One of my greatest joys as a Pathways teacher is the privilege of opening up a whole new way of learning to international students: creating an environment that builds rapport between teacher and students, encourages trial and error, develops critical thinking and welcomes differing opinions – even disagreement with your teacher…within reason!
My greatest challenge this year has been coming up with ways to transfer the dynamics of an Australian classroom into a Zoom lesson where students are sitting in their own homes in different parts of the country another and on the other side of the world from me.
Of course, as is so often the case, the shared pressures of adjusting to a new ‘COVID-normality’ has provided us with opportunities to grow skills, develop our character and demand innovation in ways we may not have programmed for in the curriculum.
We have all learned to exercise patience with one another; when someone (usually me) forgets to press unmute, or the technology glitches and a student freezes or even drops out. We have dared to take risks together; sharing stories from our lives and deepening our friendships by being open and vulnerable. We have collaborated together and supported one another as we courageously experimented with different types of lessons to see if we could make them work in our online format.
One experimental lesson was making salt dough together; at the same time….online.
We have been studying Pop Art and have been creating artworks in the style of different Pop Artists and needed some ‘fine porcelain’ for our sculptures. It worked so well, we are planning to try some cooking lessons next term, with each of the students taking a turn to teach the class.
Our favourite lesson of the week is Hot Seat, where a visitor comes to the classroom and we practise our conversation skills. Having a Zoom classroom has allowed us to meet many new people from across Australia with very different lives to the students and have opened up their eyes to what could be possible for them. Some of the people we have met are an architect who worked in Uganda designing a new city for displaced peoples; a mum who is the full-time carer for her disabled son and whose husband works in mining in a different state; a music teacher who has travelled to nearly 50 countries and has taken cooking courses in many of them; and a family who lived in a shed while they built their own house on 15 acres of land, and is deciding what to do with it – so far they have 3 chooks!
The students are eager to begin their Australian school life at PLC Armidale and whilst we are all longing to get ‘back to school’ in the same room, it has been an exciting and rewarding semester in Pathways.
Mrs Janelle Sennett