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6 Important Considerations for Back to School in First Nations schools

The start of term in a remote community in Australia often looks a little different than when you are teaching in the city.

Our students can be highly mobile; moving between communities for cultural obligations, funerals, visiting large extended families, for work opportunities and many other reasons. Due to our students’ mobility engaging them back into school can sometimes be challenging. Low or inconsistent attendance can make delivering consistent content, improving student outcomes and even managing behaviour can be more challenging. It is in everyone’s best interests that we have as many students as possible there every day.

So how do we get our students back at school from the first days of term?

Creating Awareness:

  • Use social media, posters and word of mouth to make sure that students and families know when school will start again.
  • Be seen around community and have warm inviting conversations with students. Communities are very aware of teachers coming back to town and it can create a stir.
  • Your conversations with families around community will help you learn who is in town, who isn’t and who you might need to touch base with early in the term.

Create Excitement:

  • Share the exciting and engaging activities you have planned for the first week/s of school.
  • Tell everyone you bump into about what you are excited about- ‘seeing my friends again’, ‘lunchtime sports’, ‘using the science equipment’, ‘getting Dojo points’, ‘new food in the canteen’, ‘exciting things we will learn about’, ‘upcoming excursions or guest speakers’ etc.
  • You might also ‘be seen’ buying science or cooking stuff from local shop and discuss this with the shop staff so word spreads around community.

Hook Them In:

  • Think of different ways to hook your students into school and onto the school grounds.
  • First day of school breakfast, teacher-student sports competition, a special assembly item where teachers present a funny skit, a guest speaker from community, a Friday reward lesson in the computer lab, bring a friend activities where you remind students to bring their friends back to school so they can do something special together.

Create A Sense of Team:

  • Pepper in lots of ‘getting to know you’, ‘team building’ and ‘class building’ activities. These are three distinct different purposes.
  • Even if you are coming back to term 4 there will undoubtedly be a new student or students who don’t really hang out or know each other outside of school- this is where you can go deeper getting to know each other with activities like- Find Someone Who, Yarning Circle Questions, Inside Outside Circle about favourite food/pet/place.
  • Team building activities are to help small groups of students learn to work together. These are games like- build the highest tower out of random things, list as many X/Y/Z (activities you all love, fun things to do on the holidays, things we have in common etc)
  • Class building is about the sense of togetherness as a whole class- creating a place all students want to be and feel welcome. This might be things like- create a class poster, create a class banner, create a class song/rap/chant, create a puzzle with each child having a puzzle piece etc.
  • We have some Getting to Know You Games templates and other fun games on our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Keep Up The Momentum:

Plan engaging and relevant units with interesting guests or excursions. Keep your students engaged and at school is easier than chasing up and trying to improve attendance. You want students to be sharing with their friends, family and community how welcoming and fun learning is at our school.

Recognise the Barriers:

Recognising the barriers for your students and families is important at the start of the term too. Do they have transport? Do your students have access to fresh clothes for school? Are they nervous and just need to have you visit and encourage them to school? What else is a barrier for your student? Work with your First Nations colleagues to do home visits, phone calls or follow ups to help all your students get to school early on. The longer they are away the harder coming back to school will be.

Do you have suggestions for how to get students back to school and engaged after the school holidays? Share your ideas with us all in the comments or on our social media channels! We’d love to hear from you!

Looking for more ideas and support? Look into our Survive and Thrive Memberships for remote outback teachers here.

#teachersinremotecommunities #theremoteteacher #outbackteachersaustralia #australianoutbackteachers #bushteachersaustralia #australianaboriginaleducation

This post was developed with the help of Kayse Morris: 7 Helpful Tips on How to Blog Like a Boss . As part of this challenge we also had the opportunity to connect with other great teacher bloggers- including Adventurous Elementary, Kandi’s Kinesthetics, The Fab French, Ilearning llama, and Mama Wears Pajamas who all blog about ‘back to school topics’ too.

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Hi, we are Hakea Hustler and Carl Merrison

We help new remote teachers feel confident and successful  so that they can make the most of their time remote and live a life of adventure.

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