Well, Australia it has been a slice!!
As I prepare to begin my journey home, I reflect back on what the past 80+ days away has taught me. At this point what I have recognized is that my role as an educator goes far beyond just teaching content. Here are three learning opportunities I am carrying with me as I move forward.
1) The separate state and private school system have me questioning the effects and the lasting legacy they have on student’s success in future years. In a conversation with one of the teachers, it was interesting to hear about how student’s elementary education follows them throughout life. As she discussed her daughter, a state school graduate, she explained how in university people will ask what school you attended in your elementary years and pass judgement based on the answer you give. Although there are schools seen as “good” schools and “bad” schools in Calgary this defined separation seemed to be a foreign concept to me. The class structure of this system seems to be overtly limiting students before they even have a chance. Private schools can cost upwards of $20,000 and in such limiting students based on their parent’s ability to finance their future instead of the student’s abilities. Now, in saying this, I do not mean to point fingers at any one school or say that I did not enjoy my experience. Both schools were amazing and have helped me develop as a teacher. What this did teach me was that although I cannot influence the unequal distribution of resources, I can work to minimize the effect it has in my classroom. Being placed in a state school with obviously fewer resources, it was inspiring to see how as teachers we can be creative to help reduce the effects of financial inequality. I recognize that this will require creativity on my part, but I am excited for the challenge.
2) On a more personal note, this trip has given me the opportunity to better develop my self-awareness. Living away, outside of my routine and comfort zone, I found my confidence in my own abilities wavering at times. Within my house, everyone strived to be the best. Although that is not a bad thing, I do not consider myself a confident enough person to be in constant competition with others. With such, I found myself struggling at times to feel able or qualified to express my voice. If I am to help my students find confidence within themselves, I believe it is important to recognize my own struggles. They only make me human. However, as I continue to reflect on this semester abroad I believe my lack of confidence stems not from my lack of ability but from my fondness for learning more and exploring other views.
3) Another learning opportunity I had while in Brisbane was to be a part of middle school and secondary classes. Although elementary is my specialization, I have become very fond of the upper years. The complex social environment and developing personalities present a wonderful foundation for an actively engaged classroom. It has been interesting to watch student explore their own ideas and critically examine the content they are presented with. Although I am extremely nervous about beginning my journey back to middle school next week, I am excited to see if similar engagement will occur. Wish me luck!!
Besides my amazing experience in the classrooms, Brisbane and Australia as a whole have been a wonderful place to call home.
So here is one final highlight reel! What I am going to miss about Australia??
- Southbank. Within just walking distance of our house was Australia’s largest man-made metropolitan beach. It was beautiful, with the boutique shopping and the weekend markets! The beach is complemented with beautiful public art display and a communal garden. This place became our sanctuary.
- The Beaches. Byron Bay, Morton Island, Jervis Bay and the many more. There isn’t anything quite as relaxing as sitting in the sand, staring out at the ocean while listening to the waves crash up against the rocks.
- The Weather. There is nothing wrong with “Hitting the beach” after a long week in September and October!
- My Australian Family. From my amazing support team at QUT, it was great knowing that we always had somewhere to go if anything occurred. To the teachers and staff at Earnshaw and St. Aiden’s, thank you for allowing us into your schools. It was great to participate in and observe your classes.
- And Finally, My Roommates. Thank you! I know I can be a pain but without you all I am sure my experience would not have been half as eventful. I am looking forward to reuniting over some Timtam slams and reminiscing our experiences together. I truly believe each one of you has left a lasting impact on me and for that I am thankful.
In closing, my advice for future TABers...
Just do it!! Yes, Australia is expensive, but it is possible to do it on a relatively modest budget just be aware of what you are spending your money on. However, in saying that you are on the other side of the world, remember to enjoy yourself!! You most likely will not always get along with your roommates, it is ok to disagree but do not let it consume your trip. Communication is key to mitigating those disagreements. And while school is still the priority, do not forget to enjoy the city you are in! Often it has lessons to teach you that are applicable both inside and outside of the classroom. Oh, and from my time here I have learned that every experience can be a good one, it just depends on what you make of it. Even those times you get caught in a tropical storm without an umbrella can have their moments!
Anyways! My time here has come to an end and as I begin my 40+ hour plane ride home I am excited about my next adventure. Grade 8 humanities here I come!
Cheers blog readers!!