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Private Schools vs. Public Schools

It feels like a lifetime since the last time I wrote a blog post! In the past three weeks, Danielle and I have seen the Sydney Opera House, drove Great Ocean Road, watched the AFL grand finale, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef and walked the shores of the beautiful Whitehaven Beach. Australia is really starting to steal a special place in my heart! Now, we are back from all our adventures, and well into our second placement. This term, Brianne, Danielle and I have been placed at Earnshaw State College in the suburb of Banyo. The school is a public Prep to Twelve co-ed school, split by the Jr. Campus and the Sr. Campus. The school has been overwhelmingly welcoming and supportive of us during our time here, and we cannot wait to continue exploring the school and all it has to offer.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Observing the classrooms and culture at Earnshaw, I have been surprised at the similarities and differences that exist between public and private education in Queensland. Before coming to Australia, I was under the impression that the quality of teaching would be much higher at St. Aidan’s than at Earnshaw, but throughout our observations I have come to realize that the differences between the school have nothing to do with the teaching quality, and everything to do with the schools resources. At St. Aidan’s the school is filled with interactive STEM spaces, each student in the secondary school has their own laptop, and there are a multitude of co-curricular activities and school trips that the students may participate in. Although I would argue that methods of teaching, classroom management and pedagogies were the same at both schools, there was a definite imbalance when it comes to student resources and supports.

What I have found most interesting about our time in the Australian education system is that even the teachers struggle to decide which system of education is best for their children. The private school teachers had students in public schools, and the public-school teachers had students in private schools. There is a definite stereotype in Australia that a private education is a better education. This stereotype runs so deep that even teachers within the public system do not believe that the work they are doing is good enough for their own children. Personally, I always have and always will be a strong advocate for public education. I have always struggled to understand why Canadian parents would spend so much money on a private education, when our public-school system is so highly regarded. Coming to Australia, I thought my perception of private schools would change, as I would be amazed by the quality of education they are producing. After visiting both a public and a private school in Australia I do not believe this is the case. Both school systems are committed to ensuring that their students are receiving the best education that they can supply, and I would argue that both are succeeding.

 Moving forward with this placement, I am hopeful that I will continue to be amazed by the quality of education offered at Earnshaw. So far, our experience has been extremely rewarding, and I can’t wait to see what the next two weeks have in store!

 

Kennedy

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#3: New Cultures & Experiences

The past two weeks have been very busy for us girls in Perth! Since the students here were on Spring break, we took the opportunity to head to Bali for a week. Some highlights of the trip were visiting Hindu temples, hiking a volcano at 3:45am to catch the sunrise, and being attacked by a monkey!! Thank goodness it only scratched me… I only had to get a tetanus and rabies vaccine. I’d definitely love to go back to Indonesia one day!

Once we got back to Perth, we had one day of rest, and then we headed off to Kalgoorlie (a small mining town located 6.5 hours east of Perth… basically the Fort Mac of Western Australia). We opted to rent a car so MacKenzi and I experienced driving on the left side of the road in a right-side drive car for the first time! It was a bit stressful to begin with and I accidentally kept flicking the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal (they are opposite of ours). Thankfully it didn’t take too long to get used to it.

The schools we visited in Kalgoorlie have definitely been my favourite school experiences by far during this TAB program. The first was a School of the Air base, which you can read more about in Nicole and Sheila’s posts! The other school was an Indigenous centred school. The deputy principal explained that they focus on creating strong relationships with the students and their families to help the students succeed. The programs and supports they had at this school were really amazing. They have a speech pathologist and OT that come in a couple times a semester to diagnose and create programs for the students who need it. Then they have a teacher at the school who takes those programs and makes sure they are being implemented and utilized, and works with those students. They have a breakfast program for all the students, as well as a room with extra clothes and shoes for students to just take from if they need it. They also started gaining funding for students to enroll in after school sports programs, to give students more opportunities as well as to socialize with other students in the communities. The deputy principal herself drives some of the students to and from sports practices. We were fortunate enough to sit in on a language class where the students were learning different Indigenous languages. Two Elders had agreed to help run this program once a week, and the students all seemed very engaged and excited to learn more about their culture.

The past two weeks have definitely been the busiest and most exciting weeks we have had here, but I am excited for the next 3 weeks because will be in the same school for the duration. I’m hoping this will give us time to connect with the students and teachers, as well as get a better idea of their day-to-day routines.

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The four of us at a Temple in Bali

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From Perth to Kalgoorlie!

After a quick two-week spring break in Perth and getting the chance to visit Bali (which was so great btw! The views were nice and the weather was warm, reminding me a lot of being back in The Philippines where my family is from), we had the opportunity to drive out east of Perth to Kalgoorlie.

Kalgoorlie is a small town and something completely different than what I am used to. It is a six-hour drive to get to, and when you’re in town, it only takes about 10-15 minutes to drive across it. While here, we had the chance to visit a few different schools. The first school we visited was Kalgoorlie School of the Air, a school that allows for students from different parts of Western Australia to attend, all while staying in the comfort of their own homes. A lot of the students that attend are from remote areas, therefore making it extremely hard to complete an education in person without having to leave their families. I found that the School of the Air seemed similar to home schooling, though they still receive support and materials from teachers at the school. Materials are sent out every two weeks or by term, depending on the age group, and there are daily sessions similar to our Adobe connect sessions we are using in our online classes.

Below is a picture of the set up for the online sessions teachers have with their students at Kalgoorlie School of the Air.

Another school we were able to visit was O’Connor Primary and though we were only here for a very short while, I learned that the school was named after the man who designed a pipeline that brings fresh water from Perth all the way to remote locations far away such as Kalgoorlie. Throughout our long drive, we kept noticing this pipeline above ground that kept following the road, and to our surprise, it was bringing water over 600km away!

The last school that we were able to visit was East Kalgoorlie Primary, a very small school that consists of almost all Indigenous students. It was an interesting experience to see a setting in which Aboriginal students were the majority and the practices that are put in place to help the students succeed. It was nice to see some of the methods talked about in our Indigenous Education class used in the classrooms at this school.

