Within a school culture that respects we’re all Learning to Learn, it’s invaluable for teachers to travel out of the comfort of their own classroom and way of teaching.
The learning becomes even more valuable when it takes place in a different country, where subtle differences in teacher collegiality, pedagogy, and community involvement can broaden perspectives. Our Teacher Exchange programme provides this opportunity, and currently involves exchanges with Australia and Argentina.
The development opportunity provided on an international exchange is to:
Mandy Irwin, from our Kaipara Campus and Stella Croker, from Brisbane Agnew, had an opportunity to host each other in their respective schools for a week. The structure was deliberately “free ranging”, and the goals were to be open-minded, enjoy the experience, and build relationships.
Mandy teaches Year 5 and Stella teaches Year 3. Both have had experience teaching in different systems. Mandy has taught at an international school in China using the International Baccalaureate curriculum, and in the Steiner system. Stella began her teaching career in the UK before emigrating to Australia.
They used their time observing a range of classrooms, and engaging in some uniquely local activities. Stella joined students and the community on a surf lifesaving training day at Mangawhai Heads, while Mandy got to meet Australian creepy crawlies, from a safe distance.
Both found their curious natures were highly stimulated by the exchange experience.
“I was forever asking – ‘so why do you do that?’,” Stella says. “I was interested in everything – the curriculum, planning, documentation, learning support, how progress is recorded, how guided reading is run, how often you do spelling tests – all the nitty gritty stuff.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to network with other staff and to build relationship between our schools. And we learned a lot from watching each other teach and in our day-to-day dealings with students and staff.”
Mandy’s fascination was with tools like:
“It was the best kind of professional development experience I could have. I have been very inspired by it.”
As a next step, Mandy and Stella aim to develop further the collegial relationships between staff, and to set up a penpal system so students can benefit from the exchange.