We have seen some amazing teachers, some not so amazing, some that lasted literally a day. We’ve seen teachers stand confused while students jumped on desks, teachers who gave colouring sheets as assessment in high school unable to understand differentiation, teachers who felt depressed and isolated.
We’ve seen teachers make life long friendships, sky rocket their careers, have huge success for their students, make real differences for the students they have worked with, make huge financial gains.
We’ve heard the many different and complex reasons teachers choose to teach remote- the good, the bad and the ugly. So if you are considering working in a remote community school it is important to think about your motivations so you can know if remote teaching is right for you… and the young people you will work with.
The impact of the high turnover of staff on students is huge.
‘Lost’ learning time getting to know students needs/backgrounds/levels and building trust and rapport, students who must learn about your teaching style/temperament/behaviour management, attachment issues for students who have had multiple teachers sometimes in the same year, the time new teachers accidentally spend covering stuff that the teacher last year already has, the gaps in learning when their is a lack of or incomplete handover, the impact that inappropriate staff have on student’s future engagement, attendance and perception of school.
The impact of moving remote if it isn’t quite for you or if you haven’t thought through your motivations can also be important to consider: the cost of moving (financial, time, energy, emotional), the impact of trying to find a job mid-term if you have to leave community sooner rather than later, the impact on references for future jobs, impact on your confidence, mental health. The stories you will then go on to tell other people who ask about remote teaching, your old community or First Nations people.
So it is important that you ask yourself the why of your move but also reflect on the how you will thrive there.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do I feel confident in my teaching ability?
- Am I opened minded and willing to learn?
- Am I willing and able to commit to the length of my contract- ideally a few years?
- Am I resilient with a range of coping strategies and support networks to overcome challenges as I face them?
- Am I adaptable and able to ‘go with the flow’?
- Do I have a range of teaching skills (behaviour management, differentiation and creating engaging lessons being some)?
- What are my motivations for going remote?
Some of the best teachers in remote communities moved there for a variety of reasons or a combination of many:
- Very experienced teachers looking to work with a different cohort of students.
- Teachers who are confident in their teaching and want a change of lifestyle.
- Teachers who are interested in learning more about First Nations language, culture and ways of being- and share their expertise as well.
- Teachers who love incorporating nature and learning outdoors- and are looking for adventure.
- Young teachers without commitments looking to give their all to improving outcomes of First Nations students.
- Teachers who have worked in other cultures overseas looking to work with different cultures in their own country.
- Teachers experienced with Aboriginal students or rural schools seeking to challenge themselves and learn more about different places and cultures.
- Teachers who have unique skills they want to share and develop alongside First Nations colleagues- such as art teachers, woodwork teachers, cooking teachers.
- Eager to learn how to be an ally to First Nations education staff and upskill and empower others to lead change in their school community.
- Willing and eager to work in disadvantaged schools in the city so consider moving remote to do the same work but with better benefits and experiences.
- Special education, ESL teachers who are interested in using their skills and knowledge in a different context and receive the benefits of doing so.
Here are some of the horrible reasons to teach in a remote community (some that we have literally heard off teacher’s own lips):
- Fast track my deposit for my home purchase | Pay off debt | Set myself up for retirement. Remote teaching often does have significant financial incentives that can be a additional reason to go remote but should never be your driving force. The cost of living in remote communities is high, travel expenses add up and some of the costs of the move may as well. Financial reasons will not be a great motivation to stay if things get tough either- you need more.
- Save Aboriginal children | It’s my <insert religion> duty | Teach the heathens about <insert deity or God>. Lilla Watson “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” First Nations people do not need to be ‘saved’, ‘converted’ or indoctrinated. Competent teachers, strong First Nations allies and people from all religious backgrounds welcome.
- I can change the world | I’ll fix all my student’s problems | I’m the answer to years of intergenerational trauma. You may have a lot to contribute to your new remote community- but as an ally you will be guided by your principal, Aboriginal Education Officers, Elders, community leaders. Many outsiders from many organisations have come and go- making changes that have not been community lead or sustainable. You have the power to create change- but you will need to know your strengths, limitations and where you are wanted and needed. And always remember your core business- educating students to become empowered and active citizens in their own communities.
- I survived <insert trauma> so I can fix others. Lived experience is great for remote teachers but only if you have worked through your trauma and have a range of skills, knowledge and the resilience to face some of the challenges that others face without being triggered yourself (away from your supports).
- Fast track my career and secure a better role back in the city. This is a really valid motivation to go remote… in conjunction with others such as highly skilled teacher looking to get into leadership to create sustainable, quality education opportunities in remote communities. Going remote to ‘stand on the heads of your colleagues or students’ to climb the ladder at the expense of others is not the right motivation.
- Get away from | Leave something behind. Remote can be an amazing fresh phase of your life, a life changing experience and a real chance to see things you will never see in a city. If you are running from negative experiences just be mindful of the lack of supports and resources in your remote community- you will be alone- and you have a huge role as a remote teacher. You need to be your best so if things are tough right now- reassess if it is the right time for you.
Remote teaching is not for me… YET
It is totally fine to realise that remote teaching is not for you… yet. That you need to upskill, gain experience, sort out your life in your town where you are first.
- Consider upskilling by looking at our directory, viewing recommendations and reading recommendations
- Gain experience by working with First Nations groups in your community, tutoring First Nations students through Need a Tutor or volunteering through something like SWIRL for example
- Learn more about what remote teaching actually entails: Follow Teachers in Remote Communities (Past, Present, Future) on Facebook, The Remote Teacher Australia on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about remote teaching, to be inspired, to have all your questions answered and to feel supported on your remote teaching journey.
It is totally okay to want to extend your career, improve your finances or adventure- but you need to be careful that these aren’t your only motivations. Remote teaching can be rewarding, empowering, life changing- it can also be challenging, isolating, complex. And we want your success… for some people that just isn’t in remote contexts 🙂
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