP, AO and AF?… well they don’t actually exist. A Head Teacher is a Principal (thanks Ruth for easing me in gently with that one) and a form group is a Care group instead.
There are so many subtle differences it’s untrue and I’ve had fun experiencing them all! I’ve also been blown away by students who are so independent, confident and able. Friday was a special day at school. A little like a Shenley Immersion Day, the timetable was suspended and each care group was asked to support  charity.  The school has pupils from R – 12 and pupils from year 5 onwards were asked to create a stall and sell something to the other students to make money for their year group charity.  The students also gave rock a concert on the grass behind the main building.  Now, this may not see all that extraordinary as, like I have already mentioned, we run similar activites in the UK.  What did blow me away was, unlike in the UK, where to make this thing happen teachers have been having hours of meetings organising the whole thing, getting the materials for the students to create what ever it was they were doing, organising them so that they didn’t mess up, being in charge of money etc, it was ALL run by the students.  Shenley’s Pastoral team should think about popping over this time next year to see how it’s done.  Each year group has their own responsibilities – they are in charge – they are expected (and trusted) to do it on their own and they do!

I was attached to a care group who would be the equivalent of year 9.  I had no idea how the day runs.  I didn’t need to either.  Two girls took over and did a presentation to the class about how the stalls would be laid out, another two printed off a roster so that each class member had a shift on the stall and time to look at the other stalls too, they warned that if you were late for your shift you would receive a text message to remind you where you should be (lol  – love it) The girls had made a whole heap of jewellery and then had a nail bar. “Nails N Things” and they made a fortune!  The whole school was buzzing.  Little ones were walking around the stalls having their nails done, making pet rocks, buying cake (LOTS of cake) etc.  It was fab and there was a special theme about “closing the gap” which is such an important thing to think about. What was most fun was that the teachers were relaxing too and able to join in.  We watched the various rock bands, I had my nails done (in all the colours they had – of course).  I hovered by the girls for ages thinking that was what was expected before realising that, it was Ok to just let them get on with it! Awesome!

The key things i have learnt are about balance.  In the UK there is Sooo much pressure to perform with the grades, pressure on teachers – the wrong people – not students that perhaps we’ve gone a bit too far in how much we feel we need to interfer.  This is a cultural thing.  In the school I’ve been at I can see room for improvement in terms of expectation and challenge,  There’s a lot of potential there  but not at the expense of the fabulous way in which they work.  I guess, what I’m trying to say, is that a balance between the UK and AUS would be amazing.  That’s why I’m very excited about the opportunity ACARA is giving Aussie educators.

I’ve also realised just how valuable a of the stuff the government got us to do was (APP etc) and that perhaps the problem there is more about what it might seem to represent – another thing that makes us even more accountable for our students – another thing someone can beat me with.  An App and it’s data were instrumental in making some massive changes for some very switched off kids.  Perhaps, I needed to spend less time resisting it and get faster at thinking… ok… this is what we have to do… let’s make it meaningful.

Exciting times! I have soo much more to tell you… I’ll stop there though – I don’t want to get too excited and bore you 😉 lol  Shop… that’s all I talk about these days… eh LOF? :p

Oh an Laney… I’ve never had sooo much fun teaching in a faith school.  NOTHING like our old ‘friends’ environment at all! Full of fab, fun teachers who you’d fit in with brilliantly too 🙂

3 Comments

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  1. saoghalbeag 7 years ago

    hey mochinbach have followed you over from BE forum lol! great post, interesting to hear the other side of things (I went from Oz to UK) AND totally agree re: the broad standards having just worked in an international school based on SACSA and previously taught in NT which also follows SA curriculum in senior…garr what a load of youknowwhat… I recall the Curriculum leader telling us in PD on some new SACSA framework that basically no child could ever fail, no matter if all they did was hand in a page with their name on it – so scary!!

    oh, and Textas – it’s a brand name, I think, similar to how Hoover is used in the UK 🙂

  2. Author
    Mochinbach 7 years ago

    Ah a brand! I see!!! lol Cool!

    I’m loving finding all of these things out! 🙂
    Thanks for your comment 🙂

  3. plantpot 7 years ago

    Thanks that was ace to read, I taught in the Uk 5 years ago and plan to do supply next year in Sydney, so it’s always good to hear about what it’s like
    I have followed your story and Saoghalbeag’s…no worries about the names of stuff in schools lol as my daughter will be IN a school in February and I am forever being told it’s textas…not felt tip pens…

    Keep on posting and I will keep on reading..

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