My stint as a sub in Australia has finished. By the way, sub work here is abundant. Four to five day work weeks are easily acquired, and the pay is over double the Californian equivalent. Anyways, I wanted to discuss some of the main differences I came across at schools here. I was truly driving the struggle bus my first few days, but I eventually figured it all out…for the most part.
As a teacher, you live in your department’s staffroom and tote all your stuff to your classroom each period. At many schools, you teach in several different rooms. Personally, I prefer having my own classroom space where I can keep all of my materials in one place, and arrange it the way I want. As a casual, not having a home classroom can be particularly annoying if you are covering for a couple of teachers in different departments. You’ll find yourself jogging in heels, trying to grab your teaching materials, hopefully finding the new classroom and then attempting to appear calm and controlled in front of students who are eager to mess with you. However, the staffroom does foster camaraderie between colleagues. The other teachers I worked with were so welcoming, friendly and helpful. Getting to know them was a massive perk.
In the US, a teacher may have 2 courses to teach. Let’s say periods 1,2 and 3 you have US history. Periods 4 and 5 you teach government. Each day, that schedule would be the same. Week to week there would be no change. Here, it’s a little different. You may have 4 courses to teach. However, your geography class may only meet 4 days a week, and during a different period of the day each of those days. For example: Monday 1st period, Tuesday 3rd period. Oh, and did I mention that your classes may also meet in different classrooms? You are put on a 2 week cycle so you have one schedule for week A and another for week B. You get used to it quickly, but initially it threw me.
Every kid has a laptop courtesy of the New South Wales government. Nice idea, but I’m not convinced it was the best idea. Frankly, I think the government should have first ensured that every classroom had a data projector/smartboard/laptop hookups. Every teacher should have access to that technology. I find it odd when a teacher has to use a 4,000 year-old overhead projector to deliver notes that students simply type onto laptops. That’s assuming that students are taking notes instead of playing games and watching Youtube.
The size of the school is far smaller than a typical California public high school, and it’s a nice treat to have smaller classes. But the added bonus is getting to know the students personally. It’s a boon for a sub. After a few days at a school, you quickly get to know the bastards, the brains and the bums. This means you can formulate a game plan for classroom management. I’m not saying your game plan will work, but you can at least try.
Thank your lucky sub stars if you get to work at a selective school. Students are tested in primary school to see if they are smart enough to go to a selective public school. In the central coast, Gosford High School is the receptacle for the gifted and talented. Unfortunately, the nature of learning is often that students feed off of each other. At Gosford, the kids encourage the best in each other. I actually taught a couple of meaningful lessons here. In the regular high schools, I feel that mediocrity may be feeding off of mediocrity. I had my phone stolen here. That’s not to say that there aren’t wonderful, bright students at regular high schools. I just think that many kids need exposure to motivated students to reach their potential.