What Works - The Work Program

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Comment from a principal in a remote setting

Teaching in remote Aboriginal communities is a challenging occupation. There are frustrations, many of them concerning the physical conditions of the school or houses, frustrations in attempting to teach children from a different cultural background, frustrations when parents may seem totally uninterested in your work.

These communities are going through a period of social upheaval and transition. People are learning to take initiatives, to direct their own community and to determine their own futures. The value of a formal education is not seen by everyone. This means that sometimes teachers feel their work is not appreciated, even that their work is futile. The debate as to whether or not this is so rages endlessly.

If you come here, recognise these problems of seeming indifference, of poor attendance, but come with a positive attitude believing in the value of your work. There are enormous challenges if you are willing to accept them. It's hard work, it's difficult work and not everyone is cut out for it. If your main concern is for the amenities of city life and a city school, then don't come. The teaching is different but it is an experience you won't forget or regret. You may even help someone!

You will find the children intelligent and dull, naughty and well-behaved, healthy and malnourished. You will also find that they are different — different in that their values, their beliefs, their language, their way of life are all different from your own. Come prepared to learn about them and from them and, above all, accept them as legitimate.

Be prepared to examine what you do and why you do it. If you are to be effective, you will need to carefully examine your own teaching technique, your basic aims, virtually all you do at school. You will need to be adaptable and flexible and prepared at all times to fend for yourself. You will need enthusiasm and a sense of humour to tide you over the bad stretches. You should think in terms of at least a two-year stay. Life as a teacher here is not a bed of roses, but if you are willing to work and learn you won't regret the time you spend here. It can be extremely interesting and rewarding.

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