Teach the Teacher goes multi-campus in Sunshine
The usual routine of facilitating a school and their SRC was recently tested when a request came in from Sunshine College. The school which houses four separate campuses and a different student representative council for each wanted a change, they wanted it now and they wanted to do it together....
A new but rewarding challenge for Teach the Teacher Project Officer Melanie Gaylard.
This article first apeared in Connect Magazine Issue 227
My role as project officer at the VicSRC is to facilitate sessions that enable students to harness this invaluable knowledge and understanding and share it with their teachers. The focus of these sessions is many and varied, but positive change is always the desired outcome.
This was obviously the guiding motivation for Sunshine College in Melbourne’s western suburbs - a college across four campuses - to take on the program.
In early June this year, interested student representatives from across all four campuses came together to hear more about Teach the Teacher. They discussed their own school experiences and considered the best ways to hear from their peers about the issues affecting them all.
By the time I returned in late July, most students had acquired some excellent data through surveying and listening to their fellow students. One campus had encountered some challenges in this but didn’t let this affect their workshop experience or their desire to get this data at a later date – which they were able to do.
Despite the challenges presented by the numbers (with all four campuses represented!) the students were keen to hear about each others’ experiences. In evaluating the workshop, one student wrote: “I valued the discussion about the topics each group chose the most because there were lots of ideas from a wide range of students.”
Interestingly, student-teacher relationships emerged from the data for two of the campuses, and learning and teaching styles emerged for the other two. They interrogated this data and were keen to discuss not only what it revealed but the ways in which it was limited. They thought about the best ways to discuss these issues with their teachers and were excited to think of creative ways to do this.
I was impressed with how motivated they were to make sure the professional development (PD) session they provided for their teachers was a meaningful one. There were some great discussions around how to talk to teachers about ‘sensitive’ issues like favouritism and repetitive teaching styles. I left feeling confident that the students of Sunshine had things to say and that their representatives had their back!
When I returned for the ‘Next Steps’ workshop, to discuss how the PD session had gone and to plan for action, the news was good!
Students fed back that the experience had been an overwhelmingly positive one and cited the following as highlights: ‘feeling like equals with our teachers’, ‘feeling like we had a voice’, and ‘feeling proud’. They also commented that they were particularly proud of: ‘the way we led discussions’, ‘the way the session flowed’, and ‘the sense of teamwork on the day’.
Most students were able to share what had been discussed on the day, which was either recalled or drawn from written responses collected from teachers on the day. From this, a discussion for action emerged for each campus.
The Senior Campus discussed the potential to create a campaign addressing the stigma around accessing support when feeling stress. In their discussions about student-teacher relationships, the idea that students didn’t always feel like they could talk about their experiences of stress had emerged. They decided that a campaign could be a productive way to educate students and teachers about this issue.
North Campus students were keen to develop a program of professional development sessions for teachers, led by volunteer teachers, to highlight new ways and strategies to engage students.
Students at West Campus had a similar idea, with students as experts in ‘visual learning’ tech-niques. They hoped to run their own sessions for teachers, presenting them with new ways to teach topics with a more visual focus.
Ardeer Campus students hoped to create a resource for teachers to encourage them to be more inclusive in the classroom. They proposed a ‘5 top tips’ guide that would include, for example, reminders to call on different people to answer questions.
The students at Sunshine did a fantastic job and I’ll watch with interest as they take action over the following year. A big thanks to Oliver Lovell – a committed and passionate teacher who initiated contact and who worked at length with the students, particularly at his own campus, to provide guidance and motivation.
I’ll leave you with just some of the glowing feedback from the Sunshine College principal, sent to Oliver after the PDs:
“The College SEWB [Student Engagement and Wellbeing] team met tonight and all campus reps raved about how good the student-run PD was last night ... Reports of very emotional teachers close to tears watching their students deliver to staff ... A total success across all campuses and a credit to you ... Thank you ...”
Amazing work Sunshine College!
Teach the Teacher Project Officer
Written by students, the Teach the Teacher program is a student-led professional learning program for teachers that allows students to address issues affecting them.
Teach the Teacher provides a space for students, teachers and principals to connect, epxlore and share ideas in a constructive and judgement free environment.
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