Char­lie (Wil­bur) Klein has more than 20 years ex­pe­ri­ence as an re­mote and re­gional schools ed­u­ca­tor and prin­ci­pal. This ex­pe­ri­ence and pas­sion for teach­ing ‘off the beaten track’ saw him hon­oured as one of 12 Teach­ing Fel­lows in this year’s Com­mon­wealth B

The Australian Education Reporter - - FRONT PAGE -

“Util­is­ing tra­di­tional sci­ence knowl­edge to en­rich and fo­cus learn­ing in a broader sense has a pos­i­tive im­pact on chil­dren’s well­be­ing, and on the school com­mu­nity as a whole.”

Q. What at­tracted you to work­ing at Tjun­tjun­t­jara?

There’s a real moral pur­pose in what school com­mu­ni­ties do in re­mote com­mu­ni­ties, so when I was en­cour­aged to ap­ply I was happy to use the skills and knowl­edge I have – this is our 20th year in a re­mote con­text!

Just like maths spe­cial­ists who have those skills and knowl­edge, my wife and I have re­ally de­vel­oped that ca­pac­ity where we have the knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of the re­mote indige­nous con­text.

Too of­ten we are re­minded of how lit­tle we know.

Q. What prob­lems did you dis­cover at Tjun­tjun­tara, and how did you tackle them?

There was a need to fur­ther de­velop the phys­i­cal re­sources.

We’ve painted class­rooms, built gar­dens and brought the school up to a state where, as a school com­mu­nity, we’re proud of it and teach­ers like be­ing here.

Along­side that there’s the de­vel­op­ment of the cur­ricu­lum, and the core of what we’ve done is to de­velop (as a school com­mu­nity) our com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion agree­ment which clearly ar­tic­u­lates the shared ex­pec­ta­tions we have in re­gards to cul­ture, lan­guage, work­ing to­gether, learn­ing and en­gag­ing stu­dents.

Un­der­neath that we have the ac­tion plan of what the school is re­spon­si­ble for and what the com­mu­nity is re­spon­si­ble for – which be­comes our op­er­a­tional and de­vel­op­ment plan.

From there we have spe­cific things to fo­cus on; lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy in the west­ern sense but also that cul­tural learn­ing and the re­ten­tion of his­tory and cul­ture for our kids.

That’s what the school com­mu­nity agree­ment is about.

We’re build­ing a school com­mu­nity where we work to­gether and sup­port our kids, we’re not just build­ing a school.

Q. How did you feel win­ning the Teach­ing Award?

In the Awards you lay your­self bare to a de­gree, but while it’s an in­di­vid­ual award it’s some­thing that’s based on the power of many in the school com­mu­nity.

Cer­tainly lead­er­ship in the school has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact, but what we do as a group, the lead­ers within our com­mu­nity, the lead­ers within our school, im­pacts ev­ery­thing.

I see the award as a com­mu­nity award in a sense and I’m ex­tremely for­tu­nate to be part of this com­mu­nity.

Q. How is the grant money be­ing spent?

We’re util­is­ing the project money to fur­ther de­velop our cul­ture and two way sci­ence pro­gram – util­is­ing tra­di­tional sci­ence knowl­edge mov­ing into west­ern sci­ence knowl­edge.

Our de­ci­sion on how to spend the grant money was a com­mu­nity col­lab­o­ra­tion sup­ported by our shared vi­sion as part of the Com­mu­nity Ed­u­ca­tion plan – which is fo­cused on Learn­ing, Cul­ture and Lan­guage, Work­ing To­gether and En­gage­ment.

In this case, we are us­ing tra­di­tional knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence in the school with learn­ing on coun­try as a driver for learn­ing in school with El­ders and Rangers as the teach­ers to start the process.

CSIRO have come on board and are sup­port­ing us too, it’s a great col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween con­sul­tants, CSIRO, com­mu­nity and the school.

Util­is­ing tra­di­tional sci­ence knowl­edge to en­rich and fo­cus sci­ence learn­ing in a broader scope has a pos­i­tive im­pact on chil­dren’s well­be­ing and on the school com­mu­nity as a whole.

It recog­nises there is unique knowl­edge and skills in Spinifex Coun­try. Some­thing to feel good and strong about.

Big places and cities do not hold all the knowl­edge.

Q. Do you have any ad­vice to teach­ers about re­mote teach­ing?

One of the main is­sues for me is that after three years here, a teacher is re­ally get­ting to know and un­der­stand what’s go­ing on – and of­ten we lose them back into main­stream and never see them again.

That fear of leav­ing your so­cial net­work, friends, and fam­ily, is one of the main draw­backs and what peo­ple find hard to do.

There’s a ca­reer for peo­ple here. At times you need to go out and fol­low your val­ues like fam­ily but it is pos­si­ble to have a fam­ily and kids out in a re­mote lo­ca­tion.

Peo­ple need to view it as go­ing out to build your net­work and so­cial re­sources.

It’s not a neg­a­tive. What we’re do­ing out here in Tjun­tjun­t­jara, what I tell peo­ple, is that we are part of clos­ing the gap. We are part of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Aus­tralia. We are a small mob hav­ing a big im­pact on what our na­tion is chas­ing.

This is part of our na­tion. Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple are part of our his­tory and they’re an im­por­tant part of our fu­ture.

The more you learn and un­der­stand about it, the bet­ter you are as an Aus­tralian and the more you can share that story.

I say to peo­ple – come out and have a crack!

“We’re not just build­ing a school – we’re build­ing a school com­mu­nity [that] works to­gether and sup­ports our kids.”

Char­lie (Wil­bur) Klein with stu­dents at the re­mote Tjun­tjun­t­jara Com­mu­nity School.

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