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22 October 2015

NT learning trip: Territory educators share expertise

Teach For Australia Associates James Bayard and Caitlin Conway share their experience on the recent Northern Territory Learning Trip.

In the September school holidays, two Alumni and seven Cohort 5 Associates decided that they hadn’t had enough of school and needed to visit some more! So, nine of us self-funded our way to the Northern Territory, where we participated in a learning trip coordinated by Teach For Australia.

The trip was designed to give us a taste of school and life in the Territory, with the hope that many of us will choose to teach there soon. It took us across the length and breadth of the NT, visiting schools and meeting staff and principals in a wide range of contexts.

We flew into Darwin and were met by NT State Manager Steph Simson and Teaching and Leadership Adviser Philippa Williams. Visits in and around Darwin included Nightcliff Middle School and Taminmin in Humpty Doo. The next stop was Katherine, 300km south of Darwin, where the group visited The School of the Air, St Joseph’s College and Katherine High School. Our visits showed us that even in the same town, each school operates within a unique context.

The work of The School of the Air is incredibly unique and provided great insight into the challenges for students, living in remote or very remote environments. At St Joseph’s and Katherine High, the students and staff, including Alumnus Ash Duggan, showed what life is like as a learner and teacher in a smaller town like Katherine.

Visits to local Indigenous communities around Katherine and to a remote school near Daly River allowed us to gain a better understanding of the truly unique context of teaching and living in the NT. It highlighted the importance of providing all students with a great education.

And, a visit to Katherine Gorge, hiking and croc-spotting (successfully!) from the cliff top as the sun went down showed us the non-work related benefits of living in the NT.

For some, the tour finished, when we returned to Darwin. However, four of us continued to Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. Discussions with Centralian Middle School principal Eddie Fabijan helped us understand the challenges of school reform, the commitment a move to the NT would entail and the life benefits of being a Territorian, as he detailed his own move from “down south”.

In Tennant Creek, we met Associates Millie Green and Will Lutwyche, whose commitment to their students was inspiring, as was our meeting with their principal, Maisie Floyd. We left with a strong sense of what the school had achieved and what they were moving towards.

The trip was designed to be about learning, allowing interested Alumni and Associates to better understand the needs of schools and what life as a teacher in the NT would really be like. All those, who went, consider the possibility of moving to the NT to teach.

We left even more certain that the work done by teachers in the NT is important and worthwhile and that we would like to be a part of that. For anyone even considering the idea, the learning trip is a must – to meet people in the know and understand how we can best support the needs and excellent work already being done.