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Switching Schools in Brisbane

Back to School!

Well we’ve just had Spring Break (called Term Break here) in Queensland, Australia. We’re pretty lucky because it gave us all the chance to jet off and explore a bit of Australia! I took off first to Melbourne and got to take in sights such as the Great Ocean Road. It was a beautiful drive all along the coast, worth seeing! Following that I was over in Sydney to see the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach. It was so fun to see such iconic sights in person! To finish up the break, I went up the coast to a little sleepy town called Noosa, it’s a place I would say is similar to Canmore, only instead of mountains it has beautiful beaches! I was able to cross off a bucket list item as I tried surfing for the first time and I was able to get up on my board and surf in to the beach! I think I’m hooked on the sport which may be problematic living in Alberta.

As I said, though, school break is over and we’re back in classrooms here. For the next four weeks I’ll be with Melissa at St. Aidans’s Anglican Girls School. Today was our first day and we both had exceptional experiences! With our last school (which we also both thoroughly enjoyed) we had the opportunity to move around to different classes throughout the day and see a variety of different grade levels, teaching styles and subjects. This school we’ve each been paired with our own teacher for our whole stay. I’m looking forward to this as my partner teacher is fantastic and I’m enjoying getting to know the kids. My hope is to have all the names down by my third full day! I’m in a grade one class and it’s really different being in an all girls school. You can definitely feel there is a calmer energy about the place as well. I already got to spend some time today working with smaller groups on their spelling and grammar and circling the class to help with various assignments throughout the day.

I really enjoyed how their library time was spent. They had a few minutes to sign out some books and then they were lead through a 5 minute meditation of sorts to calm what they called their ‘monkey brain’. Monkey brain is where you have so much on the go that you’re thinking about a million things at once; I’m sure we all can relate! After their meditation they were given a full 20 minutes to read their books in silence and every single girl in the library was focused on their reading! It was really impressive; even the teachers got to enjoy quiet reading! I must say I loved my 20 minute reading break midday, my monkey brain appreciated it!

From there we jumped right into gym class and due to odd numbers I got to partake in the games with the girls. It was a really fun joining the girls but running around in humid 33 degree weather is something I am not used to! You might say us Canadian girls are starting to notice the heat, and we’ve been told it isn’t even hot yet!

All in all it was a fantastic day and I’m really looking forward to getting to know this classroom of girls as they’re absolute sweethearts to work with! We finished the day with story time and they were so excited about it that I think I get to read to them story at the end of every day for the rest of my visit. I must say I enjoy it almost as much as they do!

Time to cook up some dinner, we’re having Greek tonight! Also looks like we have a wicked thunder storm rolling in so should be an exciting evening!

Thank you for reading!

Carolyn

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Overcoming Distance in Kalgoorlie

Hi Readers,

This week I had the pleasure of visiting Kalgoorlie. Kalgoorlie is a small town of 30, 000 people located 600 km east of Perth, my first time visiting the Australian Outback. To get there we rented a vehicle and set out driving on the left side of the road. The drive was straight and flat with many kangaroos and emus who had met unfortunate ends on such a busy highway. The view was of low brush and shrubs mixed in with taller trees, all growing from red dirt.

The first school we visited was the School of the Air. This is a base station to connect students from K-6 who live in very remote areas of the Australian Outback to teachers and learning staff. Students receive term packages with all the resources they will need for that term, this includes novels, booklets, art supplies, math manipulatives, and even science equipment, the students then return the package along with their completed work at the end of the term. Every morning students ‘attend’ an online meeting that begins with the school’s catchy and official song. Students and teachers interact through microphones and by digitally raising their hands to indicate they would like to speak. All comments conclude with a cheeky “over!”. Throughout the morning students attend lessons with their teachers, whether this be social studies or even music. The afternoon is spent working on assignments.

I was very curious about life for the students who live so remotely, I quickly learned how they create fun learning spaces and communities in their homes. Most students live at base camps, which are large farms, someone described them as similar to North American Ranches. The distances from Kalgoorlie range from 2 hours to over 14 hours away. Students often have school rooms located within their homes and wear school uniforms (a polo shirt) on the weekdays to help separate their home and school life. A live-in tutor, sometimes one of their parents, attend a week-long training session at the beginning of each term to learn how to support students and stay in contact with teachers. To build community students still participate in dress up days and attend camp. Camp happens at the end of the term where all students stay in dorms in Kalgoorlie and spend time interacting and learning with their peers and teachers. Teachers also spend week long visits at students’ homes where they check in and support learning as well as build relationships and start to understand each student's unique world. The School of the Air and it’s students have found the key to overcoming distance.

 

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Halfway Already!?

Hello from the other side!!

Well, our time here is flying by!! One school and three weeks down!! What a three weeks it has been! Where do I begin?! My first prac* was at a high achieving all-girls private school, with afocus on the Maths and Sciences. I was coming in to this school with limited experience. I had never been in single-sex schooling, nor do I claim to be an expert in the Maths and Sciences. Being as we were placed in the upper years, during their exam prep, much of our placement was observation. As a beginner teacher, I find myself, chomping at the bit wanting to teach every time I get into a classroom. However, I found having the opportunity to just sit and observe different teachers, styles, and students to be extremely beneficial.


As I could go on and on about my experience at St. Aidan’s I will give you the highlight reel instead...

  • Throughout the school, I was impressed with their ability to integrate multiple discipline together. We observed a Physics class that developed English skills and an Art class that considered Geography during their application, to name a few. Their ability to teach in an interdisciplinary fashion with such fluidity was something I had limited experience with.
  • The rollout of the new curriculum. Although we had limited opportunity to observe this curriculum in the classroom, it seemed as though they are approaching it largely through an inquiry-based model. In a discussion with one of the Maths teachers, she explained how students will be graded out of 20, but only 7 of those marks will be for the right answer. The other 13 will be for explaining ones thought process and giving alternative ways of achieving the outcome.
  • On a final note, classroom management seemed to be a thing of the past in this school. Not to say it was good, bad, or otherwise, but it seemed as if the students were given ownership of their own behaviour and if they chose not to pay attention that was their fault. Over the three weeks, this seemed to fluctuate in some classrooms but overall seemed to be relatively similar across most of the school.

