Jarvis Ryan is currently working as a middle years teacher in the Northern Territory.
Please tell us a little about yourself. What is your current role and what does it involve?
I am a secondary-trained teacher (English, History and SOSE) who worked for 4 years in a western Sydney high school before moving in the middle of 2012 to the Aboriginal community of Yirrkala in the northeast corner of the NT. I work as a middle years teacher for the Year 8-9 composite class – I am with the same class for all of my teaching, meaning I incorporate English, Maths, Science, SOSE and even bits of art and other things. All the students at the school are Indigenous and are learning English as an additional language, speaking a variety of other Yolngu clan languages. Ours is one of the few remaining bilingual schools, meaning in the early years students first learn to read and write in their first language before receiving formal instruction in English.
What do you plan to talk about on Edutweetoz this week?
I will talk about my role and the challenges and rewards of teaching in a remote Indigenous setting – I imagine that will be of interest to some as it falls so far outside the experience of most teachers. I would like to discuss the difficulties faced by Indigenous students and hopefully hear some success stories from others. For teachers using the Australian Curriculum, which is in place in the NT, it would be great to hear how they are finding it. I’m interested to hear from teachers on how professional learning takes place in their schools, and what they think is most effective (especially for things like curriculum planning).
Who are your teaching role models and why?
My head teacher at Blacktown Girls High School, Jo-anne Nibbs, is an incredibly inspiring woman who taught me a lot as an early career teacher. She showed me that passion for your subject is infectious! She was one of a number of fantastic teachers I worked alongside there.
My Year 12 teachers were incredibly influential on my thinking in my formative years and probably set me on the path towards teaching… I didn’t remember it but years later I went back and read a diary entry from Year 12 in which I said I might like to be a teacher one day.
My current principal, Leonard Freeman, is an educator who leads by example and has a very strong commitment to Indigenous education and implementing the curriculum in a culturally appropriate manner.
What issues do you think are most pressing for teachers today?
Neo-liberal educational policies which have been incredibly destructive in the US and elsewhere are gaining currency in Australia among politicians and ideologues. Standardised testing, performance pay, devolution and similar policies all represent a threat to quality and equity in education (not to mention the working conditions of teachers!).
Teachers are dealing with a complex and growing set of challenges but in many cases without adequate support. Lip service is paid to professional development but there is not enough investment in creating a culture of sharing and feedback to help teachers (and in turn their students) achieve their best.
Teachers face continual erosions of our status and working conditions and therefore it is important that we retain a strong voice through our unions – as the baby boomer generation retires a new generation must ensure union membership stays strong and our voices are heard.
What are your hopes for education in the next 10 years?
I would like to see a shift to a truly needs-based funding system a la Gonski in which funding is directed to those who most need it.
Teachers will have to work hard to roll back the neoliberal offensive I have outlined above, and doing this will require the support of broad sections of the community.
The curriculum is moving in a very centralised direction, but I would like to see a move back to a more devolved curriculum model in which schools and teachers are given more freedom to create the appropriate curriculum for their students.
Indigenous education is an area I feel very strongly about, and therefore I would love to be able to say in 10 years we have made some real strides in this area.
There are some fantastic developments in professional learning and forums such as this one through Twitter allow for an incredible exchange of ideas between educators – hopefully this becomes standard practice for the profession.
To connect with Jarvis, follow him on Twitter at @jarvis001