Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

A Supported Learning Journey into Indigenous Literacy

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

A Supported Learning Journey into Indigenous Literacy

Article excerpt

ALEA Indigenous Award 2009

In 2009 ALEA National Council established an award to support early career Indigenous teachers and/or early career teachers of Indigenous students. The two recipients of the 2009 awards were Hayley Spaans from South Australia and Suzanne Lane from the ACT. Each is an early career teacher of Indigenous students. The award offered ALEA membership, teacher release to engage in reflective conversations about practice with an experienced mentor and support to attend a national ALEA conference. Rosemary Sandstrom from South Australia and Anne McNamara from the ACT were the mentors and ALEA National Council thanks them both for their continuing commitment to ALEA and to supporting teachers.

The following article by Hayley Spaans tells the remarkable journey she undertook as part of her award. Suzanne Lane's article is printed in the Practically Primary journal. ALEA congratulates and thanks both teachers and their mentors. Look out for the notice calling for applications for the 2010 ALEA Indigenous award.

This article is the result of the author's participation in the 'Literacy learning partnerships for Indigenous education: An action learning project', a project organised by the Australian Literacy Educators' Association. The purposes of the project are to recognise and support early career teachers as they investigate literacy education in their teaching context, with particular focus on improving outcomes for Indigenous students; and to establish professional partnerships with a mentor to plan, implement and reflect upon an action learning project situated in the early career teacher's current teaching context. The author describes her experiences of being involved in the project, which included the provision of an academic mentor.

My current teaching context

Moonta is located on the Yorke Peninsula, 165 kilometres from Adelaide. It is part of the tourist region known as 'The Copper Triangle', the historic area settled by Welsh copper miners. It is now a farming community characterised by a range of family and economic situations, limited employment opportunities and a population boosted in the summer and on weekends by holiday makers. The vast majority of students live in close proximity to the school and come from the townships of Moonta, Moonta Mines and the Port Hughes area.

According to the school website, Moonta Area School currently has an enrolment of 460 students and, of those, 6.7 per cent are Indigenous. The school serves the needs of the local community, with considerable degrees of complexity in regard to behaviour and learning outcomes. Moonta Area School currently has 30 per cent of students on School Card which provides financial assistance to low income earners.

As the Moonta Area School context statement (2009) explains:

   Our basic school philosophy is that we approach the issue of racism
   that is evident within the community, through an inclusive
   approach. We encourage our teachers to be flexible to accommodate
   different learning styles and cultures. This ensures that our
   Aboriginal students are not seen to be any different from other
   students. Some examples of this include Aboriginal students
   inviting a non-Indigenous student to share in specific district
   activities, and Aboriginal support staff assisting all students
   within the class who share similar learning issues to that of a
   specific Aboriginal student. The needs of our Aboriginal students
   are addressed by a team approach including key personnel from
   teaching teams, the Aboriginal Education teacher and Aboriginal
   Community Education Officer.

I am fortunate to be teaching in a school which has recently undertaken a $3.9 million redevelopment, including a purpose-built middle school building, to assist with the structure and teaching of our middle school teaching philosophy. Lessons are based on active learning with an environment that fosters an ethos of choice, consequence and student responsibility. …

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