OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST (31)

Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (31)

There has always been a need for teacher training programs to consider those who might be thinking of teaching in remote community situations. The importance of this was (and is) in part to disavow those considering remote teaching of false and fanciful notions based more on romantic misunderstanding than pragmatic reality. First impressions of remote communities are not always lasting one, especially for those who visit briefly and then return to full time occupation after a fleetingly cursory first glance.

As a person who worked in remote communities in both WA and later the NT as both a teacher and principal, I can say quite unequivocally that preservice teaching in remote communities is best predicated by offering exposure to communities during training years.

In these modern times, that opportunity has largely gone by the bye. However, during our time at Warburton, that opportunity was provided.

During 1974, we accepted student teachers from Mount Lawley College of Advanced Education, which later became part of the Edith Cowan University. Our acceptance of students required us to provide them with accomodation and look after them for meals as well as supervising their practice teaching rounds. We were happy to do this and connect with what was an enlightened preservice teaching program conducted by Mount Lawley.

Students were supported by the College as well as by ourselves. There was a strong three way connection between our Warburton teachers, the students (two females and one male) and Mount Lawley supervising staff. At the end of the practice teaching period, the students had decided that remote area teaching was not for them. While some might consider their decision a waste of time and resources, I did not see it that way. Over the years, there have been far too many teachers who have decided on remote teaching, only to become disillusioned by the reality of their living and working experiences.

(It would be good if prospective teachers were given the chance to make considered decisions about remote appointments, but unfortunately this opportunity is rarely offered. Systems are keen to staff remote schools so the ‘sink or swim’ option too often becomes the way things are done. Lack of training funds is part of the problem, along with universities being keen to graduate teachers, then leaving their placement to education systems.)

I felt that Mount Lawley staff gained a great deal of understanding about the teaching competencies and personal characteristics those wanting to teach in remote areas should possess. Their learnings were put to good use in developing programs aimed at cross cultural understanding. We appreciated the opportunity to join with the Mount Lawley program, to share in teaching and learning opportunities the program afforded. Our inputs I know were taken into account with the development and shaping of ongoing preservice programs

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