Never give up on a student, find a way to empower them as learners. I left school with nothing, but I became a primary teacher and I love to teach. Now I’m a fully qualified teacher and have taught for 25+ year. I also became a founder and principal of a primary school for 5 years. So, NEVER give up on any child in your class.
So, how did this happen? At church, I began to take Sunday School as a young teen and found I Love to Teach! I thought it impossible for me because I had left school with nothing. Now I am a qualified Australian Teacher who was a principal for 5 years. How did that happen?
We were living and working in the UK. 1986, my husband was commissioned by the British Government to work in the Solomon Islands (SI’s) as Chief Pharmacist. There, I got into voluntary teaching just because I could speak English. The overseas teachers mostly from Australia and UK, encouraged me to get my Education Degree. Which I did when we emigrated to Australia. Teaching overseas was the most amazing adventure! A place to learn and serve others less fortunate than myself.
We worked in the Islands through the late 80s and early 90s. The”Ethnic Tension”, or civil unrest, blew up in 1999. I started to help young girls to learn to sew clothing who had left school at the end of Primary with no prospects accept to become a house-girl (cleaner) or marry. Nothing wrong with either accept it may not be what you really want to do. So, I taught the ones I knew to learn a skill. Soon ten girls grew into 100+ men, women and girls. I had a class of twenty per day. It was fun and a wonderful way to get to know people and laugh together.
I was asked to help at a local school one hour per day in the Prep class. Teaching reading, speaking and writing English. This grew until I was teaching full-time as an unqualified teacher, with 72 kids in the class. How about that? Now I don’t know how I did it. Especially now that I’m qualified – I wouldn’t think to do it now. Here’s a pic of my first class. Aren’t they lovely?
There was one boy – let’s call him Nick, that’s not his real name but it will serve its purpose for this story. I love to teach but he just wouldn’t settle to work in class. He was always in some sort of trouble and no matter what I said he would just keep on misbehaving. One day during a language activity, I just happened to catch Nick drawing instead of doing what the rest of the kids were doing. I turned to rebuff him but stopped in my tracks. The drawing was beautiful and I remarked how good it was. Nick, looked at me with a great big massive smile and from that moment he was empowered to learn, and your A+ student! Nick taught me a very important lesson that day, that I shall never forget. From then on I listened to my students to give them activities that would empower them as learners.
The Australian teachers at the school noticed a difference in the students’ ability to question and speak in English as they moved up the year levels. They also, saw how much I love to teach and encouraged me to get a teaching degree. I am so thankful that they pushed and cajoled. Ones mindset can prevent us from engaging in something that we feel we cannot do. If you stay safe you’ll never do anything new. Isn’t that what we tell our kids? So, when we returned to the UK, 1991, I went back to school [Tech] and studied A’level English and O’level Maths. Here in Oz we call it SACE. Two years later, we emigrated to Western Australia, where I trained as a Primary Teacher for years, got the Ed degree and taught for several years as a qualified primary teacher.
While the civil unrest was still a big risk in 2001, the Australian Government was still warning expatriates not to return or visit. But we were invited to return in early 2001. Three years later, we worked with a local Solomon Island church to start a primary school for students who could not afford the high fees of the International School but wanted a good education. That school is ‘Emmaus Christian School’ Honiara, SI’s.
After much hesitation and a bit of nudging from our Island friends, I took up the reigns. They had more faith in me than I in myself. I promised to start it but at the end of the year someone else must take on the reigns. The elders of the church agreed but five years later I was still there. Then a Solomon Island Principal who was my Deputy took over Jan 2008 and by Dec 2009 I moved back to Australia.
Back in 2004, I started by teaching the Prep class and added one class at a time each year. Operationally this made the school completely self-sufficient. I trained teachers using an apprenticeship style because I really do love to teach. This love of teaching was taken up by the staff and they all, have this characteristic in their teaching. They now train Student Teachers who are sent to the school by the SI Teachers College. Teaching overseas really broadens you.
The success was measured by the fact that all the students in the first cohort to complete year six were awarded secondary school places. Normally only about one-third of the average year six class would go forward into secondary. In fact, the whole cohort appeared in the top 10% of the National Year 6 Assessment Exams. The top three places nationally were taken by Emmaus Christian School students that year.
It’s amazing what can be done when we teachers share our resources and what we have learnt over the years. I’m back in Australia now and I still love to teach just as much as I did when Nick came to my first class. Life is good! But, there are many village schools in the Islands with teachers who have to manage on barely anything. Join us and be a part of teachers helping teachers in need.