 

 

Prac*  the term Australian teachers and preservice teacher use when referring to their practicum

 

Now for a Beyond the Classroom Update!

Well, you know what they say, When in Australia do as the Australians!! So, we tried the TimTam Slam! And just when I thought I couldn’t like those biscuits anymore!! It turns them into warm chocolate cake!! And if the cookies did not sell me on this country, I had the opportunity to explore the Great Barrier Reef and it was beyond beautiful. There is something about diving and being underwater that is both terrifying and beautiful at the same time. The reef reminded me of how small I am in this world and just why I love diving! Oh and hanging out with the sharks did not hurt either!! Next up, Vegemite and Surfing 

What am I looking forward to? 

In the weeks to come my parents are coming and we are road tripping the East Coast of Australia. It will be really nice to get away from the city and explore some of rural Australia. On this trip, we will have the opportunity to explore more about Indigenous peoples of Australia and their relationship to the land. So far it has been interesting to see the parallels one can draw between Canada and Australia, and Indigenous relations within each country.

 

 

Till Next Time,

Bri in Brissy! 

 

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Surfing the Waves of Inclusion!

G’day again mates! Today is a rainy day in Brisbane, so I’m using this opportunity to catch up on some homework, drink a few lattes, and reflect on my experiences in another blog post. The past week has been chockablock full of exploration: from the famous Sydney Opera House, to the gorgeous Blue Mountains, to the warm and wonderful Bondi and Byron Bay beaches! My favourite experience so far has definitely been last Thursday, when I got to toss out the shakas and catch some gnarly waves on a surfboard in Byron Bay! Sweet as!

I’ve finally figured out how to share pictures in my post, so here’s one of me hamming it up in the sunshine!

 

In my last post, I talked about mental health - this time around, I'm going to venture into a topic that's even closer to my heart: inclusive education!

In my first school placement in Brisbane (which is now unfortunately over!), I had the amazing opportunity to spend many mornings with a wonderful prep (kindergarten) teacher and her loving, intelligent, and adorable students. I was continually amazed by her patience and skillful implementation of differentiated, engaging, and meaningful learning experiences. As someone who hopes to teach early elementary in the future, I thoroughly enjoyed my mornings with the “preppies”! One student in particular stood out for me, though; to protect his identity, I’ll refer to him as Max. I first took notice of him when, at morning circle, the teacher asked him, “And who are you today?” I carried my curiousity about Max over all three weeks at Earnshaw, and, fortunately, everyone I encountered was equally as eager to discuss the situation with me. After some questioning, I found out that, alongside diagnoses of ASD and ADHD, he exhibits multiple personalities, all of which are well-developed and entirely separate from one another. His “bad” personality was called Max, but he also had many “good” personalities, such as Toad, Mario, and Tails.

Even more fascinating than my first experience with multiple personalities was the teacher’s handling of the issue. Though he clearly exhibited additional needs, he was never “othered”: she respectfully used the name of whichever personality he was exhibiting that day and never brought special attention to his behaviour. For example, one day when “Bad Max” was causing a disturbance in the classroom, she privately conferred with him, addressing him as Max, and invited him to “go have a look outside for Toad”. He was frustrated, but took her advice and went outside, running around the (fenced) schoolyard (still within eyesight). He came back into the classroom a few minutes later with a completely different expression and in a completely different voice announced, “I’ve found Toad!”, sat down at a table, and continued his work peacefully.

To say I was blown away by this teacher and student relationship is an understatement! It was incredibly meaningful for me to bear witness to the inclusive practices that made this prep class run smoothly, despite the diverse students with so many different needs, abilities, and personalities. I could really talk all day about the amazing inclusion I saw in many classes at Earnshaw, but I would be writing for pages! I am eager to see how large of a role inclusivity plays in my next placement at St Aidan’s, starting next week. For now, I’m looking forward to a few sunny days in Noosa, followed by a long-awaited trek to Melbourne before all the Brisbane girls are back together again!

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Indigenous Education in Australia

Hi everyone! It has almost been a month now since I have landed in Australia, and I can’t believe how fast time if flying by. Us Brisbane girls have now finished our first placements and are currently on spring break. I will now be enjoying some time south of Brisbane, visiting friends in both Sydney and Melbourne, and in a few weeks avoiding sharks in the Whitsundays. For the past month us Brisbane girls have been very busy becoming acquainted with our new city, visiting schools, attending QUT lectures and keeping up with our online classes, so it is nice to have some time to ourselves to explore this beautiful country!

Before we left on break, we had the chance to attend a meeting on Indigenous education at St. Aidan’s with their school Chaplain and Dean of Innovation and Engagement. Brianne, Danielle and I requested this meeting in order to gain some perspective on how Indigenous ways of knowing and learning are being introduced within Australian classrooms. As it turns out, the State of Queensland is miles ahead of Canada when it comes to integration of Indigenous culture and knowledge into their schools. Within Queensland including Indigenous perspectives is a cross-curricular priority. Indigenous ways of knowing must be integrated into each subject area, as mandated within the curriculum. Queensland schools are also working hard to organize staff PD’s on Indigenous education, and St. Aidan’s itself participates in an Indigenous learning circle with other school leaders and Indigenous elders.  

Although St. Aidan’s is very proud of the work they have done to pay respect to Australia’s Indigenous people, they also admit they still have a long way to go when it comes to supporting Indigenous populations. In our discussion, the Chaplain spoke of a student within the school who was of Indigenous heritage but did not wish to identify herself as an Indigenous at St. Aidan's. The Chaplain acknowledges that after this came to light, the school faced the harsh realization that it might not be an inviting environment for Indigenous students to feel respected and accepted. Moving forward, the Chaplain spoke that St. Aidan’s is committed to creating an environment where Indigenous education can flourish, and Indigenous success stories can be celebrated.

