While local First Nations teachers is the remote outback education ideal, the reality is that the vast majority of remote teachers are of a different background and culture than their First Nations students.
Our cultural background can be a huge strength, can bring challenges but always needs us to reflect on our subconscious bias.
- Different cultural perspectives on education: Some cultures may place a greater emphasis on rote learning, while others may place a greater emphasis on critical thinking and creativity. Your cultural backgrounds can impact the way you subconsciously teach and the activities you are more drawn to. This can affect the way in which students approach their studies and the methods that teachers use to engage them. One framework used to understand First Nations ways of learning and perspectives on education look into 8Ways. Think about your own culture- what ways were you raised and educated? How does this shape your pedagogy? Do you think this is a successful way to work with your First Nations students, is it best practice, or do you need to learn additional strategies, be flexible and adapt?
- Different cultural communication styles: Different cultures may have different ways of expressing themselves and interacting with others. This can lead to misunderstandings and difficulties in communication between students and teachers, particularly in a second language setting. Your students might use different facial, body language, eye contact, intonation, connotations of words. Your local First Nations educators will be an invaluable source of information about your location specifics. Be a learner.
- Different cultural expectations for teacher-student relationships: In some cultures, the teacher-student relationship is more formal and hierarchical, while in others it is more egalitarian. This can impact the way in which students relate to their teachers and the level of respect that is shown in the classroom. Be a listener and a learner. It might be useful watching the way First Nations educators interact with their students, and a teacher you really admire and look up to to model your teacher-student relationships on. There is also a lot to be said about setting your own boundaries and being comfortable in your relationships- so if what you are doing is working- then be you. Be aware of your responsibilities as an employee of your school in regards to appropriate relationships with students.
- Different cultural backgrounds and experiences: Students from different cultural backgrounds may have different life experiences and knowledge bases, which can impact the way in which they learn and the type of materials that they find most engaging. We should always aim to deliver culturally relevant, linked to real life experiences for our students. For First Nations students in remote outback communities this could be through on Country learning, two way lessons, hands on activities, using local resources in your lessons, having Elders and community guest speakers and other ways.
To effectively teach in a remote outback school, it is important for teachers to be aware of these cultural differences and to be sensitive to the needs and backgrounds of their students. This may involve adapting teaching methods and materials to better suit the students’ cultural contexts, and working to build strong relationships with students and their families.
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