What are you leading?
I am currently the Project Lead on the Kaiela Dhungala First Peoples Curriculum. This is a curriculum for all students in my region (incorporating 50 schools), which incorporates the cultures and histories of our local Aboriginal peoples in a significant and meanginful way. It also involves the training of all teachers in the region (approximately 500). The Curriculum was launched in 2017 with 25 schools, with 25 schools to follow in 2018. This Curriculum is very special due to the model that has been used to develop it. It has been led and guided by our Aboriginal community with the teachers and Principals merely facilitators. This consultation has been extensive and is ongoing.
I am also the Assistant Principal of Gowrie St Primary School. In this role I oversee both our Curriculum and Student Wellbeing. This is a highly disadvantaged primary school (one of the lowest in the state) with 290 students. I have been in role for one year and so far my priorities have been around overhauling our teaching of Reading, implementing an extensive Social and Emotional curriculum with integrated Wellbeing support, and strengthening our links to our community.
How did your experiences as a fellow inspire or prepare you for what you’re doing now?
The 2 year Teach for Australia program has provided an excellent foundation for my subsequent career, both in terms of the formal content and the informal experiences you have along the way.
In terms of the informal experiences, I was lucky to be placed within a community of strong, vibrant Aboriginal people and culture - including some amazing students. These students have shared their stories with me and shown me the way. They inspired me to get involved with the work I now do with the Kaiela Dhungala First Peoples Curriculum so that I can ensure they get the access to the education they deserve. One that reflects our students, and our community, but on their terms.
In terms of formal content, the TFA program has provided me excellent foundational skills in terms of the craft of teaching. This not only served me very well as a beginning teacher but also as I have progressed with a career. When I first made the shift from high school to primary school, I was extremely nervous that I would be very out of my depth with the ‘teaching’. While I still have a lot to learn, I was quick to realise that I had down pat a lot of fundamentals of what good teaching is, and these were universal across the two settings.
I also strongly benefited from the strong focus within the TFA program on mentoring. This was very helpful as I refined my craft, but has also made me a better mentor of beginning teachers now.
In terms of my current role with the Kaiela Dhungala Curriculum, we are currently focused on ensuring the work is sustainable. A lot of initiatives in this area are quick to fade. We are aiming for a sustained and widespread change in teacher practice, and for the Curriculum to receive the support to ensure there is ongoing development. We have currently received some funding to support this from the Department, and we hope for more in the future.
At Gowrie St, we are working very hard to provide a high impact education for all, no matter their background or challenges. A key part of this is establishing a staff culture that believes in this, no matter the behaviour challenges they face day to day - we are working very hard on this currently. It is also important for me that we ensure we have the processes and systems in place to run as a professional outfit.
Beyond this I am torn. Part of me would love the challenge of moving to an Aboriginal community in remote Northern Territory and to lead a school there. Another part of me wants to remain in my current community for as long as possible to start exploring the scope for the broader social change necessary amongst a community in need. We will see.