After doing paperwork for six months, I am finally teaching in Australia. Now, when I say teaching, I mean only subbing. Yes, you read that correctly, six months of paperwork just to sub. Their substitute teachers must be certified. Let me warn you, this is a wordy post, sorry!
Now, while they have to be certified, they do reward for being certified. Australia schools pay more each hour for relief teaching (subbing) than most American subs make in a day. In the Brisbane area they pay around $71.00 per hour, with a cap for $370 a day. Before you get to happy though, remember Brisbane is ranked 13th most expensive places to live in the world.
I have had many people ask me what is different teaching in America and Australia. Other than the money, here is a short list of what I have noticed in my first four weeks inside schools. While you are reading this, keep in mind I have been working at State Schools. Most State schools I have been at have been really small schools, and most grades have no more than four classes per grade. From talking to people around the schools, small schools are very common in Australia. Their primary or our elementary schools go from Prep, which is our kindergarden, to year seven or as we say seventh grade.
Even though they are State Schools, every school I have been in teaches religion. Yes, pick your jaw off the floor. They teach about Paul, Silas, Jesus, God and other Bible characters in public schools. Now, if a parent does not want their kid to participate they can opt to sit in the hall, but in the classroom they are learning about the Bible. Not many kids sit in the hall.
All schools wear uniforms. Each school has their school plaid and school colors that all the students wear it everyday. Above is an example of some of the uniforms the school wears, the plaid and tall socks I have seen in most schools are missing from the picture. They have a dress outfit and sport outfit. The dress outfit most of the time is a dress for the girls and nice pants or shorts for the boys. The boys wear button up shirts and some even wear ties. Both boys and girls wear knee socks in most schools. The sports uniform is the same for boys and girls, a polo type shirt that is kind of what we would call soccer shirts. Both uniforms, no matter gender must always wear a hat when outside. A hat when in the sun is actually a state law. All uniforms are unique to the school, and must be bought in the school's uniform shop.
It is really hard to get on to a kid on the playground when you do not know their name and they are all dressed the same! But the uniforms really do level the playing field with their clothes. Everyone looks exactly the same.
The layout of the schools is something I am having to really get use to. The schools are SO OPEN. Most schools I have been to all are multi level with every classroom having their own opening/staircase to outside. I had never thought about how truly lock down our schools are, but wow it really does make me feel safer. School shootings are not something Australian schools worry about like American schools.
Most rooms I have been in have tons of windows, fans, and NO air conditioning. Yes, you read that correctly, NO air conditioning. Just this weekend we had two days over 100 degree days, and this is still spring. I will say I have not gotten overly hot, it really hasn't been bad. They build the schools with no air conditioning in mind as they have a Queenlander style of building. Some classrooms are even open classrooms with up to four classes going on in one room. With my loud mouth, open classroom has really been an adjustment for me.
They have many breaks to eat throughout the day. Most schools I have been to have a fruit break (around 10:00), morning tea (around 11:00), and lunch (around 1:00). The fruit break is around five minutes, morning tea and lunch are around thirty minutes. They have 15 minutes at the start of the break where they eat, and then the rest of the break to play. Now, while they eat, that is a huge difference.
The kids do not have tables, there is no cafeteria or cooks. They all go outside their classrooms and sit on the concrete in the shade. There are no free lunches. Most kids bring their lunch, there is a couple of kids that buy their concession stand style food from the tuck shop, but most bring very healthy lunches. Most lunch boxes I have seen have a piece of fruit, a fresh veggie, a sandwich and water. I have also noticed that most do not bring plastic bags and trash. Almost every kid has this plastic lunch box that has dividers that can be washed every night.
While talking about breaks, teachers do not get a planning period every day. Most teachers get two to three thirty minute planning periods a week. The activities the students do are almost the same as kids in the states, but every school does teach swimming during the school day. Every school has a pool. Somethings are different with their activity times though like every time I have taken kids to the library, I have to teach the lesson. I asked if this was because I was a sub, and was told no. The classroom teacher is in charge of library lesson.
Teachers do get extra breaks when a relief teacher (sub) is there. The entire school runs on the exact same schedule. Yes, kindergarten through seventh grade or in Aussie terms prep through year seven, all have recess, lunch, and so on at the same time. The do have different areas they play and eat in, but still it is all the same time. So, even if the teacher I am subbing for does not have duty, I have to go do other teacher's duties who are at school, to give them a break. Hey! I don't mind though, I am getting paid pretty well. Most days I have one 30 minute break. It works out really well though, their day is only 8:45-3:00. It's pretty good.
Some things I do not think I will ever get use to is the different words for things. An eraser is a rubber, a marker is a Texta (the brand of marker), Math is called Maths, and most classes start and end every day saying good morning to the teacher in unison. They also put all their work in a book they call their scrapbook. The teacher may handout a worksheet, but the students then glue it into a book and keep everything together. Each kid has a scrapbook for every subject to help keep them organized and help them learn how to take notes.
Another interesting fact is parents are required to pay things. I have seen field trip notices that cost $18.00 per kid. Also, the kids have to put money on their account if they want to use the school printers.
This has been a great opportunity to see a different school culture. I have seen many things that I want to bring into my classroom, one day. It has also really made me think about the reason behind everything I knew in schools and what I have learned in Australia schools.
The best part, on most days I walk to school, I leave my house around 8:15 and home by 3:15. I would say pretty good day, while still feeling like I am making a difference in the world. While I love teaching, relief teaching or subbing is so different than teaching. I am so happy to be back in the classroom, but I really miss having "my kids" to help make a difference in their life and create a bond with them of trust and learning. What is a memory you have of a bond with your teacher or student?