So, many of you reading this will be aware that at the start of this year I took up my first non-metro job in education, a deputy gig in Kununurra, Western Australia. Well, two months has passed and Easter has given me time to reflect on the things I’ve done/seen/experienced.
The first thing I’ve found is that schools are schools. Whether you teach at a leafy green Independent in the city, or in a remote indigenous community beyond the beaten track, good educators will utilise the same tools to influence student achievement. Things like quality feedback, instructional quality and effective classroom management are going to lead to enhanced student outcomes regardless of the bells and whistles at a school’s disposal. The thing that is altered, depending on the context, is how these tools are employed by the educator. To this end, the teacher who can channel their inner chameleon and adapt to the nuances that accompany a change in context are going to be successful no matter where they work. For example, the way I need to build rapport and make connections with my students in Kununurra, a town of 7000-ish with a high indigenous population, goes beyond the time we spend between the first and last bell of each school day. Among other things, it includes early morning footy training, having a yarn at the local shops or park, and going for a swim on the weekend:
Secondly, what’s the next most important thing one can do? Listen! I like it when people think I’m knowledgeable about something to do with my profession – Australian Curriculum, working with difficult students, whatever. But when you’re the new kid on the block, local know-how can trump all of that quick smart. Play your cards wrong by trying to force a facade that you can’t back up and you’re toast. Some of the best bits of information I’ve learned about my new school and community have come from asking questions and listening to the front office ladies, the local librarian, AIEOs, our Art teacher, even a local cattle station owner! Treating all with a high degree of respect and listening to their take on the key issues that affect the school before diving in with a know-it-all attitude, to my way of thinking, can only be a good thing.
Thirdly, you’d be crazy not to get involved with as much as you can in the community. Trivia nights at the local, cricket and footy training, playgroup and Music classes for the kids, and netball for wife have all helped us integrate into this community that we’ve chosen to be a part of. We now find ourselves stopping and chatting to the parents and students whenever we pass them in the street or see them down at the river. We go to all the BBQ’s and kids’ play dates that we can. We pack up the 4WD and go exploring with different crew most weekends (and find fab places like the one below). Making the most of your time in your new place rather than putting your head in the sand and focusing on work alone will lead to a far richer experience, trust me!
Lastly, when it comes to fishing for barramundi, listen to the word around town as to who are the local fishing guns. Then, if on the off chance an aforementioned-local-gun invites you out with them one night, do exactly as they say. If you do all of this, you may fluke a metre-plus fish on your first fishing adventure (Just in time for Good Friday, too!)