Jeff Green | Dec 03, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - December 3, 2009 Lessons from the land down underBy Julie Druker
Australian exchange teacher Anne Casey and her grade 2 students at LPS
Loughborough Public School exchange teacher Anne Casey will be biding farewell to her students for good when the Christmas holidays begin and will heading back to her home in Australia.
Anne, who has been teaching in Australia for over 30 years, swapped jobs and homes with local teacher Jennifer Chanook. Jennifer and her husband Chris are both now currently teaching in Australia.
Anne took Jennifer’s class at LPS in Sydenham and Jen took Anne’s position at Mooroolbark East Public School, just outside of Melbourne.
Anne said she had always wanted to teach overseas. When Anne's husband Rod closed up his business, and with their children grown, the opportunity presented itself.
The couple chose Canada because as Anne explained, “We have always wanted to see Canada and the Great Lakes and we wanted to be in a rural setting, so it worked out perfectly for us.”
While Anne has been teaching, her husband Rod has been working as the crossing guard at Prince Charles PS and he assists at the school as well. Both have been embraced by the community, who Anne says, “have opened their hearts and homes to us.”
Teaching abroad does not come without its challenges and winter driving was one of the toughest for the couple. While there are four seasons in Melbourne, snow is still very rare, except for in the mountains. Learning to drive on the opposite side of the road in the snow, with the lines on the road covered in snow, was difficult. Anne added, “We had no idea that people can somehow live comfortably at minus 30 degrees.”
What struck Anne most about the area was the amount of fresh water and the lushness of the land. “Australia is so, so dry and Canada has 1/3 of the world’s fresh water. Everywhere you turn here there are lakes and green grass and it’s so lush.” Back home there are laws in place to conserve water. It’s illegal to water your garden, wash your car or wash your windows with a hose.
Traveling has been one of the high points of the couple’s experience here and in the short time they have covered a lot of ground, visiting Quebec City last winter for “Carnival”. They have also made trips to New York City, Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls (three times), and Vancouver Island, where Anne’s aunt celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary. They also squeezed in a tour of the Rockies and a trip to Nova Scotia and PEI and a jaunt over to Algonquin Park.
For Anne the teaching has been a lot easier to manage than the winter driving and she explained, “The curriculum here is very similar to Australia’s but it’s just a matter of picking up the little differences.”
She admits that her accent has been a bit of a challenge. “Sometimes in the classroom and also in the staff room I find that I have to slow down and try to rephrase things”. Her students have learned a plethora of new words like reckon, jumper, rubbish, bin and mate and Anne herself has made an effort to use certain words less.
She has also tried to include lessons about her home country where it fits into the curriculum and as a result her grade 2 students have learned heaps about Australia, its geography and exotic species like the emu, dingo, kangaroo, koala and platypus.
As far as differences go Anne commented, “The major difference I’ve noticed is that teachers in Canada provide the majority of their own classroom resources. In Australia much more is paid for by the school.”
Other differences she‘s noticed? “The kids are pretty much the same but I have to say that Canadians on the whole tend to be more polite.”
The school terms are different too. In Australia there are four terms in total and teachers work four consecutive ten-week stints with two weeks off between each. Over Christmas, which in Australia occurs in the summer months, teachers have a five-week break.
Anne prefers the Australian system and explained, “I think it’s better because even though we work the same number of days as teachers here our energy is spread out and I think it benefits the students too because their learning is more continuous.”
That being said, Anne highly recommends the exchange program. “It definitely extends your knowledge of the world and takes you out of your comfort zone in a beneficial way. It also makes you more reliant on your family and so can be a very beneficial experience for the whole family.”
Bon voyage to Anne and Rod and I reckon that the many members of the community are equally grateful that the Caseys chose to work and live in this community.