Emma Hart joined the Future Leaders Program because she wanted to develop her impact beyond the classroom, particularly in mentoring and coaching of new staff at her school, Kalgoorlie Boulder Community High School.
Emma came to her classroom career via Teach For Australia’s Leadership Development Program, relocating from Sydney to Western Australia’s Goldfields region where she has taught for four years. As a TFA Associate, Emma received one-to-one coaching and mentoring across her first two years of teaching. She joined the Future Leaders Program to build her own skills in this area, and others, conscious of how leadership development can help empower all staff and contribute to building positive school culture.
What aspirations do you have for your school community?
Kalgoorlie-Boulder is a town of vast inequity, however, I have a vision for Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School where these barriers to equity are removed and all students have access to support, exciting opportunities and an excellent education. As teachers, attempting to provide an equitable education to all students at this school is certainly challenging, but should not be an isolating experience.
I have a vision for KBCHS where the culture of the school empowers staff to develop safe learning environments for their students. By increasing my leadership skills, my goal is to mentor and support beginning teachers through the turbulence of the first few years of teaching. I also hope that I can be a part of what I envision to be a collaborative approach to developing a reflective, supportive and positive school culture. This would benefit not only teaching and learning within the school but also in developing a more meaningful and sustainable relationship between the school and wider community.
One of my first memories from my initial few weeks was a well-intentioned student telling me “no offence Miss, but you’re not from here”. That moment was pivotal for me. I learnt to listen and learn from my students.
Tell us about the school and community where you work now?
I teach at Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School, the public middle school for year 7-10 students in town. There is a lot of diversity in our school and in our community. The community is extremely resilient and there are so many community members who are doing incredible things to help each other out. Our students are also extremely resilient, kind and thoughtful young people.
What do you love most about your job?
The highlight of my job is interacting with the students I teach. Not an hour goes by without laughing at one of their jokes, or having a laugh at myself. The students at my school have a unique perspective on the world and I have learnt so much from them.
What do you wish more people knew about the work of a teacher, especially those working in an outer-regional / remote context?
Teaching is much more than an 8am-3pm job! So many teachers I know work tirelessly outside of these hours; early in the mornings, late into the nights and on the weekends to make lessons engaging and to provide feedback and opportunities for student growth. Many of my colleagues work under the belief that education in our town should be holistic. Weekends and weeknights are often spent watching students play sport and it feels like I end up chatting with students and their families every time I leave the house. A trip to K-mart takes a lot longer when nearly all of the staff working there are your students. I’ve seen a really different side to many students when I see them in their workplace and I love being able to bring their strengths from outside of school into the classroom.
What have been the greatest influences on your teaching?
My students have had the greatest influence on my teaching. Before teaching at KBCHS I worked for two years at Eastern Goldfields College, teaching Year 11 and 12 students. I had just moved from Sydney and had found myself in front of thirty 17 year olds in a town I knew nothing about. One of my first memories from my initial few weeks was a well-intentioned student telling me “no offence Miss, but you’re not from here”. That moment was pivotal for me. I learnt to listen and learn from my students. I was also extremely fortunate to have an incredible TFA Teaching and Leadership Advisor in my first two years of teaching, Jackie Drake. She continues to have a profound impact on how I view education and is a role model for continual learning, un-learning, having courage and being vulnerable.
When it comes to the students you’ve worked with, what impact are you most proud of?
I am proud of my students during so many micro moments throughout the day. Often it’s when a student attempts a tricky task, shows a respectful behaviour to another student or shares a part of their identity. I also love receiving emails from my former students sharing their progress and accomplishments. I love hearing about how proud they are of themselves and it brings me joy that they remember I care, even though I am not their teacher anymore.
When you think about the development of aspiring school leaders in your context, what would you consider the most critical?
One of the biggest challenges we have in regional schools is the transience of staffing so it’s crucial that we find ourselves at least one ‘marigold’. Marigolds are the positive, supportive, energetic teachers in our schools. Sometimes teaching can feel really isolating, especially on those days when it feels like nothing is going right so having a marigold to seek support from is essential to remind us of why we are here – for the students. I’m really lucky to have a few blossoming marigolds in my life, some within my school, some in the surrounding schools and others further away in the state.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a teacher working in a remote school context?
Education is so much more than assessments, grades and reports. As teachers we have the opportunity to make positive impacts on the lives of young people in many different ways. The experiences of every child are important and their perspectives are valuable. I’ve also seen the effects of educational inequity in action and I think this isn’t spoken about enough. There is still a really long way to go and this cannot be achieved by teachers alone.