Prior to arriving at Maroochydore, I believed myself to be a strong educator with skills that could transcend continents and cultures. I was wrong. The exchange experience taught me that the skills of a teacher are a result of their environment. When the environment changes, it becomes apparent that new skills are required. At Maroochydore I had to learn how to manage behavior in an environment that I considered unrealistic at home. Even the Maroochydore teachers consider some of the classes impossible to manage. There have been times that I felt I was doing a great disservice to the school because I was unable to keep my students on task, and therefore, I did not maximize their learning potential. Indeed, some students may have learned absolutely nothing in the time that I have been their teacher. I had to acquire the strategies from my colleagues in order to survive, and fortunately, I did learn a great deal from them. I must make the important qualification that in my time here I was only able to glean a small amount of their expertise. I certainly cannot claim to have the tiniest fraction of their skill in motivating a student body that for the most part did not value education. These teachers possess trade knowledge of teaching that merits significant admiration.
|Had to get used to the pronunciation of aluminium|
|Organized Science prep room|
|Common classroom rules|
One idea that stood out throughout this experience is something my curriculum studies professor, Terry Carson, had already taught me, but the importance had not sunk in until I was well into the exchange.
Beware of binary thinking.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi master who trained Darth Vader said it best, “only a Sith deals in absolutes”. only Sith
Both systems – Queensland Education and Edmonton Public Schools – deal in absolutes regularly. Many of the things we do at EPSB would break Queensland Education policies and vice versa. I have had the opportunity to experiment with ways to motivate students that would make some of my EPSB colleagues shudder. I used assessment as a motivator… and it worked extremely well. My thoughts on assessment have changed since I have been here at Maroochydore. It’s not that I disagree with the policies of either system, rather, I no longer believe that one particular way of doing things is necessarily all perfect or all evil. All strategies have trade offs.
I most likely learned more from my students than the reverse. One particularly unforgettable lesson happened during grade 11 Chemistry when the students were working on stoichiometry problems. A student, Kyla, said to her elbow partner “never let your guard down”. She was referring to a homework question where I put an unbalanced chemical equation down and expected them to recognize that it needed to be balanced before proceeding on. One student was quite frustrated that he had to redo his work. I had a good laugh because, at Maroochydore, the advice to always be on guard is extremely relevant to teachers as well. In fact, when that class was nearly over (last period on a Friday), I had the students put their chairs on the tables and I waited by the door for the bell to ring. I had my hand on the door handle to stop students from leaving early. One student convincingly said that she heard the bell ring. I let go of the door handle momentarily to check the time and she immediately opened the door and ran out of the room. “See? You let your guard down. Never do that” said Kyla as she walked out of the room with the rest of the class. Seconds later, the bell rang.
|The bullseye for spit balls. It took me a while to discover this.|
|Pencil and paper cart for students without supplies|
|Emergency eyewash station - students would not leave this alone.|
|I had to laugh|
The most important lesson that I learned here – or at least began to learn – is that work does not equal life. The sadness Heather and I feel as we say goodbye to friends we have made, makes it apparent that the work was nowhere near as important as the friendships. As I speak with others who have done the Australian exchange, I realize that they learned to focus on positive aspects of the experience rather than the classroom. Near the end of term 3 I believe that I was getting much better at that but still had a long way to go.
We will miss the travel, the weather, the beach, and most of all, the amazing people we connected with and will remain friends forever with. You know who you are.
|Our very good friends the Hamiltons on our last night|