What happens when a kiwi and a kangaroo exchange classrooms

DECEMBER 18, 2015 / Articles

The teacher exchange programme has been initiated to provide opportunities for staff to experience One School Global first hand.

The development opportunity provided on an international exchange is to:

  • Enable teachers to test their practice with different students, in a different environment.
  • Enable schools to learn from the experience and feedback of “fresh eyes”.
  • Build people connections at all levels that can help us to realise the potential of One School Global.

The approach is more than observation. Teachers must teach, and learn.

The first exchange took place in November, when Sherryn Rowe from Woodthorpe School, in Perth Western Australia, traded places with Trish Gilbert, from Greymouth on the West Coast.

Both teach Year 3-6.


The West Coaster in Western Australia

Trish had a big city experience, discovering the joys of traffic and being among large numbers of people, but successfully helped her Aussie charges become Kiwis for a week.

Sometimes, if you have a big challenge in front of you, a friend to stand behind you is all you need. And with the trophy cabinet empty in Australia, it just so happened that behind me were ‘Team All Black’ and 4 little golden trophies (not Webb Ellis rather Westmount Education Trust). There was just one slight difference, these trophies (after negotiation with the Perth students about a decision already made by the Greymouth ones) were for 1)mLeadership, 2) Collaboration and Teamwork, 3) using Self-Directed Learning skills, and 4) writing the best persuasive letter - New Zealand is a better place to live than Australia! After all, sometimes it is necessary to argue a point of view that you perhaps don’t really believe.

We did have a tournament. There were teams. Not France, England and Ireland, rather Kowhai, Kikorangi and Ma and they proved to be champion teams, not teams of champions. More importantly, there was a common goal. We were teams who earned points by completing a series of tasks set by a leader we didn’t know who spoke a funny way. 

Full of enthusiasm, we immersed ourselves in Kiwiana and Maori culture and language. It was such a short time but the kids did an amazing job. A set of “Kiwi Yarns” called Kiwi Corkers (fairy- tales told in a kiwi way), provided a springboard for discussion, information and questions which were at times, very entertaining. We had Maori spelling tests and used this new knowledge to teach ourselves the haka. We know who Go-getta weta and Tane Mahuta are and why Gotta-gloat Stoat is such a pest.

We had earthquake drills and designed and made models of ‘recently discovered’ New Zealand fruits. We created the most amazing native birds in pastel framed with kowhaiwhai patterns and held our own flag referendum!

How often do we ask our students to take risks and challenge them to go outside their comfort zones? A trip to Perth and a teacher swap did just that for me. Sounds like the trip of a lifetime. And indeed that is just what it turned out to be.

There were the obvious mistakes; there was a language barrier and I had planned enough work to last a lifetime. Traffic problems in a city of two million are slightly different from those in a town of ten thousand, and for the life of me, remembering 27 names in a week when you’re of a certain age is almost impossible but, I DID IT!

There have been overwhelming positives. I cannot thank Sherryn enough for lending me “our” class. The staff, the community and the students have been amazing.

A week is not long when you want to make an impact, see everything and talk to everyone, but it is a week I will treasure and for which I am incredibly grateful. I witnessed high interest and intrinsic motivation. I heard rhythm and music, laughed at very convincing persuasive writing and watched the realisation that “I can!” Most of all, WE had FUN.

At the end of the day, as Team All Blacks would say, “we got the job done” and we got the job done WELL. The hakas delivered here by Woodthorpe students with unbridled passion, respect and enthusiasm, were the absolute best I have ever seen. My team of ‘kiwis’ was awesome and I will really miss them.

This Teaching Exchange has been a golden and positive learning opportunity for this teacher. If one like it happens to come your way, my advice is to grab it with both hands, I can highly recommend it.

Watch: A fiercesome haka!



Simple tasks that take you outside your comfort zone

Sherryn had fun with Kiwi accents, and climbed out of her comfort zone planting a vege garden, and taking students shopping. Our West Coast students learnt a lot about Australia from her, including poisonous animals and AFL footy.

It was early in the morning when I walked into the Year 3-6 classroom in Greymouth. The rain was pouring down outside and the clouds were hanging low over the mountains behind the school. I sat at the desk - full of nerves, but most of all excitement for the week to come. When I saw the cheery face of Truan and the rest of the students pop around the corner and greet me with the strongest kiwi accents, I knew I was going to have the most amazing week in New Zealand.

The students were very quick to remind me, at least twice a day, that the Wallabies lost to the All Blacks in rugby and were about to lose in the cricket too. Thank goodness we pulled through in cricket, Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! I was constantly corrected for my mispronunciations, especially by Tauri when I would say the letter H. I was starting to wonder, who was teaching who in this teacher exchange?

It was a week filled with me teasing the kiwi accent, fush and chups,  or should I say shark and taties, and the students retaliating by using the All Blacks win against me. It’s safe to say, there were many laughs and debates about who was right, but I was determined to turn them into little Aussies by the end of the week.

One of my most memorable experiences was going shopping with the students. It’s safe to say I have never driven students in my car so when I was told that we were going shopping and three of them jumped in, panic struck. I drove like a granny while the students thought it was brilliant. Shopping at the nursery for seedlings and plants and then later at the Warehouse was an eye-opener. You could tell I don’t have kids of my own as I was panicking every time one of my six disappeared. But we all got back to school in one piece with the teacher a little more frazzled and sporting a few extra grey hairs.

The sun started to peer through the clouds that afternoon, so we made the most of it and rushed out to the garden to start planting. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t have the greenest thumb so I got the students and Jos, (who was amazing and did most of the planting) to do it as I tend to kill everything I touch. I think we did a fantastic job and can’t wait to see pictures of the luscious garden once it starts growing.

The students created a travel brochure on Australia which I hope they will use next time they come and visit us. I ‘taught’ them how to play footy which was quite entertaining. They took to it like a duck to water and learnt how to handball, mark and kick goals very quickly. I hope they are enjoying the footy and mastering the game.

Driving along the coast to Westport for the day on Thursday, was so beautiful. The scenery was extremely picturesque and the students were fantastic tour guides pointing out all the interesting sights to see on the way. Once we arrived in Westport, I listened to the incredible persuasive speeches the students had prepared and practised. I was extremely impressed with the amount of effort and enthusiasm they put into them. Afterwards, they planned their aboriginal art design for their boomerangs, we played some more footy for sport and then headed home a little early so the students could take me on a quick tour of Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Such a beautiful part of the West Coast!

I couldn’t believe that Friday had arrived so quickly and my time at the school was nearly over. I had planned a day filled with baking and art work. I was feeling brave! The students did such a fantastic job at baking damper and of course making a mess. It was great to see them get their hands dirty and then enjoy the hot damper smothered in butter, mmmm delicious! Their boomerang designs turned out beautifully, but unfortunately, the weather was torrential so we couldn’t trial them outside. I thought I’d leave it for Ms Gilbert to do...

Saying good bye to all of the students and staff at Greymouth was sad as I had had the most amazing week with them all. I will remember this week for ever. It has honestly been one of the most amazing experiences I have had and I take away so many wonderful memories and ideas to further develop my teaching skills.

Watch: Sherryn's video story