Both the Chaplain and the Dean of Innovation and Engagement agreed that Canada was a country Australia looked up to when it comes to Indigenous relations. It is very interesting as a Canadian to hear this, as I know Canada has a far from perfect relationship with its Indigenous people. Although we may have treaties, we don’t have comprehensive educational programs aimed at educating Canadians on Indigenous ways of knowing that span all curricular areas. I do believe that there is a lot that both Canada and Australia can learn from each other when it comes to Indigenous education.

I am looking forward to beginning my next placement within the Queensland public school system. Hopefully I can gain some more insight into the curricular aims of Indigenous education, and how schools across the State of Queensland are integrating Indigenous ways of knowing and learning within their classrooms!

 

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Mid-term Reflection

So, I have about reached the half-way point of my trip thus far and what a whirlwind it has been! My time spent at St. Aidan’s school was something that I will always treasure, and I have learned a tremendous amount from both students and teachers. One of the most significant teaching experiences I will take away from St. Aidan’s was from the Religious Values class in which the year eights were participating in a community outreach program. The group of girls I was assigned to were going to a nearby school called Milpera.

Milpera is an entry school for new immigrants and refugee students who do not yet reach English proficiency. I, and three year eight students went to a beginner class that held a various age of students, with one who just emigrated from Syria the day before. All students spoke at a very low level of English, many could speak some English but struggled with reading and writing. It was very interesting to observe the St. Aidan’s students work one-on-one with the Milpera students and at times I found that the girls struggled relating to students who were older than themselves. Nevertheless, the girls seemed more than enthused about getting to know the Milpera students in which they asked them several questions about themselves while attempting to help them practice their English. At the end of the class, the Milpera students had the chance to ask the St. Aidan’s girls questions about their schooling, what their favorite sports are, what they do in their spare time etc. I anticipate that the St. Aidan’s girls will develop strong relationships with the students of Milpera and aid them in their transition into the Australian Educational System. As well, I hope that the students of St. Aidan’s develop a greater appreciation for their own privileges.

Lucky for me, the mid-term break does not just apply to my students! I have since traveled to Sydney and I am currently in Melbourne! Next up, the Whitsundays! I am looking forward to the other half of my time here, starting at Earnshaw State College after the mid-term break!

  

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Emu-tional Wellness in Australia

G'day from down under!

It has been a whirlwind first few weeks in Brisbane adjusting to the Aussie lifestyle. Between meeting our liaisons at QUT, meeting the amazing staff and students at Earnshaw, and meeting a few cuddly koalas and kangaroos, we have been very busy! Most of us leave for our two weeks of spring break this weekend - it will be great to see more of what Australia has to offer.

It terms of education, one of my biggest takeaways so far has been the focus in schools on mental health and wellness. During my first degree, I minored in psychology so I am always interested to see different schools' approaches to mental health. Personally (although I might be a touch biased) I believe that mental health should be at the forefront of every school's pedagogical radar. Students cannot learn effectively and be engaged in their work when they are distracted. One of my strongest impressions of the few Australia schools I have seen so far is that mental health takes a much greater precedence than in schools back home. On campus at QUT, large billboards asked R U OK?, which I later learned is a Queensland-wide suicide prevention initiative. To my surprise, I have also seen posters for this program at Earnshaw! The focus on mental wellness is evident from classroom to classroom in so many ways. 

The school daytimer dedicates a few pages to positive education which highlights affirmative self-talk, mindfulness strategies, and effective study habits. As well, we got to meet with the school chaplain, Hannah, to talk about her role in the school. Coming from my experiences as a child, I naturally assumed that a chaplain referred to a sort of religious liaison; however, Hannah takes on a much broader role. She leads weekly sessions such as Mindfulness Mondays and Wellness Wednesdays to offer strategies for stress relief and foster relationships with and between students. Her room functions as a judgement-free "safe space", where kids can go to talk openly, ask questions, and even de-escalate if necessary. Her place in the school is so well-valued by staff, students, and family members alike that, during our stay, we got to participate in a fun run organized to raise money to increase her weekly hours at the school.

The focus on mental health is also very evident on a classroom level. One particular example was in a year three language arts class, where the students were doing oral presentations in front of an audience of their and classmates and teacher. As a textbook introvert, even the word "presentation" makes me feel stressed! I noticed this sentiment mirrored in some of the grade three students who were hiding behind bookshelves, frantically scratching out or erasing their work, or whispering in nervous voices to their friends. The teacher offered three options for students feeling overwhelmed by the task:

1) You can go tomorrow

2) You can visit me outside of class time with a few friends and present to a smaller group

3) You can have a friend record your presentation on an iPad and show me

Her rationale for this differentiated approach was that she would rather find an alternative for her nervous students than force them into an assessment that could damage their confidence or manifest an anxious response. She commented that her students’ mental health and security is far more important to her than their large-group presentation skills for this learning task.

It has been so encouraging to see Australia's desire to integrate healthy mental wellness awareness and practices into the everyday classroom! Next up for me is a few weeks exploring the coast from Sydney all the way back up to Brisbane (with lots of homework along the way, in case my professors are reading this)! 

 

 

 

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School Uniforms?

School Uniforms, a debated topic in Canada but rarely seen or worn. Here in Australia there are uniforms as far as the eye can see, from large school groups on field trips to kids using public transit on their way home from school. I have always had lots of questions about school uniforms, do they encourage conformity and suppress creativity? Are they itchy and uncomfortable? Would it make getting ready in the morning much easier? Would I focus less on outer appearance if everyone was wearing the same outfit as me? Would your closet look like that of a cartoon character with all the same clothes?  Luckily being here in Perth has provided some answers.   

Here is brief overview. The first record of school uniforms being worn is 1552. Uniforms can be regarded as promoting social equality among students and an esprit de corps (morale), but have also been criticized for promoting a form uniformity characteristic of militarism (Wikipedia, 2018).

