Category Archives: Uncategorized

Teach remote and change lives

The WA Department of Education recently put together this video in an attempt to capture what it’s like to work in a remote school like the one I’m in at Bayulu. I’d say they’ve done a pretty good job!

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On the Move!

I’m not sure how to write this without it sounding like a press release, so here’s a bunch of dot points that attempt to explain what’s going on:

– I’ve been offered and have accepted the principal’s position at Bayulu Remote Community School for 2015. Subsequently, Robyn, the kids and I are getting ready to move house and continue our up-north adventure!

– Bayulu is a Level 4 school just out of Fitzroy Crossing (FX) in the Kimberley region of WA. I will be working with a team comprising 8 teachers, 6 support staff and 1 deputy principal to best meet the needs of the school’s 120 primary-aged students.

– We will be living in FX, the town of 1200 residents that acts as the administrative hub for the Fitzroy Valley’s 5000 mostly indigenous residents. As ‘townies’, we’ll have easy access to a supermarket, rec centre, swimming pool, child care, and, most importantly, reliable internet! Broome and her direct air route to Perth are a little more than 3 hours away along the blacktop. With no gravel tracks or charter flights required to get in and out, we certainly won’t be too disconnected, at least not compared to the majority of Remote Teaching Service schools in WA. If you’ve never been to FX (and I’m assuming you haven’t) then watch this and you’ll see that although it’s not exactly a thriving metropolis, it’s not all that bad.

– All of Bayulu’s students are indigenous… well… that is until we enrol my young fella! With how much he loves his footy and fishing he’s going to fit right in, even if it wouldn’t appear so if solely based on skin complexion.

– There is a need at school and community level in Bayulu to have the new principal commence during this calendar year, which means our furniture and effects are being lifted *gulp* next Thursday! I envision this coming weekend only involving tasks associated with moving house (can’t wait to mow that lawn and clean those air conditioner filters!)

– I’ve had a particularly rewarding 2 years at Kununurra in my DP role, both personally and professionally. I feel like I’ve started riding the steep learning curve that accompanies the transition from teacher to administrator and, at the very least, I haven’t fallen off quite yet! I’ve been fortunate to have some outstanding mentors along the way, none more so than my current boss Mr Rod Baker. If I can manage to have anywhere near the impact Rod’s had throughout his storied educative career I’ll come away feeling like I’ve achieved success!

– Fortunately, I’ve also learned some quintessential Kimberley man-skills during my time in KNX: how to throw a cast-net; how to catch barra; how to hunt geese and bush turkey; how to catch cherabin and cook them on the fire. Crucial knowledge to hold when you’ll be living on the mighty Fitzroy River! I feel it’s these life experiences that make teaching and working in the bush a richer experience when compared to the city, and I say that as someone who will ultimately settle back in the big smoke after 4 or 5 years away.

– I’ll be spending much of the holidays back down south with my head in policy and procedural documents, some of which I know reasonably well and others I’ve had no need to look at yet.  If you want to have a yarn about acronyms such as EYLF, NQS, ALS, PALL+, ACER, EAL/D, FASD or SDWK then I’ll be worth a chat!

So we’re one week away from the next chapter of our lives. Obviously, I’m excited and very grateful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to get down there, roll the sleeves up and get stuck in!

Musings on a new beginning in the bush

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:

Hidden Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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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!)

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