Placed at Tennant Creek High School in the Northern Territory, Will Lutwyche (Cohort 2015) has since taken his teaching to the world through Teach For All Global Network opportunities that are available to TFA Alumni.
In July this year Will Lutwyche travelled to Bratislava to help deliver the Slovak Republic’s first large scale teacher practice professional development event. Will saw the opportunity listed in the first edition of Teach For All’s Connect newsletter and jumped at the chance to join expert teachers from around the globe to facilitate and run the conference.
“I’ve been on three Teach For All conferences now: Malaysia and Abu Dhabi in the UAE, and now I’ve been to Slovakia. These opportunities are there and you’ve just got to find them,” Will said.
“There’s actually a lot of other opportunities as well to be part of Teach For All networks and working groups on various topics, such as policy. All opportunities are advertised, you’ve just got to find them online and the best location for that is the Network Teachers and Alumni website. Sure, sometimes they’re a bit like a diamond in the rough in that you’ve got to sift through a couple of webpages to get there but these opportunities are open to any TFA Alumni.”
The conference in the Slovak Republic was organised by Slovakia’s main teacher training institute, Metodicko-Pedagogické Centrum and the OECD, and was supported by Teach For All. The 300 Slovak teachers in attendance were from primary and secondary backgrounds and were encouraged to exchange ideas with a focus on modern pedagogy and schooling needs. OECD analysts provided data and research to frame the debate, with 25-30 Alumni from Teach For All Global Network partners contributing to expert panel discussions and leading workshops.
“There were people from the USA, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, the UK, Romania, Lebanon and of course Teach for Slovakia,” Will said.
“There was a whole range of Fellows, Associates and Alumni there who facilitated the workshops for all the Slovak teachers on the different topics, with one Teach For All representative from each topic sitting on the expert panel and working with our OECD colleagues to plan the panels.”
“Being the only Australian there was really interesting as well. You do get socially anxious about going to these kinds of conferences in Australia and being intimidated but to go to a conference where there’s not one other Australian in the whole place is very humbling. It’s also nice to know that in Australia we’re very lucky with our education system, what we do and the standards that we have. It was great to be put out of my comfort zone to have to talk to hundreds of people from around the world.”
Translators certainly came in handy in such an international melting pot of educational excellence. The conference featured real-time translating headphones for keynote speakers, who included the head of the Education Directorate at the OECD and the head of the Singaporean education system – long heralded as one of the best education systems in the world, according to Will – with translators assigned to each of the panel discussions and breakout workshops, which Will delivered five times over the course of the conference.
“There’s definitely more of these conferences coming up in the future. I think there’ll be one in Qatar, in Bahrain, another one in the UAE, in Dubai. Usually they are run by the national governments who ask the OECD to coordinate them, with Teach For All recruiting expert teachers from around the world to essentially facilitate and run the conferences,” Will said.
“I guess the key learning from it from my point of view was that the Slovak education system is extremely different to Australia. They have some really complex issues which fortunately for Australia, we don’t have to endure, and one of their big issues is around teacher pay and the interpretation of the profession of teaching in Slovakia. The idea of a teacher is viewed incredibly low in Slovakia, they pay them very, very poorly and the teachers were saying they were kind of on the same level as cleaners for example.”
“It was a whirlwind, a very brief trip, but I’d do it again next week because it was such a great opportunity to be a part of,” Will said.
When he’s not teaching teachers on the other side of the world, you’ll find Will in the classroom at the Waranara School in Marrickville, NSW, which has around 70 students from Years 9-12.
“It’s a really small, special school for kids who have various social and emotional disabilities or mental health issues. My title is Diverse Learning Coordinator so I work a lot with students with a disability and do things to assist those students,” Will said.
Marrickville is a far cry from Tennant Creek where Will was placed during the Leadership Development Program and where he had a feature role as a second year Associate in the Testing Teachers documentary that aired on SBS in 2017.
“There are some very similar challenges at both schools. The support services which you can get in a metropolitan area far outweigh what’s available in a remote area. Managing complex issues and dealing with students who haven’t been to school for a long time and suffer from different mental illnesses and that kind of thing has been really challenging, but it’s also really rewarding,” Will said, adding, “It’s only a new school; we’ve got Year 12s completing this year which is really exciting. It’s really good to be a part of, and I’m learning a lot.”
As of October 2019 only 20 TFA Alumni are currently signed up to Teach For All’s Connect newsletter. If you’d like to learn more about the wonderful opportunities available to Alumni please click here to subscribe to the newsletter and/or find out more about Teach For All’s opportunities available to Teach For Australia Alumni on the Teach For All Network Teachers and Alumni website.