Top end teachers: Why Avondale students go to Darwin for their practical placement

Student Mackenzie Young on placement at Marrara Christian College, Darwin.

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It’s fortuitous. With COVID-related restrictions causing complications along the eastern seaboard, eight Avondale teachers-in-training find themselves in Darwin completing professional experience placements.

The primary and secondary education students began their three-week stint at Marrara Christian College this past Monday (July 26).

It’s Caleb Lipman’s third placement. “I wanted to get more experience teaching indigenous students and learning about their cultures,” he says. Mackenzie Young, on the other hand, is completing her first placement. “I’ve learnt to be firm with the kids from the get-go, then they listen from the start and get more out of the lessons.”

Secondary course convenor Dr Jason Hinze was with Mackenzie when she first arrived at the school. “A girl just ran up to one of the teachers and said, ‘Who’s Miss Young? Who’s Miss Young?’ The teacher pointed at Mackenzie and the girl came up and said, ‘I just wanted to know who my prac teacher was.’” The Year 5 and 6 students in Mackenzie’s class “have all been willing to help. They know I’m learning, too.”

This is the main reason why our students—the third group from Avondale to teach at Marrara—are back up north. “The school doesn’t tolerate our students but enthusiastically accepts them,” says Jason. “Because they feel loved, they feel confident experimenting and being themselves in the classroom.”

Of course, not everything goes to plan, and that’s OK. “The benefit of students being placed at the same school is that they share accommodation and naturally debrief with each other at night,” says Jason. “They celebrate together when things go well and help each other learn from their mistakes.”

Caleb is enjoying the camaraderie. “I love being around a group of people who understand how my day’s been. I get to come home to, in a way, a family.” Mackenzie says she would much rather learn on the job. “It’ll be easier going back to theory now I’ve had this classroom experience.”

The Top End experience is a replacement of sorts for a service learning initiative called Ministry of Teaching Overseas, which Jason developed and coordinates. About 350 students have participated in a trip since 2007. With India, Cambodia, Nepal and Tonga as previous destinations, Jason is missing the overseas element. “The different culture, language and belief system of another country is a beautiful thing, but Darwin’s a good alternative given the circumstances. And it’s fun.”

Effective, too. “All my placements have made me more eager to get into my own classroom,” says Caleb. “I love seeing children grow and learn.”

Brenton Stacey is the Public Relations and Philanthropy officer at Avondale University College.

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