Breakdown of the types of uniforms I have seen depending on the school:

Very Casual: Wind breakers/letterman jackets and your choice of shorts

Casual: Button shirts or polos and black slacks

Dressy: Blazers (sometimes plaid), ties, dress shorts or skirt, and school colored knee socks

Gym: Collared shirt with school logo, athletic shorts, white socks, and sometimes windbreakers

Even shoes are required to be the same at some schools; black leather, closed toed, and always worn with socks or tights. The uniforms seem to be designated by grade, all following the school’s colors. Year 6 might have button shirts and sweater vests, while Year 11 wear more formal blazers. The uniforms change depending on time of year to better suit the weather. The odd time I have seen students in school wear their own clothes was ‘free dress’ day which happens once per term. Students could wear whatever clothes they liked as long as they brought a donation for that month’s charity. I am sure all schools have different policies if students are not wearing their uniforms. One school called the parents to bring an extra, if this was not an option the school would provide a spare uniform for the day. The consensus from speaking with students is that they dont mind and some even enjoy wearing their uniforms. They sometimes find the winter uniform itchy and a little uncomfortable but they don’t miss the freedom of choosing their own clothing. Most students have a few of each clothing item for each season in their closet and rotate through before washing. 

 Nurses, mailpersons, and flight attendants of the world, I can now see the appeal!   

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First Classroom Experiences in Perth!

This week I had the opportunity to visit Success Primary School here in Perth. I was put in a year 2/3 class of nine students in Inclusive Ed. The class consisted of eight boys and one girl, with four educational assistants and one teacher. I was told that Success had a high number of students that attend this school in Inclusive Ed, and that despite their attempts to try to integrate all these students into mainstream classrooms, it was difficult for some of the high needs students to make progress in that setting due to their needs and all the stimuli that can come from a large classroom full of people. Because of this, these students are placed in a separate classroom with a higher adult to student ratio, where more focus can be put on the student and their learning. After being in the classroom for the one day, I was able to understand the difficulties that would come up if all 9 students were placed into a classroom of 20+ other students.

The time I spent in this classroom was short, but I really enjoyed being in such a small class, as I haven’t had much experience in one, apart from an observational half day experience in Field I. Most of the students in this classroom had autism, though you wouldn’t be able to tell right away, while a few were none verbal and needed more direct supervision. It takes a lot of patience and strength to be in one of these classrooms, but I think that the end result is so worth it after seeing students enjoying themselves and having fun in their learning. 

The day went by pretty quickly, focusing on reading and matching, as well as doing some math games focusing on addition. We then took a bus ride over to the shopping centre for lunch, which my class does every Tuesday. Here they do different activities, such as helping the teacher shop for classroom materials, learning how to check items out, visiting the post office, and just enjoying lunch in a different environment, all while practicing some basic life skills and mannerisms. When we got back to the school, I was able to visit their sensory room, which is something that I have yet to see, and it was interesting to see how it really calmed one of the boys down.

I think that it would be such a great experience to spend more time in a classroom like the one I visited at Success Primary. I know it may be tough, but there is so much joy in being able to see students progress throughout the year. The EA’s were quick to tell me that it can be hard at times for them, but at the end of the day, they really felt like they were making a difference, especially when they would look at their students today compared to the beginning of the year (which is usually late January to early February)!

This is only the second school visit we've had here in Australia, and I can't wait for the upcoming school visits for the rest of our time here! 

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Getting my teaching Koalafications downunder!!

Well after three weeks of traveling New Zealand and questioning if this is real, reality is finally starting to sink in. I am really on the other side of the world about to begin my studies in Australia! But before we get into the academic side of things I should say that my beliefs about informal learning have been reinforced throughout my traveling adventures. 

Prior to arriving in Australia, I joined a friend in exploring the wonders of the north island of New Zealand. And wondrous it was!   When arriving in the country I had little to no expectations. I did not know the “must do’s” of New Zealand and was more or less just following where my feet, and the bus, took me. And I couldn’t be happier on how it turned out. Just over 2 weeks I experienced; sand boarding down the dunes in Hokianga, exploring the beaches of Hahai, and hiking the Tongariro crossing. It was like everywhere I had ever been in the world wrapped up in one little island.

On my travels I had the opportunity to stay in a homestay and talk to an Indigenous Maori family about the history of their people and what that looks like in a contemporary context. The parallels that could be drawn from their early interactions with Europeans and those of Canadian Indigenous peoples were compelling. Although at one time in history the Maori peoples’ way of life was threatened by extinction, it seems as though the culture is making a comeback throughout society and more specifically the education system. During our time we had the opportunity to visit a local school and in conversation with one of the teachers she explained that teaching Maori history is now a requirement through years 1-8.  This includes teaching the Treaty of Waitangi and how it has influenced Maori and European settlers’ history. Although this is just the surface of what they are teaching, one can quickly see there are similarities arising between our history in Canada and that of New Zealand’s. In addition, the family explained that in a tool to preserve their traditional language there is a push to develop a language curriculum and are hoping to someday have it recognized as a second-language in university.

Another wonderful opportunity we had while we were at the homestay was to learn a traditional Haka. The Haka we learned was traditionally used as a war cry/war dance and in contemporary times is now used by the All Blacks rugby team before each game to motivate the players and intimidate their opponent. Overall It was an amazing opportunity to be invited to take part and explore the beautiful culture that is Maori. 

I am taking with me from my travels not only amazing memories of everything I did but also a genuine curiosity to explore more about the education system in New Zealand and the Indigenous peoples that call it home. But for now, off to the next adventure.

So far, we have had the opportunity to meet with our QUT liaisons and have a tour of the school. After visiting the university, we adventured out to our placement schools; St. Aidan’s Anglican Girls School and Earnshaw State College. At initial glance the schools are very different, but both seem to be engaging in 21st Century learning and STEAM opportunities. I am hoping to have the opportunity to see the students engage with the technologies they have at their school see how they can apply these skills in real-world application. Everyone at both schools seem to be amazingly open to having us and I am excited to begin working with them. I hope in my time here I am able to observe different teaching styles and programs and hopefully I can add some new tools to my teacher toolbox.

