Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Crazy Classroom of Wild Beasts

So for those that don't know, I'm actually a school teacher amongst other things.  I teach students from Weipa and surrounding communities in the Cape who are aged between 13 and 17 years old.   Most of my students are disengaged from school or need a little bit more room to breathe than the conventional 4-wall system.

Together we are a motley group of about 30 students and myself with a teacher aide.  My students are naughty and intelligent and witty and wonderful and I love the wild beasts too much!   The goal is to re-engage students back into mainstream school, increase literacy and numeracy and work with them through their own personal journeys so they can be happy, successful and productive citizens. We also transition students between distance education and community schooling into a fully loaded academic pathway on the main campus.

No one student is the same.

Our classroom is off the main campus in Weipa and the students come from all walks of life and experiences with all different and highly varied needs.

I truly have the most challenging and rewarding and satisfying role.  I have the best job in the whole world.

We have four snakes in our classroom - all who are readily fed, admired and handled by our students. We have a Cape York Jungle python called "Cleopatra", a rescued children's python "Zeuss" who accidentally got loose and escaped on his own week adventure before the snake catcher in town returned him to us, a spotted python "Monty", and one of the students caught another little juvie who looks like a Cape York Carpet python and who's growing alarmingly quickly in his hutch whom he called "Bruce".

We also have a BlueTongue lizard called "Borris" and an adventurous Red Claw called "Pinchy".  Pinchy ate everyone in his tank and is now in the big tank.  We had a rescued turtle as well but she kept eating everyone and getting out of her tank.  We also had a 6ft Bredli Python called "Esmerelda" but she kept getting out of her tank and had to be wrestled to go back in. She was also cranky and wanted to bite my face.

The students caught all the fish in both the tanks on one of our many adventures.  We also act as carers for the Weipa Wildlife group and often hand rear baby birds which we release back into the wild once they're ok and ready.  At the moment we have 2 kookaburras with concussion, a cockatoo called 'Wally',  a tawny frog mouth called 'Froggy' and we just released a crow called "Satane" who was bloody marvellous and would sit there saying "yum yum yum yum" until someone fed him!  We had a 'long-eared guinea pig' but he's moved on to a better and more suitable home...

One of the many strategies used to maintain control and engagement is a rewards system that works like this.    "If you come to school every day, be respectful to Miss and the other students, do all your work and get along, then we go for day trips on the weekends."  It works for me and for them cause my family and friends were going anyway and we've got spare seats.

On the weekends, I go around and pick everyone up from their homes.  Sometimes I have to call in some of my mates to help convoy them all if we've had a good week.  Their parents are very supportive and are so happy that their kids are happy.   Then we go for a day trip somewhere and swim in waterfalls, fish for barra, ride quads, shoot the .22 at targets or other wild adventures.  They get to cook their own bbq snag sangas and I take plenty of photos of them when they're happy and strong and proud which we use later in class.....when they're not.  It also works on the other students who didn't make the cut and they see what they missed out on so they work harder to get it.

On the first trip we took 6 of the boys.  I had one of them from Kowanyama say to me "Miss, I feel like I'm gonna see a pig. Miss, I feel it in my chest and Miss, I feel like I'm gonna see a pig."  I didn't think anything of it and brushed it off. Sure enough within 1 minute of him saying it, there it was. A big pig in the middle of the track...... Uncanny!  They get to know me on a different level and become part of the family.

Last Friday I took them on the bus to the Lakes for a flick in the afternoon and to throw the cast net.  I had two casts of the net for fingerlings. The first one went over another student's line and I thought they were going to be cross with me but that laughed and shook their heads saying "Ooooh if Mr Lobley saw that he'd laugh and get so mad at you..."  I shook my head at him but I knew he was right. The second cast I threw over the ledge and it tangled on the bottom. There was no way I was going in after it and was prepared to leave it and walk away.  But before I could stop him, one of the students had taken his shirt off and jumped in, untangled the net and was out. Quick as lightening.  I growled him out of shock "What are you doing? There could be crocodiles in there!!"  He just looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Miss, that's YOUR cast net and you only have one so you gotta look after it or Mr Lobley will be cross with you."  Unbelievable!  I was sooooo mad and proud of him all at the same time.  Thanks God no one was eaten that day!

They all know how to ride a manual 250cc quad now and the love riding them through the mud holes as we squish them between the car convoy to cap their speed without them knowing it.  They drove the quads into one of our secret spots and I thought they'd think it was super lame that I made them go so slow cause I didn't want ANY accidents but when we stopped all I could hear was their screams of laughter and excitement.  They walked each puddle before going through in case they got bogged and when we go there they were all like "That was soooo awesome!".  Totally worth the stress for us too x

They all want their photo on here but I said no.  We might have to do a blog lesson this term and they can write their own stories  xx

We were working towards a camping trip but we didn't quite make it in the end so that's our goal for term 2.

It works.  We've got kids coming to school more in the past 2 months than they have in the past few years.  We've got kids reading for the first time, feeling confident in themselves to have a go, learning to trust and taking responsibility for their own choices.  We've got kids learning to stand on their own two feet and be proud.

Love my job!

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