Remote outback schools are small. The pool of staff willing to move to the outback is smaller than competitive inner city schools. So sometimes you are recruited and may need to teach out of your trained subject areas.
It can be confronting, challenging and seem like a lot of work. But you are not alone. This stretch now will actually make you a more adaptive, diverse and talented teacher for any challenge you will face. You might develop a love of your new subject and learn new skills.
- Be clear about your teaching experience in your application and interview. Ask upfront what subjects you are likely going to be asked to teach.
- Speak with your principal about what you are and are not willing to teach.
- If asked to do a subject you are uncomfortable with ask for: professional development, extra support from EA or admin for the first few weeks, time out to work shadow a colleague in another ‘nearby’ remote outback school, negotiate with your admin team or fellow staff about modifying the course to align more closely with your strengths.
- Make sure you are aware of any health and safety considerations in your new subject area- such as hard shoes, aprons and equipment safety for cooking or woodwork, sun safety and equipment safety for sports. You should be inducted and trained for subjects that involve heat, complicated machinery or equipment or have elements of inherent risk.
- Do your research. Make sure you have a good understanding of the subject matter you’ll be teaching. Look for resources online or reach out to colleagues for help. It can be overwhelming trying to learn all the skills or all the curriculum outcomes for a subject- so start small. Plan your first outcome and assessment and work towards that- which might be a 2 week project allowing you time to find your feet and find support. Ask on one of our Facebook groups for ideas or to team plan with a teacher in another school- Teachers in Remote Communities (Past, Present, Future), Australian Outback Beginning Teacher, Australian High School Teachers (Year 7-12).
- Engage your students. Find ways to make the material engaging and relevant for your students. Consider incorporating hands-on activities, real-world examples, and group work. Use your strengths from your trained subject areas as strengths in your new subject area. ICT teachers could utelise technology in English or Art or Maths. Sports teachers could use hands on learning, outdoors and games to make the learning of English or Science more fun and engaging. Work to your strengths.
- Be open to new approaches. You may need to be flexible and adapt your teaching style to suit the needs of your students. Don’t be afraid to try new things and ask for feedback from your students and colleagues. Your Aboriginal Education Officers (or whatever your job title is for the First Nations people at your school) will have a wealth of knowledge of what has been done before, how the last teacher made it work.
- Build relationships with your students. Building positive relationships with your students is key to creating a successful learning environment. Take the time to get to know your students, listen to their ideas and concerns, and offer support and encouragement. Building relationships and high expectations might take a few weeks (and need getting to know you and teambuilding activities will need to be done daily or weekly ongoing)- so there is a little breathing space before you dive head first into your new subject topics anyway. Once you have that good rapport with your students- you will have more flexibility in teaching the new subject.
- Seek support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Talk to your colleagues, the school administration, or educational resources for support and guidance. Ask us on the Facebook group.
Loved this post? You might also like to read: Teaching out of subject area as a remote teacher
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