Along with getting more classroom time, I am hoping that while I am in Australia I have the opportunity to observe Indigenous/settler relationships and perspectives. This complex relationship has always been a passion of mine in Canada I am curious to see if I am able to draw parallels between the current and historical relationships of the Indigenous peoples of Australia and those of Canadian Indigenous peoples. Along with the personal growth I believe I will gain from this, I also see this opportunity as a unique teaching opportunity in my future classroom.

 

 

Til next time,

 

Brianne B

 

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Teaching in a Private School


 

I have now finished a full week at the senior school at St. Aidan’s Anglican Girls School here in Brisbane. St. Aidan’s is a private all girls school in a wealthy neighbour of Brisbane. The school has one of the highest tuition costs in Queensland and due to this  the school has an incredible amount of resources at its disposal. Initially going into this school, I was expecting classrooms to be radically different from those back home, but surprisingly I have found it to be the opposite. A lot of the teaching techniques, methods of classroom management and curricular subjects are identical to what we would find in middle and high school classrooms in Calgary.

What I have found most wonderful about St. Aidan’s is the amount of agency the students are giving in developing their own space within the schools. One of the most beautiful spaces within the school is their “O2 Chamber” which was designed by a year 12 student. The entire school has been designed with student engagement in mind, and many spaces within the school encourage interactive participation with the students. For example, the carpets in the science building were designed to include the periodic table of elements, the phases of the moon, and the spectrum of light. The students are also encouraged to make the school their own through classroom activities. This week the year 7’s were encouraged to write the poetry they had been working on all over the walls of the school with chalk. This kind of interactive engagement allows the girls openly share their work while feeling more connected to their school and for a great break from the traditional classroom environment.

Outside of our school work we have been very busy getting accustomed to life in Australia. I have spent time in Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and soaking up the sun at Brisfest in the neighbourhood of Southbank. The city is bustling with live music, museums and cultural events, so it is very easy to find something to do on our days off. Our liaison at QUT has also organized for us to be attending a class once a week about teaching students who are learning English as an additional language or dialect (LEAD). This class has proven to be very useful as I have very little experience with designing lessons based on English language learners, and there are many ELL students currently on exchange at St. Aidan’s.

This week our supervisor at St. Aidan’s has organized for us Brianne, Danielle and I to have a meeting with the school’s Indigenous curriculum lead. Hopefully this meeting will be very informative as to how Indigenous education plays a role in the Australian school system, as well as provides us with techniques to introducing Indigenous curriculum into our own classrooms once we are home.

 

 

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Kia Ora and G'Day!

Although we have only been in Brisbane a few days, I have been abroad for well over three weeks! I spent my first three weeks travelling around New Zealand, a country that has topped my travel bucket list since age 10. It was fantastic to vacation for a little while before diving into all that Brisbane has to offer. Somehow New Zealand met (and even exceeded) my very high expectations; I climbed snowy mountains, dipped my toes in both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, dug and soaked in a natural “hot tub”, fed a baby lamb from a bottle, floated through a cave of blue glow worms, and (best of all!) frolicked in the Shire with Hobbits! My time in New Zealand was amazing, but I also encountered an unexpected learning experience related to education.


My very first day in Auckland, as I stumbled around the downtown area in a fog of jetlag, I inadvertently came upon a MASSIVE crowd of people walking down the main street with colourful signs and cowbells, chanting, waving, singing, and cheering. Standing on the sidewalk, reading each sign, I quickly realized that I had come across a rally for local teachers. After watching for a few moments, I approached a friendly-looking group of women with a sign that read “This wouldn’t happen at Hogwarts”.


They were very eager to discuss the rally with me, and, when I revealed that I am a preservice teacher from Canada, they were excited to hear about my experiences and our school system in comparison with theirs. Before I quite realized it, I, too, was marching alongside almost ten thousand Kiwi protestors! The main reasons for the rally included many concerns that plague teachers around the world: long hours, inadequate pay, large class sizes, and lack of resources and classroom support, to name a few. To my surprise, New Zealand is actually undergoing a national teacher shortage; some of the people marching mentioned that many Kiwi teachers are choosing to find jobs overseas upon graduation, instead of keeping their teaching skills within the country. When I mentioned that I had been considering teaching in New Zealand after finishing up at U of C, I was told that I would easily find a job, but multiple people attempted to dissuade me from setting myself up in a struggling education system.


This teacher shortage reminds me of the “crisis” happening in British Columbia right now, where they’re scrambling for teachers to fill increasingly sparse school boards. It is really interesting to know that similar issues occur around the world, no matter how many oceans you cross or hours you spend on the airplane! I am really looking forward to more learning experiences and cultural exchange throughout my time in Brisbane. I already feel I have learned so much through this exchange, and the school experiences have only just begun!

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First Few Days in Australia

Hello!

My name is Nicole and I am excited to have made it to Perth. I first arrived in Melbourne on August 28 and stayed for a week. While there I visited many museums, shopped in the arcades, walked around the botanical gardens, and took a trip out to Phillip Island. At Phillip Island, I was able to watch the penguins make their way back to their homes after a busy view days on the ocean as well as feed some kangaroos at an animal sanctuary. Melbourne is a very busy city where the cafes and restaurants outnumber the people residing there. For this reason, I was more than ready for an escape from the city life with a day trip on the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road is a war memorial that spans 243 km along the south-eastern coast of Australia. This was my first chance to see rural Australia and it was beautiful. While on the drive we stopped at a rainforest, many small ocean towns, and some breathtaking lookout points.  I look forward to more flat white coffee, an Aussie staple.     

After a week in Melbourne I flew to Perth where I met up with three of the four tab girls I will be staying with; it was comforting to see some familiar faces. We have since moved into our place and are getting settled at the University of Murdoch residence. We had the opportunity to walk around campus and it is very similar to U of C with a gym, student centres, lecture rooms, and studying spaces. I am really looking forward to my time here in Perth and in the surrounding Indigenous schools. This is such a great opportunity and I hope to learn more about the Australian friendly and laid back way of life!

