Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Yet Another Australian Installment!
We're currently on fall break here in Australia which means I have 2 weeks off. Surprisingly enough I chose not to fly off to some new country, but instead stay in Melbourne. With my Australian Visa expiring in just a few short months, I've been on the hunt for where I'll me moving and teaching next. Although I have completely fallen in love with Australia and everything it has to offer, I'm excited to take on a new culture and classroom in a new country. I don't want to press my luck yet and share too much before anything becomes official, but the past week I've had many interviews with schools throughout the world, many ending the interview with a job offer. I'm hoping by the end of the month to make up my mind as to just where I'll be flying off to next. In the mean time, I've taken some time to reflect of my teaching experiences while in Melbourne. Since I've been getting lots of questions referring to the schools and education system here in Melbourne, and a vast amount of my friends and family are in the education field, I thought why not make a long post about my insight thus far.
Like I mentioned in my previous updates, I'm a CRT. CRT stands for Casual Relief Teacher, or in American words, a substitute teacher. The agency I work is notified of schools in the area that are in need of CRTs for the day and then share these availabilities with us. We then can choose to accept the position or reject it. The agency has also given my resume and credentials to area schools so they can personally selected me to fill in, too. This is all done through an app on my phone, as well as texts and phone calls. Unlike substituting back home, here I am ensured work 5 days a week. Sometimes I'm prebooked days, weeks, or even months in advance for a certain classroom. Other days I wait to get a phone call at 6:30 in the morning. Since I'm dependent on public transportation, I don't mind getting calls later on; the later the call the more likely they'll pay for me to take an Uber to their school. (Public transportation here is very clean and safe, and for the the most part pretty reliable, but a 20 minute Uber ride definitely beats an hour train/tram/bus ride!)
When I first planned on coming to Australia, I had the hope and intention to land a full time position at a school for an entire school year. But, after being a CRT for a week, I realized that actually wasn't what I wanted. Although I enjoyed in the past having my own room and class to myself each day, being a CRT means no parent phone calls, notes home, prepping for future lessons, progress monitoring, etc... all of what a normal classroom teacher does. Showing up at 8:30 and leaving by 3:30 is a nice change of pace from last year with early mornings and late nights! Plus, an added bonus is that CRTs are actually paid more than the classroom teachers (I don't feel that's right, but it helps me so I won't complain!) and if I have a completely terrible class I call my agency and tell them I'd never like to be sent there again. Being a CRT also means I can take of whatever days I want- a good thing for me since I had many travel plans. A good gig all around!
Before coming I had heard of all the great things Australian schools offer and how great of an education system they have. From integrated play, hands on discovery based learning, a great vocabulary and reading curriculum, lots of outdoor play, etc... I was excited to a part of it all and take back what I had seen and learned to my own classroom one day. Sadly, in the last few months of me teaching here, I haven't seen much of any of that. Classrooms here aren't nearly as "cutesty" as classrooms back home. They're often smaller and have less color. High school, or college as they call it here, teachers have an office, but switch which classroom they teach in from hour to hour. Some elementary, or primary as referred to here, teachers also do the same thing. Apart from the classroom set up, schools as a whole, and primarily student expectations and behaviors, are also much different. Growing up my own class wasn't the best behaved by any means (Just ask any of my classmates. The amount of teachers we made cry or lead to retirement is high!), but compared to some classrooms I've seen and worked in, we'd be deemed as angels! Students here are rude. Not rude in the way that they can't stop talking or are running down the halls, but rude in the way that they don't care what they say to you and feel no need to listen to any directions you give them. I was once warmly greeted by a kindergartner, prep student as they are referred to here, to "Shut the fuck up, bitch!" when I told him good morning at the door. I just knew it was going to be a great day after that... I've also had a student threaten to sue me when I took his slap bracket. A grade 3 student just last week told me to, "Go back to America?" just the other day, "because nobody wants you here!" after I told him to sit down. Just a couple of the many stories I have. Of course this isn't every student or school I've worked in, but by far the vast majority. I've always thought that I had a decent amount of patience, but I must be getting old because that patience is getting tested...
Just like student behaviors are much different, so are teacher interactions. I can't tell you the amount of times I've heard a teacher scream at their students to "just shut up," or lecture them on how disrespectful and rude they are. Although my "teacher voice" is getting stronger and louder, never in a million years would I physically pull a student from their spot! I have a strong feeling that the teacher behavior here is making the students act out in the way that they are. But what do I know, I'm just the young, blonde, American teacher.
Another large difference from back home is the integration, or lack there of, of students with special needs. There are special schools designed for students with special needs. For example, I often work at a school for students who are deaf or need hearing aids to help them. Some of these students travel a far distance to get there. More common are schools for students who have Autism or physical set backs. Versus having them attend the main stream schools and leave the classroom for additional assistance or have a 1-1 aid, there are schools made just for them. I've worked at schools like this a few days, as well. The dynamic and expectations vary vastly here compared to other schools.
In my education classes back home we were taught to always take something away from every observation or lesson we teach; this could be both positive or negative. Right now I'm seeing more things I wouldn't do, but this only means I'm thinking of better things I'd do instead in my own classroom. Who knows, maybe I can make a positive change.
Hope the final month or two of school goes quick for everyone back home!
Missing you all from Melbs! Ms. V