Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjajtara (APY) Lands Field Trip, November 2018.
I participated in a two-day training session in September 2018 to culturally prepare me for my two-week placement in an Anangu community school. I gained a broad knowledge and understanding of how to positively impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) students by using culturally competent and inclusive teaching and learning strategies. These strategies celebrated and respected their cultural identity, history and diverse linguistic backgrounds. (1.4), (2.4)
Most of the students came from the local community. However, some students had arrived from communities outside of the local area. Hence, they brought with them their own unique knowledge, culture and languages. These students come from diverse cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. They may have been educated within wider family groups (Crain, 2000). (1.3) English was their second or third language and visuals were key to helping the students engage with and focus on the learning content so that they could be and feel successful. (1.1), (4.1) The students were enrolled from years two to six along The Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2019) which required several differentiated learning activities to engage all students who had various levels of readiness, interest, cultural needs and learning profiles (Doubet, & Hocket, 2017). (1.5)
The 8 ways of Aboriginal learning framework and the What Works website are useful tools to assist in supporting ATSI students’ cultural needs. Some of the teaching and learning strategies recommended by the 8 ways of learning framework include; learning through narrative, the use of visuals and explicit processes, hands on methods, learning through images and symbols, interdisciplinary approach, connecting learning to local values, needs and knowledges, and learning through place-responsive, environmental practice (AITSL, 2019).
Protecting your ‘special place’.
During a science lesson. I utilised the eight ways of Aboriginal Learning framework and an Integrated Curriculum document that considered local culture and values.
This science lesson was connected to an inquiry-based unit on protecting students’ ‘special place’ and Australian Curriculum content (ACARA, 2019). Their special place linked to a dreaming narrative and connected to students’ cultural values and religious beliefs (1.4). We discussed the properties of plastic and other rubbish and how certain properties of rubbish may negatively impact on their ‘special place.’ We questioned which rubbish would biodegrade the fastest and why. The students came up with strategies to reduce rubbish at their ‘special place.’ This included reducing the amount of plastic being used, reusing plastic and recycling plastics. One way that the students reused some plastic was to make a rug out of plastic bags. (2.2), (2.1)
The significance of this lesson was that it incorporated inclusive learning activities that allowed students to recognise themselves and their culture within the curriculum discourse. I valued their culture, embracing and valuing their voice and religious beliefs. I used an interdisciplinary approach, connecting learning to local values, needs and knowledges. Students were learning via place-responsive, environmental practices (AITSL, 2019). I was culturally responsive by encouraging what community Elders desired for their young people; to speak and write in their own language (Anangu) as well as to speak and write in English. Further, I attempted to learn and speak Anangu during my stay. Therefore, enhancing student self-efficacy, personal agency and Indigenous sovereignty. which can promote reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians (Edwards & Hewitson, 2008). (1.4), (2.4), (1.3), (1.1)
My stay was short. Thus, I didn’t utilise differentiation teaching and learning strategies. However, they are an effective way to design and implement teaching and learning tasks that are responsive to student readiness, interest, learning strengths and cultural needs (Doubet, & Hocket, 2017). These tasks can include, learning menus, RAFT’s, inquiry-based learning, conferences and stations (Jarvis, 2016). I observed my mentor using stations to differentiate literacy and numeracy lessons effectively. (1.4), (1.2), (1.5), (1.3)
This experience will assist me in continuing to build respectful pedagogical practices to teach for Reconciliation in my future career.
“It was a pleasure having Kerry with us at (removed for privacy) Anangu School. She quickly settled herself into the daily routines, spent time with individual students and AEWs to build relationships, was happy to join in with all activities and led small groups in learning experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. Kerry enjoyed the culture bush trips and showed respect to Anangu by inquiring of what was acceptable such as taking photos of landscape (2.4). I wish Kerry all the best. I sense she has a great deal to offer and is on her way to becoming a highly effective teacher”. (Anangu Community School – Principal, 2018)
Internship – Sharing the Earn and Learn proceeds Initiative, 2020
During my Internship, I used an integrated curriculum approach. I initiated in sharing the schools Earn and Learn proceeds with a school in the APY Lands and made contact with the Governing Council for approval.
The school was collecting Woolworths Earn and Learn stickers. I noticed that members of staff were using their lunch breaks to stick the stickers on sheets. As a pro-active community school member, I asked, “Would it be ok for the students in my class to stick the stickers on the sheets?” I explained that they could do this in the morning, it would help them settle and this could go towards their community service hours. This was approved and the students enjoyed contributing to the school community.
During Reconciliation week, I shared some of my experiences teaching students at an Anangu community school. I used this as springboard to discuss (ATSI) culture in a respectful manner, knowing that there were three students in the class that identified as (ATSI). (2.4), (1.4)
“Kerry is aware of the need to adjust teaching strategies for ATSI students and read through the individual learning plans for the three Aboriginal students in the class. She was able to discuss the impact of culture and drew on prior experiences working with ATSI students. Kerry used Reconciliation Week as a spring board to teach, with sensitivity, through HASS and Writing lessons.” (Mentor teacher, 2019)
Therefore, promoting reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians. I had previously gained permission to share some photos of the Anangu community school’s activities. (2.4) Students in my class were particularly interested in the ‘culture bush trip’ photos. One photo in particular, showed a picture of a deflated basketball. This got students thinking about people less fortunate than them.
One student asked if we could do something to help? I suggested we could donate 10% of our schools Earn and Learn stickers to an Anangu community school. The students loved this idea. I explained to the students that we would need to get approval for this initiative from the school’s Governing Council and that I would look into it.
I decided that this would be a perfect way to connect and teach persuasive writing and the skills required for formal letter writing (2.5), (2.2). The next day I discussed this with my mentor, and she loved the idea. I explained to the students that they were going to write a persuasive letter to the school’s Governing Council. We would ask for approval to donate 10% of the schools Earn and Learn stickers to an Indigenous community school. I gave students a rubric and explicitly explained the assessment task to them.
I asked the students to look at their last summative assessed persuasive writing piece and to create a personal goal for how they could improve. The student’s initially wrote handwritten letters and I formatively assessed these. I returned these to the students and requested that they take on my feedback and type a good copy of their letter on the computer (5.1), (5.2), (5.3). I summatively assessed their typed letters. The students made significant growth in their learning due to my formative assessment. Most students went from a 3 to 4 in their grade, 5 being the highest grade they could achieve. This data was recorded in the teachers Summative Assessment grade book. (2.3), (2.1), (2.2), (5.5)
I made contact with the Governing council for approval via email and attached some of the higher graded student letters to the email (7.1), (7.2).
Governing Council loved the idea and tabled it at their next meeting. It was approved (Governing Council email trail). A seperate sticker collection box will be displayed at Woolworths in 2020 and a further 10% of the schools Earn and Learn stickers will be collected and sent to a community in the APY Lands. The result of this was that the students experienced that with action, they can they can make a positive difference in the community.
Recently at University, the Teaching Indigenous Australian Students topic has allowed me to critically reflect upon this initiative. I realise that I may have set the Indigenous community up as victims in need of our help. This is not a culturally responsive nor a pedagogical practice for reconciliation and was not my intention. Therefore, if I did this initiative again, I would critically analyse our intention with the students so that the students do not see Indigenous peoples as oppressed peoples, needing our assistance. Instead, Indigenous voices need to be consulted and heard (2.4). It is imperative that I consult with Indigenous peoples of the Anangu community to see if this is an appropriate initiative. This will teach my students about consulting Indigenous peoples and not making assumptions about what people want or need. Therefore, I will contact the Governing body of the APY Lands for their approval before implementing this initiative next year.