5 years with Teachers Mutual Bank

Seamus, Tim and Vivienne's stories

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29.11.2021

Tim

Moree is a town of about 10,000 people located in North West NSW. The biggest disadvantage we face is distance and isolation. Moree is probably most famous for its artesian hot spring baths, which we call our ‘healing’ waters. The community itself is also healing, from the racism and segregation prominent in the town for decades. At Moree Christian School we have just under 100 students from K-10 in the school and pride ourselves on our culture of community. We are a school that aims to provide a nurturing, Christ-centred education whilst also ensuring children experience academic excellence.

I participated in the Regional Teacher Mentorship in 2016. The RTM is, in my mind, the perfect professional development with an excellent balance of theoretical and practical pedagogy, and providing memorable experiences and connections with fellow teachers and arts educators.

One of the most valuable things the RTM gave me was the ability to engage with a network of educators. As the only English teacher and the only Drama teacher at our school and am on my own when it comes to programming for English and Drama. Being part of the Bell Shakespeare community has provided an opportunity for greater curriculum support and has allowed me to improve my practice as an English/Drama teacher with an array of exciting, engaging and non-threatening teaching strategies to assist in unlocking my students’ understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare, as well as strategies that can be applied to many different teaching areas. Just as Bell Shakespeare is passionate about making Shakespeare accessible to all students across Australia, I am now able to pass on these strategies to teachers around my region.

Together, Bell Shakespeare and the teacher community can change the way Shakespeare is taught and instil in our students a love of learning. What a gift that is.

Teachers Mutual Bank have been my primary bank for nearly 20 years and knowing how supportive they are of arts education and the RTM specifically makes me appreciate them even more. Thank you Teachers Mutual Bank!

Seamus

I work in Bendigo (a regional city in the middle of Victoria) and I get to work with some amazing students at Kalianna Special School. As a special education school, I get the opportunity to really get to know my students and their needs. Bendigo is a large and wonderful community, but it comes with its challenges, especially in terms of youth unemployment. Helping our students gain confidence, agency and skills is the core of what we do.

I participated in the Regional Teacher Mentorship in 2020. It was inspiring. That’s the main word for it. I had passion for implementing Shakespeare projects, but I didn’t have the confidence to really go my own way with it. Post-RTM, I took to writing my own material for the students and taking Shakespeare’s work by the horns and putting my Seamus-shaped stamp on it.

The work we did during the RTM doesn’t just apply to Shakespeare. It can be used to approach texts and communicate ideas in this powerful and embodied way that I see enormous potential for in my kind of education setting, and any subject. The opportunity to create, to embody and to explore a concept is powerful, and can help break really complicated ideas and concepts down into very real experiences. The benefits are continuing... in the classroom I’ve learnt how to slow down with Shakespeare; and we’re hoping to perform some Shakespeare at our school concert this year!

It’s an amazing program, and Teachers Mutual Bank are amazing supporters of it – I hope the folk at TMB know that it’s affecting the lives of students across Australia.

Vivienne

I teach at Jingili Primary School in Darwin. The school prides itself on ‘Putting the Child First’, providing learning experiences that help the students develop life-long academic, social, and physical skills. A variety of cultural backgrounds are represented in the student population.

I am extremely grateful and proud to have participated in Bell Shakespeare’s Regional Teacher Mentorship in 2016. It has been a major highlight of my educational journey as a teacher, providing me with a rich resource that will continue. After the RTM I incorporated Drama into my literacy program, helping students unpack Shakespeare’s language and learn new words. It has been wonderful seeing students who were shy or reticent to participate respond to the ways of teaching I learned during the RTM. For example, in 2018 I taught A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and one of my students with low literacy took on the role of Oberon, memorising all his lines as well as the lines of the other characters around him. He came from a traditionally ‘oral’ culture and storytelling was second nature to him, and Drama provided a platform for him to perform.

During 2020 I was asked to run Drama at another Primary school for six months. Many of the students were from lower socio educational backgrounds and the vast majority hadn’t been exposed to Drama before and there were some challenges in behaviour and buy-in. However, after some weeks of persevering using the Bell Shakespeare model of oral storytelling and acting out short synopses such as the argument between Oberon and Titania I finally won over a core group who loved experimenting with acting out power in the model of A Midsummer Nights Dream.

The opportunity to participate and mix with actual Shakespearean actors and explore these wonderful timeless texts during the RTM was an invaluable and everlasting experience. I can see the indelible mark it has had on young students and I’m so encouraged by the depth of sharing and ideas when we sit and explore Shakespeare’s themes of family, arguments, love, friendship and more. Teachers Mutual Bank were a very positive influence during my time with Bell Shakespeare and I’m so grateful for the value they placed on us as teachers of children.