Relationships are key to your success as a remote teacher. Your relationship with your students, relationships with Aboriginal Educators, your relationship with your colleagues, relationships with families, relationships with other service providers, relationships within the community.
So forming relationships might be one of your priorities when you arrive in your remote community placement.
Tip 1: Be Clear On Your Needs and Boundaries
You are about to move to a new community with a new culture, with new ways of being, new norms. You will won’t always know the ‘right’ way to do things.
Being comfortable with your own boundaries will allow you to branch out safely to explore new relationships, new experiences and your new community.
New teachers without boundaries can be overwhelmed with culture shock or caught out in a situation that makes them uncomfortable. Being open to meeting new people, trying new things and exploring your community can be exciting, rewarding and empowering- when you feel safe and comfortable.
It is important to know your personal signs of overwhelm and stress so you know when to step back. Know when you need to just have an afternoon watching Netflix, or close the door.
Tip 2: Get Involved
Take a walk around your new community to explore what services and activities are in town. Look for posters about upcoming events on noticeboards. Get involved as a volunteer . Get involved as a team member in a sports team. Get involved as a audience member. Your students will see you active and involved around community- they will see you as a ‘human’ not just a teacher. You will get the learn about family connections, the home life of your students, the social dynamics in community between students and strengths your students have outside the classroom.
Tip 3: Say ‘Yes’
You might feel overwhelmed with all the things you must get done- unpacking and settling into your new home and your new classroom, planning engaging lessons for the diverse needs of your students.
Sometimes saying ‘yes’ to the drive out to the local waterhole is the last thing you want to do. Sometimes you need to remember why you have come out to a remote community- to make new friends, to explore new landscapes, to make a difference for your students. And sometimes the best way to do that is to make new friends, create new allies, have colleagues formed in fire.
Getting out with your new friends will allow you to feel part of the community. It will provide you with a mental health break. It will give you a chance to explore and unwind.
Boxes can be unpacked later. Classrooms can be decorated over the term in conjunction with students. Find the balance between work and play.
Tip 4: Say ‘No’
You are going to a new culture with new social norms. There are some things you might need to say ‘no’ to until you properly understand the dynamics, culture and your place in them.
That could include going to a house party, BBQ at a student’s family’s house or out hunting for example. This might also include things like giving food to children, allowing children into your front yard/house, giving coins/lending money, giving lifts, responding to humbug, accepting skin name or place in a family without understanding the cultural responsibilities attached. It might also include things like running extra curricular activities, taking on extra responsibility while you are finding your feet in the new role- you don’t have to jump to be on committees, boards or run homework programs, extra reading groups etc.
There may be no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer for some of these things- but until you have found your place, understood the dynamics and spoken to your local Aboriginal Education Officers or staff you might be more comfortable saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ or ‘I’m busy’ or ‘next time’.
Tip 5: Learn about the culture and language of your community
Showing an interest in and appreciation of the culture and language of your local community will help you connect and form relationships. You will learn and grow- and be able to use this knowledge to form deeper bonds with community members. You might attend local events, visit the local art center. You might begin to use language words in greeting. Community in turn will see you as someone willing to learn and more likely to stay.
Tip 6: Getting to know you, team building and class building
In school, you should regularly run ‘getting to know you’, ‘team building’ and ‘class building’ activities- even long after you feel comfortable in your role. In fact, you can’t go wrong running one a week for your time remote. You will be surprised that even though many of your students have grown up in the same town… and may even be related… that they don’t actually all know lots about each other. Students may live outside of your community on family blocks, stations or in other communities well out of town. Students may have issues such as family feuds that affect their relationships. Students may be highly transient- coming and going for extended periods of time. So even if you feel like you know your core group of students- there will likely always be a new student or a new dynamic in your classroom.
One way to do this is to do your morning yarning circle. This allows you to check in with your students each morning to see where they are at, to learn something new and to all feel connected.
We have other ideas here.
Tip 7: Remember your core role
Communities are small. The main reason you are in community is for your role as a teacher. Inside and outside the school gates- you represent teachers and the school. You are the responsible adult that looks after other people’s children during the day. You are a role model to the young people in your care- who see how you behave outside of the school gates too. Drugs, public drunkenness, drinking in ‘grog-free’ communities, fights, damaging property, engaging in rumours, deficit conversations, negative comments about others/school/students- are all things you should really avoid.
Tip 8: Other communities
Collaborate and share with other remote teachers who will have other ideas to enhance your remote teaching experience. Consider joining the Teachers in Remote Communities (Past, Present, Future) group on Facebook.
Tip 9: Seek other support
We know that moving to a remote community can be overwhelming- that’s why we created the Survive and Thrive Membership to support new teachers to feel confident and supported in their first few months remote. Learn more now.
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