Teaching lessons over the phone and via the internet, supporting home tutors, driving 500km for a home visit and camping in the showgrounds to run a mini-school are all part of the job for Dayna Benson at Mount Isa School of the Air.
For Danya Benson working in distance education is a career highlight. She sees it as a once in a lifetime opportunity and puts it up there with her experience of teaching overseas. Danya describes teaching students at Mount Isa School of the Air, as something she has always wanted to do.
Working in distance education was definitely on my list, and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to do it. It’s been the best thing ever for me. I just love it. I love that it’s unique.
In a not-so-typical week, Danya’s schedule includes on-air classes and individual lessons, preparation, marking and contact with home tutors. As a lower school teacher, she has two classes with about six students in each. Each class has an on-air lesson for an hour from Monday to Thursday. English is the only subject taught on-air. Home tutors are responsible for the other subjects.
After the two hours of on-air teaching in a class situation, the rest of Danya’s day is spent on individual calls, so each student receives a half-hour reading lesson a week and a half-hour of “personal learning time”. This is when she can check on mathematics, science, geography and history and ensure everyone is on track.
On Friday, Danya has time for planning and marking. She will spend time checking, correcting and providing feedback on the work home tutors have sent that week. She’ll also chase up work if it hasn’t been received. Parents and home tutors will typically telephone on Friday to discuss any issues.
A lot of my job is working with home tutors and parents, coaching them how to teach their child. A lot of my time goes to that.
During each term, travel to rural and remote areas of North West Queensland is a part of the job. Danya will do home visits when parents have invited her or when there’s an issue that needs to be sorted.
“Those days are always brilliant, to see the kids face-to-face because that’s one thing you do miss is, that face to face contact, that immediate feedback you can give kids. Talking over the air, there is a delay in everything. You become very good at pausing and waiting for people to talk.”
“I just love it. I think my strength in teaching is developing relationships and I always feel I’ve had good relationships with kids in mainstream classrooms, but when you’re working in distance education you can take it to another level because you’re working so closely with families.”
It makes me sad when people don’t want to move because I think if you just went for a year, you’d see how good it was.
Follow Danya on Instagram @theoutbackteacher
This is an excerpt from the Introductory Issue of Teachers Thriving Magazine, available online here.