ACEN student scholarship

Secondary teaching six hours from Darwin

2017 ACEN Student Scholarship Work Integrated Learning: Reflection

I completed the WIL placement in a very small remote community in the Northern Territory, a six hour drive from Darwin down dusty, bumpy roads. When you search for the town Google Maps struggles to find it. Once there, you can walk along the red dirt roads and complete a lap of town in less than 10 minutes. You will notice a lack of houses and an array of tents and during the middle of the day, the complete absence of movement as everyone sleeps through the heat.

The WIL placement provided me with invaluable skills that I would have been unable to gain through any other placement. I was placed in a community setting that tested me both mentally and emotionally, however this encouraged personal growth as I was challenged to view and think about a range of things through different eyes.

When you search for the town, Google Maps struggles to find it.

Working with Indigenous high school students, I learnt not only a lot about myself but also the country that we live in. There is a level of injustice that these students face that is still completely incomprehensible to me; these students do not choose to live in the environment they do, however their connection to land and country astounded me. Whilst many recognise that work and opportunities lie outside of their home community, country and family connection remains the focal point of their lives. Without having completed this placement I would still be unaware that this is one of the largest barriers they face to receiving an education and acting on employment opportunities.

Whilst completing the WIL placement, I was able to develop relationship building skills and the ability to adapt and change plans at any given moment. As each day varied greatly, developing these skills was a must! I worked in a classroom that was designed for year 8 to year 12 students, though sometimes I would have one student show up for the day and on other days there would be 20 students. On a professional level, I learnt how to alter lesson plans according to how many students attended on the day and what their knowledge level was on the content (for example, had the students been attending regularly and would therefore be up to speed with the topic, or have I not seen them in three weeks and thus need to cover some background knowledge with them?).  Having now entered other placements, I have been able to implement these skills into other situations and have consequently witnessed the positive effects they have had upon my teaching.

From the moment I enrolled in my Masters of Teaching course, I knew that I wanted to work in remote communities. Growing up I always wondered why students from remote areas needed to travel such distances in order to receive a quality education. As a future teacher, I want to work in far-reached areas where students face an array of difficulties when it comes to their education. This aspiration to work in remote communities was enhanced by the WIL placement and as a result of completing it, I am now one step closer to achieving this career goal as it provided me with the connections I need to make this happen. Without the ACEN Scholarship, my goal of working in a remote community would still be a pipedream in the making.

Prior to beginning my placement in a remote NT community, I already held assumptions and biases due to my upbringing. I initially thought these may have been a barrier however I found that they actually provided me with a stepping stone to further uncover information about my students and communities. Upon alerting my students to the knowledge that I grew up in Darwin NT, I saw sparks light up in their eyes as they commented “so you know the NT Miss, you know what the bush is like and how we live”. Chatting with my students, I was able to question what I assumed and knew about their community life. In doing so I built relationships with the students as we developed a mutual respect for one another. I was able to challenge educational ideas as they too questioned mine. The knowledge I gained by completing this WIL placement will forever stay with me as it is not knowledge you gain by reading a book, but knowledge you gain through experience and practice.