We are very pleased to introduce you to Nicole Burrows, who will be sharing her experience as a teacher in a remote school in WA with us. Read on to learn more.
Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?
My career as a teacher is only relatively recent. I left high school and worked as a Field Assistant with a few different exploration geology crews for about three years, it was while doing this work that i realised how much I loved helping people understand new things and being in the middle of nowhere! After three years working all over Western Australia I returned to study and took six years to complete my Bachelor of Education as I had my two children along the way.
I started my teaching career working for a year teaching Year 5 in a double stream primary school in south west of WA before a life changing opportunity presented itself for me to change to a K – 10 school in a remote community in the north west of WA. I am still there and have been teaching the secondary class since I first arrived in 2011.
During my time here I have mainly taught years 8 – 10, although last year I also had the year 7’s. It is a combined class where I teach all subject areas except Art, Library, Sport and Technology (Specialist Teachers). I have also taken on the role of Technology Manager and get the delightful job of trying to solve all our IT issues as well as the roll out and management of the 80 iPads we have in our school. These roles keep me busy and as you might be able to imagine there is never a dull moment in my school day.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
The students in my class and the community members who want the best for the kids in the community are what keep me going – even on the toughest days it is the kids that make me want to keep going and find ways to make learning relevant to them. I know this sounds cliche but it is the struggling students that motivate me to keep on exploring new ideas and inspire me to continue my own learning so I can help them.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The challenge I see for people working in education is finding their way through all the different ideas floating around about education and making a choice about what works best for their class and themselves.
The rewards are sometimes not as obvious as we would like them to be but we must all remember to stop and notice the little achievements we make within our own classes and with individual students. The fact that I got a smile from a student as they walked in the door on time one the morning is one of the biggest rewards I have ever received.
For some teachers this is an everyday occurrence and might mean very little but let me fill you in an a very basic background about the smile that meant so much. The student hadn’t smiled properly for weeks and really struggled to get to school on time, they were never sure if they would have recess or lunch and when they were at school they are constantly thinking about events at home which made concentrating on school work difficult. It was taking a great deal of time and patience to make this child feel safe at school, so this is why a small but genuine smile is such a huge reward. When this child walked in the door and smiled at me it showed me I was starting to build the relationship that is so important to the child’s future learning. That is a huge reward, that could so easily been overlooked in the business of the day. So remember to notice the smiles 🙂
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
My immediate answer to this question was to type – ‘Make all teachers go and teach in out of the way places’ but then when I stopped and thought about it I realised this wouldn’t solve the issues.
I think we need to provide support to teachers and their families who are teaching in remote/isolated places (as well as towns and cities) to help further develop their own learning as well as make them feel valued and supported. It is important to recognise the significant role the families of teachers play in enabling teachers to give as much time and effort to the schools as we all do.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
EduTweetOz is helping expand my PLN in ways that otherwise would not be possible. Our school only has a small teaching staff so EduTweetOz is helping me get information and ideas from a wider range of people in so many different situations as well as providing me with opportunities and exposure that would otherwise not be possible – like taking on this role this week!
I hope by taking on the chair this week to provide you all with a different view on education and share the fantastic opportunities that are out there for those people willing to go beyond the sealed roads. Hopefully you will all take the opportunity to ask any questions that you may have about teaching in remote situations but don’t know who to ask!
To stay in touch with Nicole and keep the conversation going, follow her personal account @nicburrows.