Taking pride in the community

Aly
Aly

“My most rewarding moment as a childcare worker was when I worked with the kids of Croydon School Care to produce an artwork for the community centre,” Sydney teacher Aly says.

“We worked on this wonderful project together for about six months, I designed it and the kids helped me paint it. The artwork depicts the local community — where it started and how far we have come, hence the title, ‘Heritage, Progress and Pride’.”

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When the music fails

Fiona
Fiona
“That funny but awkward moment when the music doesn’t work in dance class but my student with special needs tears up the dance floor, takes control and saves me!” South Australia teacher Fiona says when asked to share one of her teaching highlights.

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Breaking through to confidence

Angela

“Seeing a student, who struggled terribly with self-belief finally get the results he deserved was most rewarding,” Rose Bay teacher Angela says.

“It is that ‘moment’ when the lightbulb turns on and real breakthroughs are finally achieved. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. It is not just about the results, it’s about the whole person.”

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The biggest part of the job

Joe

Teaching seems to only be fractionally about actual teaching, even though that is it the most heavily scrutinised part of the profession, Sydney teacher Joe says.

The majority of the job is interacting with the students and fostering positive relationships with them. It’s all the extra things we get to do and see our students go through which I enjoy the most. Whether that be coaching a team and seeing them compete, overcoming challenges on camps or providing a sympathetic ear when they are going through difficult times.

The most rewarding part of the job is all the stuff which is generally not considered the most ‘important’ part of the job.

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The unsung heroes of refugee education

Mikhail and Michael
Mikhail and Michael

Our school helps refugee or migrant students with little or no English to prepare for high school, Michael from the Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre writes.

Our school learning support officers are often unsung heroes of our school — bilingual staff who support students and their families as they navigate the education system during the difficult process of settling into Australian life. Even though they are highly skilled, competent and dedicated people, they often have overseas qualifications that sadly aren’t recognised in Australia.

Mikhail came to Australia to escape a terrible and brutal war, and lost many friends and family members over the 10-year period of fighting before he came here. There were no schools in Sierra Leone at that time because of the war.

Education is important to Mikhail. Over the last two years he has had the vision and the drive to put together a project to organise the collection and delivery of educational support materials from Australia to Sierra Leone where there is a desperate need for them. It is known as the Madiba Project.

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The ‘tough’ students that changed my life

Natalija

I’ve worked in some particularly challenging high schools and that is an opportunity I’m grateful for, Sydney teacher Natalija writes.

The kids are tough. They test you and push you beyond the limits. They don’t let you in easily, you have to work at it without letting them see you’re trying too hard. You finally think you have them on side, and they do something to let you know that it can’t possibly be that easy. You question yourself. Change your approach and try again and again.

My students have taught me that, as a teacher, consistency in following up and showing up as well as fairness and respect are essential. They may not always agree with me but after time are able to see reason.

Today I would like to recognise the students that have changed my life and shaped the person that I am today. Many of the students I’ve taught have it pretty tough at home. That said, they’ve taught me invaluable lessons about their worlds, about perspective and overcoming personal adversity, about resilience and the importance of showing up each and every day. They’ve challenged me not only to be a better teacher but to be a better person on so many levels.

These ‘at-risk’ kids have given me the greatest rewards as a teacher. Their willingness to trust in me has allowed me to form connections with them and join them on their journey providing the opportunity to learn and grow together. The small changes we’ve made along the way have been humbling and proud moments for me. I’ve learned to adapt my teaching style to suit them and to always leave my ego at the door.

As teachers, part of our everyday conversation centres around what we can teach our students and perhaps how we might be able to make some small impact on them as they go out into the world.

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Breaking through with ‘authentic relationships’

Sonia
Sonia

Recently I experienced the most amazing moment in my whole teaching career, Sydney teacher Sonia writes.

I’ve been teaching now for seven years and I’ve been working with Jack [not his real name] for five months. He has severe anxiety, eczema and is a selective mute. Jack has not spoken at school ever — a school he has attended since kindergarten.

At the beginning of the year, he was suspended for behaviour and then when he came back we worked really closely with his family and came up with some goals. He was only attending for part of the day working 1:1 with me. Now he has actually started reading words and books aloud to myself and his aide — just in the last few weeks!

I think that by establishing authentic relationships with families and students, the impossible becomes possible. With love, patience and empathy, children can succeed, even when no-one else believes they can.

I was really lucky to have such a supportive team, principal, deputy and learning support. A whole community came together for this little boy and all of our hard work he is now starting to make changes to his life — both at home and at school.

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My most powerful teaching moment

Chris
Chris

What an impression my first class left on me! Thirty-six years ago I inherited the most inspiring students I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching, Sydney teacher Chris writes.

The class had the unfortunate name of 1/2X and comprised of students with academic, emotional, behavioural and physical needs that were largely unknown to me. Then there were the teachers. How I cringed at the negative comments they would make about my class. I loved all my students!

How proud I was when my valued class stole the show at the multicultural concert giving the performance of their lives after I had received the comment, “Good luck trying to get them to do anything.”

The teachers were surprised and did actually compliment the children. However, it wasn’t enough for an attitudinal change towards the potential of students with special needs — but it was a start. Thank goodness times have changed — or have they?

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Teachers, are we really time poor?

Natalie

The other day I was asked about how teachers are time poor and I actually struggled to put into words what that looks like for us, Sydney teacher Natalie writes.

I know when I was an active primary teacher, I spent a lot of my ‘free’ time preparing lessons but in all honesty I could not say that, with 12 weeks holiday a year and finishing at 3.30pm, I didn’t have enough time to plan and prepare my activities.

This got me thinking about what being time poor means. Is it in relation to preparation or is it in relation to fitting everything from the curriculum into the school day or are teachers really time poor at all?

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