CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We believe that a school funding system should be based on need, so that the money should get to where it is most needed.
No school on Monday due to a public holiday. Instead I spent the day, preparing lessons for the week and contacting university students who had just applied to help out at the school’s Homework Centre that I run. Needless to say, the extra day off provided a welcome respite in the middle of the school term.
The Homework Centre is a free service for our students that provides them with a healthy afternoon snack and one-on-one assistance as needed. It was started last year in recognition of the barriers that many of our students have at home that limit their ability to properly complete homework and assignments.
Each student who attends comes with differing motivations. Some have no desk or quiet space at home where they can study uninterrupted, others have no internet. Some have no adult of older sibling they can turn to for assistance: their parent(s) or guardian could be at work in the evenings, or looking after multiple children. In some cases, the student comes from a non-English speaking background meaning that for the adult, despite best intentions, any school-work is unintelligible. Other students attend simply for the food: the platters of fruit and sandwiches offer an enticing sight and a meal that isn’t often found at home.
It is thanks to goodwill that the homework centre is able to exist. Staff and tutors volunteer their time to help out the students who attend. La Trobe university provides funding that goes towards stationery and the weekly food supplies.
Before starting teaching, I was told by a number of people in the profession that “It’s the little wins that makes teaching so special”; this is the reason why, as many have quoted to me, they love the job. Today, I was fortunate enough to have two of them.
The first came towards the start of the day, during one of my more difficult classes. In this class, I often feel like it is a battle to get some students to open their book, let alone complete the assigned work. Homework completion is patchy at best. The class is dominated by boys, and includes a well-intentioned but disruptive and easily distracted group of five. At the end of today’s class, one of these boys came up to me to chat about the work currently being done. Of his own accord, he told me that would like to be doing more textbook work, and in fact, would like me to set some more work for him to go on with at home.
The second moment of celebration came prior to the start of another class. Chatting to the students outside the classroom, I asked them what they had learnt in yesterday’s class. I had been out visiting another school for the day, so the lesson was taken by a casual relief teacher (CRT). While the responses produced from some students was in no way worthy of celebration, two students stepped forward and handed me hand-written and signed notes. In these, the students apologised for not completing the assigned work on stem-and-leaf plots (“pea pods or whatever they are”) from the previous day, as they – and the CRT – did not understand the activity. Instead, as their notes explained, the two students went on with textbook work, Mathletics and maths games.
While there is still much I have to learn in this profession, these small wins have given me optimism that I’m stepping in the right direction.