One more very valuable CRT stint

While we can all agree that one of the most valuable things about being a Casual Relief Teacher is that we can come and go as we please (if our pockets allow us, that is), it is the amount of new knowledge that we, ourselves, can gain from our experiences in the diverse schools around us that excites me the most.

Recently, I went back to one of my favourite schools in Sydney’s Inner-West that I spent quite a bit of time in a couple of years ago. Aside from how welcomed I felt by the school community (which again, is something else we can all appreciate as CRTers), what I especially loved about this school was the daily celebration of the diverse cultural and language backgrounds of its students. This school is renown in the community for this and also for its brilliant EALD (English an Additional Language/Dialect) program. For those not so familiar with EALD education, it supports the English language development of students whose first language is not English. EALD programs are delivered in a variety of ways to meet the different needs of EALD students at different stages of learning English. In this school in particular, the EALD program specialises in teaching English in the context of the curriculum that children are studying, in order to support students’ acquisition of English language skills relevant to the subject area.

Throughout my time at this school, I had a series of classes; but my favourite class had to be the very energetic and dynamic Kindergarten class that I had for around two weeks. Like most classes in this school, every student in this class had a home language different to English, which blew my mind in the most wonderful way. But what it really reinforced in me is how magical children are as learners, and also, how influential our role is in their learning and in their lives. Over the two weeks with this class of brilliant children, the major supporting role of EALD teachers became clearer to me than ever before. The daily goal of these teachers is not only to help children achieve academically, but also socially and emotionally – because the ability to communicate is so vital to “fitting in”. Thanks to the EALD teachers, children from various language backgrounds are able to transition into classroom and playground routines, and have their movements through the ESL scales and Literacy Continuum supported; finally enabling them to meet the outcomes from of all curriculum areas and to feel comfortable in an environment which would otherwise be incredibly isolating.

I feel that despite the best intentions of my University education, I gained way more from these two weeks than I ever gained from four years studying. I spent a lot of time focusing on the language I use in my teaching; noticing that this was something I had often taken for granted when working in many other schools. I learned techniques to help with language acquisition and acquired a wealth of activities/games to use for improving English vocabulary, and what’s more, during my playground duties I got to learn a few new Chinese, Korean and Arabic words (just to name a few) myself, which not only reinforced my understanding of the difficulties of learning a new language, but reminded me of how special and unique each and every child is.

It can suck to not have a permanent job, but what we can learn from CRTing is often way more valuable than we could ever imagine. And I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world.

For anyone interested, there are a plenty of helpful sites out there to help with English development and acquisition in our classrooms:

Rebecca Favaloro