Happy “Let’s Always Appreciate Teachers” Year!

c-wilconx-2I recently had the opportunity to visit Darwin, in the Northern Territory, to deliver some literacy workshops. I have previously been to Darwin, in a similar capacity, almost 7 years ago. It is a very different way of life up there, and a lovely part of the country. Extremely tropical, and life is very relaxed. I think they could definitely pick I was the “Sydney” driver, in the mix.

I was lucky enough to visit a small Catholic school and work with the staff there (during their school holidays :o). It was about 40 mins out of Darwin, which can actually mean it is fairly rural, however the school had approximately 150 students, with actual numbers to be determined, once the kids came back the next week, the Principal explained.

Other than the change of students – down, or up – the school had to condense a class, as they also lost a teacher. It made me realise how difficult it would be to ensure good quality teachers, are encouraged, and supported, to work in rural, and remote environments.

I also managed to speak to some teachers from schools even further remote than the suburb I was delivering the workshop in (coincidentally, there was an Early Childhood Australia Conference on, at the same time I was in Darwin!) The scenarios they were facing with some students, provided a much more eye-opening opportunity, than I was anticipating.

It was great to be able to chat to teachers, from very different parts of Australia, and just nice to be able to meet with educators who are extremely passionate about helping all of their students, with whatever was needed, and never giving up.

I followed this workshop up by immediately going to Melbourne (with a temperature difference of 31 degrees celsius!) where I also met some extremely passionate educators. It was one of the best workshops I felt I had delivered, as we had some excellent educational (with a strong tie to literacy, as was the aim of the workshop :D) discussions, throughout the two days.

I also recently completed some observations in a school for students with additional needs, and was so impressed with the teachers in the class – constantly “on”, teaching, checking medications, ‘catching students being good’, prompting self-regulation – all almost without a breath in between.

And just last week, I was able to deliver one of my favourite workshops, talking about one of my favourite topics – positive reinforcement. I had a lovely small group, of four ‘beginning teachers’ (between 1-5 years teaching experience), all from the same school, and another additional extremely experienced individual. Again, we had some fantastic discussions, and these teachers were all amazing with the time they spent thinking about, and planning for, their students. Some great discussions were had again.

I know teachers receive a lot of criticism, but they really do an amazing job, with something that can be so extremely hard, yet ultimately, so rewarding.

So while it isn’t any specific “International Teachers Day” or anything, I figure, why not celebrate the great teachers around us, every day 🙂

Below is a video from one of my favourite teachers – Mr. Chris from Special Books by Special Kids 😀

Happy “Let’s Always Appreciate Teachers” Year!

While I’m killing more time in an airport…

I figured I’d sum up my experience at the ABAI 2016 Convention.

Convention is the right word, it’s much bigger than a conference! I took away so much, met so many people, had some new ideas, and came to the general conclusion that, while ABA is more used and understood in the US, people working in the field can still face the same difficulties we do in Australia – misunderstanding/misrepresentation, lack of funding, lack of collaboration and teamwork. On the whole, it is most likely more accepted, and used in the a States, but in a sad sort of way, that was nice to hear.
On the other hand, there were a few things that stood out to me that seemed a bit backwards, but I can possibly try to understand them. One in particular was the talk on fads and fallacies in autism intervention – what to watch out for. I would have thought that any good, qualified BCBA, would be aware of how to think critically about the latest “cures” for autism intervention, but apparently not. This kind of ties into when I was discussing with my supervisor the pass rates for the BCBA exam, and how people who fail, multiple times, can keep re-sitting it. Firstly, universities advertising their courses as “75% pass rate” is not actually that encouraging! (And I think that’s pretty average!) But I know the higher education system is a little different over here, so I can understand why that is important to people. (For the record, I plan on sitting the exam only once, and passing first go. 😳) There also seemed to be a lot of people discussing the notion of collaboration, teamwork, and working with the families. This is completely opposite of what we (try) to do in Australia. I think the systems here traditionally have been set up very differently.

It was good to catch up with, and meet a few Aussies. I like the fact there are other individuals in Australia, willing to travel half way round the world for a convention, to learn a little bit more about what is happening in the world of ABA. I like like-minded, committed professionals. (It doesn’t hurt that you can turn it into a holiday at the same time 😊)

It was also great to be able to share some work that I am doing in little old Sydney, with people from all over the world. I feel like this was a nice introduction, but it made me think a bit more about where my specific research interests lie (hint – it’s not activity schedules!) So this convention has been good because it has given me a bit more specific direction. Watch this space… 🎓

On the whole, I’m very glad I came! I heard so many great presentations, and had some good chats. I probably won’t be back for another few years, but do plan to go to the Interbational conference in Paris at the end of next year. And of course, the inaugural Australian ABA Conference, in Melbourne, September this year.

While I’m killing more time in an airport…