The photo below is of the Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

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Hello from Perth!

Hello! My name is Sheila and I’m in my fifth and final year of the concurrent BEd program participating in Teaching Across Borders.

After a week of some solo travel around Sydney and Perth, Australia, I’ve finally been able to settle down and fully unpack at the Murdoch University Village in Perth for the next two months! Sitting in the Student Hub of the university, I can’t believe that the fall semester is starting and that this will be my final year. It’s still surreal to know that I’m in Australia with TAB, so here’s a few of the reasons why I chose to participate in TAB and what I hope I learn from it by the end of my trip.

  1. Ever since I was younger, I always knew I wanted to get into the field of Education to teach elementary kids. It was my long term goal and dream to be able to travel abroad to teach in different countries in order to learn more about the different cultures and backgrounds that people have around the world. With TAB, I’m able to kick off that dream in Australia!
  2. Tying into the first point, I love to travel and TAB has given me the opportunity to travel to a different country while also being able to finish my degree and do something I’m passionate about.
  3. Again, tying into my previous point, TAB has given me the opportunity to do something else that I’ve always wanted to do – travel solo! These past few days of solo travel have been a nice time to do things that I want to do in my own time, such as be a tourist and sight see, as well as relax and reflect, while enjoying the time I have before classes and TAB start. Participating in TAB also gives me the chance to learn to live away from home and grow.
  4. Who I am as a teacher. By the end of TAB, I hope to learn more about myself, as well as what kind of teacher I’ll be. I know it’s hard to predict who you’ll become, as everyone is constantly changing, but I hope to understand more about what kind of teaching style I’d like to have, as well as give me a better idea of how I’d like to approach field experience when the time comes in November.

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Here's a picture I took at Murdoch University promoting the School of Education!

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Hello From Brisbane!

I am so excited to say I have finally arrived in Brisbane and am so ready to start this amazing adventure. For the past two weeks I have spent my time exploring the north island of New Zealand and the Yasawa Islands in Fiji. I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity to travel to a part of the world so far away from home and am incredibly eager to begin to explore Australia.

 Since arriving in Brisbane we have been spending our time getting acquainted with the students and staff of QUT’s education faculty and have been welcomed with open arms to the school and all it has to offer. Thankfully we were promptly introduced to Dallas, the faculties resident Canadian who spent lunch informing us on all the important differences between Australia and Canada as well as all the confusing Aussie slang we should know. Hopefully Dallas tips and tricks will help us when we are navigating the city and working within the schools.

This morning we visited both of our placement schools, St. Aidan’s Anglican Girls School and Earnshaw State College. The two schools are very different, but both have wonderful programs aimed at engaging their students in STEAM education through 21stCentury technology. We even had the opportunity to use a virtual reality program at one of the schools! It is lovely to see so many programs engaging students in interdisciplinary education, while also catering to a modern world. I am beyond excited to begin working with the staff and students at both of these schools. Hopefully their programs will be some I can bring home to add to my own teacher toolbox.

 Through my experience within the schools I am hopeful that I will be able to observe how Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching and learning are integrated into the Australian school system. Within the duration of my time here I hope to gain valuable resources for Indigenous education, that I can bring into my own classroom in Canada. I am also very interested to observe the similarities and differences that take place with regards to Indigenous education within Australia as opposed to Canada.

 Tomorrow is a big day for all five of us as we are off for our first day at our respective schools! Hopefully we can all successfully navigate the transit system in Brisbane and make it there on time!

Kennedy

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Final Reflection Part 1

As I write this, I have already finished the Teaching Across Borders program in Brisbane, and have arrived home. I fell behind with my blog, due to the busyness of finding a balance between work at St. Aidan’s, finishing final assignments, and trying to fit in as much sightseeing around Brisbane and then Sydney, before having to head back to Canada. Now that I am settled back in Calgary, I am going reflect back on my time at St. Aidan’s School and everything that Lauren and I got up to in Brisbane since I wrote last, and my next post will be a final reflection of the whole experience.

When I last wrote, we had just begun working at St. Aidan’s Anglican Girl’s School, and after spending a few more weeks at the school, I really can’t say enough good things about it. The staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and genuinely wanted to know about Lauren and I, where we came from, and about our teaching program at the University of Calgary. We were each given a timetable and spent Mondays, Tuesdays, and a few Wednesdays between a few different classrooms. I found that in all classes I worked in, the teachers were happy to have me there, and made an effort discuss their teaching strategies, or to discuss aspects of the Australian curriculum with me that I wouldn’t have been familiar with. The girls were so lovely, and I loved to see how eager they were to be there and to learn. Similar to the staff, the girls were very curious about Canada and what our lives were like back home, and on a few occasions, I would be asked to say certain words which often resulted in a number of giggles because of my funny “accent”. I spent some afternoons in a Year 3 class while they did Geography, and had a lot of fun talking about Canada in comparison to Australia and answering their many creative questions. In the Year 2 class I was in, they were learning about stereotypes, so I was able to briefly talk about some of the misconceptions that people have about Canada and Canadians.

Often times I was amazed by the type of work I saw the students doing, particularly in the younger grades, as it was very academically focused and what I would consider to be a lot of high quality work given their age. Not to say that this isn’t also the case in schools back home, but what was different, was that I didn’t really observe any play-based learning, inquiry, or constructivism, which are really being pushed in the Canadian system. I realize that I’ve only been to two Australian schools, so I can’t say that this is the case across the nation, and maybe this was just the case at this point of the school year, but I definitely found that while I was there, for the most part, the pedagogical strategy was comparable to traditional styles of teaching.

The main differences that I noticed about the system in Australia compared to that in Canada had to do with curriculum, testing, and assessment. In Canada, the curriculum is provincially developed, whereas in Australia, they have a national curriculum that each school in the country teaches to. Each year in Australia, students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9 write the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy) test, which is like the PAT here. What is different though, is that the results of these tests are published and then compared against similar schools all across the country, for educators and parents to look at on a site called “My School”. I’ve learned, that this can mean schools become competitive with each other, and the focus can sometimes gear towards achieving certain results in the data, and therefore “teaching to the test”, instead of focusing on the individual learners within each classroom and their specific learning needs. This would especially be the case in independent schools, like St. Aidan’s, where tuition isn’t cheap, and parents push to see the results that they want, given that they are paying so much money. The “My School” website says itself, that its aim “is to provide information that will support and drive improvement across the nation”, and “provide parents with information to make informed decisions about their child’s education”, and while these may be good intentions, I can see how this may become counterproductive.

In relation to this, because there is a focus on results, there is also a real focus on assessment, and on what is expected of the students. In each class, I noticed that students would be given an assessment breakdown of what was expected, as well as a checklist of what would need to be completed within the task, and what the teachers were looking for when grading. Back home in Canada, while assessment is definitely a key part of teaching, I’ve found that it isn’t as explicit, and it isn’t always the main focus of all tasks. One teacher at St. Aidan’s explained to me that because of this, she finds that some students become really anxious about their schoolwork, and stress about doing well and achieving the desired results. Not to say that student’s shouldn’t want to do well, but at this age especially, it saddens me to think of the pressure that some must be putting on themselves, when school shouldn’t always be focused on the academic content, but on the learning process itself and the development of skills beyond the academic realm, or sometimes, it’s all about just having some fun!

With all of this said, the teachers at St. Aidan’s were fantastic, and I saw a lot of great work within the wonderfully resourced classrooms. The girls were hard workers, seemed to get along well, and appeared to love being at school. It was definitely interesting though to make these observations and compare what I was seeing to what I know about school in Canada, or more specifically, in Alberta. Below are some photos from the beautiful St. Aidan's!

In between our days at St. Aidan's and working on our own coursework, Lauren and I had many opportunities to explore Brisbane and play tourist. We spent an afternoon at both the Queensland Science Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery, which was fantastic! I could have spent hours wandering the exhibits and checking out the unique artwork. We also had the opportunity to visit Stradbroke Island for the day with the International Students Association from QUT. It was a little bit disappointing at first because it did not stop raining, but it ended up being a lot of fun and the whale and kangaroo sightings were an absolute the highlight. We also got to experience an Australian Wallabies vs. New Zealand All Blacks rugby game, which was an experience to say the least - especially for me who had never seen a rugby game! The atmosphere was super fun and top it off, it was apparently a great game to see, because the Wallabies won against the All Blacks for the first time in years!

I have really enjoyed my experience in Brisbane between working at the two schools and sightseeing, and I can't believe that 10 weeks has already come and gone!

Here are some photos from my final days around Brisbane (otherwise known as Brissie or BrisVegas as I've come to learn)!

The Old Brisbane Treasury Building

King George Square 

The Queensland Art Gallery

Stradbroke Island

Australian Wallabies vs. New Zealand All Blacks

Exploring Brisbane City 

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Final Post: Home from Perth, Australia!

Hello Ning blog readers,

I am writing from Canada! It is crazy to think that only a few days ago I was across the world. The jet lag has been more intense than I was anticipating, but I am slowly adjusting. It is difficult to articulate exactly what this experience has meant for me, but I can say with confidence that I’m glad I decided to take this once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s amazing to think how much I did in the span of three months, both in regards to teaching and traveling.

My final two weeks in Australia were amazing. I traveled to a small town south of Perth to visit an exclusively Indigenous school, and it was an eye-opening experience. Most of the students do not live in the town, but get bussed in for days or weeks at a time. Many of them come from a difficult home life and enter the formal education system with little or no preparation. Though there were behavioural issues with some of the students, the majority of them were well-behaved and thrilled to have a visitor in the class. Many of them have physical delays so they start their morning with a half hour physical routine that includes stretching, balance, strength and meditation. The teacher said that the difference she’s seen over a couple of months from using that program have been phenomenal. I definitely intend to incorporate physical breaks into my classroom time, because that type of activity is just as important as traditional school work.

My final week in Australia was spent at a small independent school in a small surf town three hours south of Perth (Margaret River). They have classes for pre-school to grade 7, and there are less than 100 students attending. I found this school fascinating because of their focus on “virtues”- things like compassion, assertiveness, diligence, and truthfulness (there is a list of over 50 virtues; I will attach a picture). They focus on one of these per week. They also do not use a typical reward/punishment system, instead using a “natural consequences” system. E.g., if you draw on the wall, the natural consequence is that you have to clean it up. The school is also surrounded by nature, as it is ten minutes outside of the town. They have class-tended flowers and vegetables growing throughout the school grounds, and they have a designated nature trail where they do plant and insect studies. I can’t exaggerate how much I enjoyed my time at this school. I have filed away many of the practices I saw here for future use in my classroom.

Overall, my experience abroad in Perth was amazing. I got to observe and teach in many different schools, each with their own unique approach to education. I learned something at every stop I made, and have made sure to record every piece that I want to take forward with me in my career. Although I had an incredible experience, I am relieved to be back home with my family and friends. The time difference between Canada and Australia was large, so it feels good to be in the same place and time zone as everyone again (even though there’s approximately a 40 degree drop in temperature between Perth and Calgary). I am excited to start my practicum with grade 2, and am looking forward to the holidays as well.

I will miss Australia, and can’t wait to go back someday. The value of studying and teaching abroad cannot be overstated, and I encourage anyone considering it to go for it. It is an experience that you will remember forever, and you will learn so much about yourself and gain so much knowledge that will help you in your future career. For me, it is on to the next chapter, but I know this will not be my last teaching exchange. Now that I have the confidence to travel on my own and put myself in new situations, I can look forward to a future full of more opportunities like TAB.

That’s all for now. Thanks to anyone who has been keeping up with my blog! I look forward to reading everyone’s posts from this year and from future years! As promised, a few pictures from the small independent school in Margaret River: 

Class-tended gardens:

Nature trail: 

List of virtues: 

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