Sunday, 3 July 2016

Another Change and a Holiday

I was transferred to my current school that I teach at in September last year, and have been teaching there for three terms.  It was so hard to have to move after teaching my EAL (English as an Additional Language) students for almost two years at my old school, but this year I have really settled into my new school and absolutely love my students there. 

I went from teaching nine students on my own in my last school, to having over forty five EAL students at the school and have loved working with other EAL teachers.  It's always hard going into a new school but everyone made me feel so welcome, and this year I've been feeling very comfortable and like a real part of the school.  I have made a lot of friends and have loved working with different staff closely, as I teach and support the children in their class. 

I have loved that it is always very busy and there is always something to do other than just teaching - whether it be having to help a new arrival adjust to settling into school, supporting teachers, following up things, organising interpreters, asking children who have been here longer to interpret for other students or parents, and working with families (who often come into school when we least expect them).

Most of the EAL students at school are Afghan and from a refugee background, and one of my favourite things was helping some of the student's Mums to cook and sell Afghan food at our school fair earlier in the year.  When I asked one of the Mums if she was keen to do it, she straight away told me that they could cook Bolani.  It is a flatbread which is filled with potato, herbs and spices.  We had some meetings with an interpreter and worked out what ingredients we would need, the equipment we would have to get and she told me she had a team of four or so Mums ready to go. 

The Mums still have limited English and I often have to get their children to interpret for them, but it was so much fun to take them grocery shopping.  I made up a shopping list with pictures of all the ingredients to make it easier to communicate with each other while we were shopping and we had lots of fun searching the supermarket for just the right ingredients.  They would show me the prices of things and ask 'good or no good?'.

After we shopped the other EAL teachers and I helped the chop and prepare ingredients for the fair the next day.  We were there for hours and it was such a fun night.  We had the best time talking to them about their life in Afghanistan and how it compares to life in Australia. They were happy for us to ask them questions about getting married and told us about how their parents arranged their marriages with their husbands.  They loved hearing about how we just see someone that we like and fall in love.  I have never seen women who work so hard. They just didn't stop the whole time.
I printed out Afghan flags for the stall and the Mums were so happy about it and kept saying 'good, good!' when they saw them.  They worked so hard the next day at the fair and didn't stop cooking for five to six hours.  It was such a fun day working with them and they raised over $950 just from selling Bolani!   We had explained before the fair that the money was going to the school to buy things for the children and afterwards they kept asking 'teachers happy?!' and you could tell they were so happy that they could help contribute to the school.
It has been awesome that Bolani is now sold at the school canteen one day a week and it's very popular.
I wish I could show the faces of the beautiful children that I teach as they are so gorgeous. They have come from such hard circumstances and have had to leave family and friends behind in Iran or Pakistan, but they are the happiest children and people.  They teach me so much about appreciating my freedom and safety.  I remember when I was growing up we would often hear 'kids in Ethiopia have no food' when Mum and Dad would try to get us to stop complaining about the food they had given us.  Now my boys will often say to each other 'kids in Iran can't even go to school' as I am always telling them about how hard things were for them before they came to Australia.  I love that working with these beautiful families is not only teaching me, but also my boys about having empathy for refugees and helping them understand what they've had to deal with before coming here.

They say that a change is a good as a holiday, and at the moment I'm about to go through another big change and we have just started two weeks of school holidays.  I'm wondering if that means that I'm basically having a double holiday!?  I could only wish!

Last week I found out suddenly that I am being transferred to a new school again.  Because I am now have permanent hours and am in the 'Flexible Teaching Pool' I have to move to fill a gap for someone who is on maternity leave.  To say I was devastated is an understatement. I cried when my Principal told me, and cried on and off for the next three days.  I get that there are times when people have to move, but it's just another thing that I feel could tip me over the edge, when I already have so much stress going on in my life.  I just feel like I can only handle a certain amount of stress before it all becomes too much.  I feel like I've had to learn how to be resilient and adaptable the last five years, but I'm really over having to keep adapting.

It's so hard to have to go through another big change again, and not have Aaron to come home to talk about it with.  When I told the boys I was being transferred I tried to play it down as I didn't want them stress over it (even though I was) but I couldn't help but start crying again when I told Harri.  He was so lovely and gave me a big hug and started crying too. I kept telling him it would be okay, but wasn't really knowing if it would be. 

It was nice to come back to work after I had found out, to chocolate left on my laptop from someone I work with.  It actually made me smile because after I had found out that I had to move, I was very emotional and yelled 'I need chocolate!'.  It's lucky I don't drink because I think it would be very dangerous!  I've eaten way too much chocolate over the last five or so years to get me through different things.

I am so sad to leave the kids I teach, their beautiful families, and the staff that I have made great friends with.  It was hard to tell the kids and some of them kept saying 'why can't someone else go to that school?'.  I agreed with them but told them that sometimes teachers have to move to new schools, and I promised them that I would come and visit them and hoped that I may be able to come back and teach them again another time.

Ever since I told the kids at school they were all running up to me with beautiful little drawings, notes and cards that they had made me.  One of the girls who has been here for a while had made a lovely big card and had gone around and gotten all the EAL students to sign it for me.  I love the grammar in it as it's often how they speak :)
She also wrote this lovely little note for me.

In one class I teach five students and their teacher had helped them make a gorgeous card for me.  I will miss all my little Prep students so much.
At my church the women have wanted to do something to help the refugees in our local community.  They knew that I worked with the students at school and asked me what kind of things could help them. I told them lots of things that could really help them and we decided that something that would be easy to organise, is putting together little packs for the kids to keep them busy on school holidays or at home.  Often the kids don't enjoy school holidays because they say they get bored and don't have a lot to do.  A lot of the kids love colouring in, so at church people began bringing in donations of pencils, textas, colouring in books and other little things for the kids. 

It worked out well that we had enough to pass on just the week before school holidays.  One of the ladies sewed up 20 bags and during the week three of them came over and we put the packs together for the kids.  

took the bags to school and with the other EAL teacher we gave them out to the kids who were the newest arrivals.  They were SO excited and kept saying 'thank you Mrs King!!' all day long. We explained to them that my friends from church wanted to give them to children who had to move to Australia from another country to be safe, and they were just so happy and excited about it.   My colleague teacher turned it into a whole lesson about how to write a thank you letters and they wrote some gorgeous letters with the help of their teacher.

On my last day of school I was so spoilt by the other teachers I work with, my colleagues, the kids and the school gave me a beautiful gift voucher to use to pamper myself over the holidays.   The groundsman was shocked to hear I was going as he only found on my last day.   We got talking about my new school and I was telling him it was going to make things a lot trickier at home as I'm a single Mum and my new school is not as close to home and I won't be able to get the boys to their sport or work anymore, which was another reason why I was so upset about having to move schools. 

He then told me that he was a single Dad for a long time as his wife had passed away and he brought up his three kids on his own.  He was shocked to then hear about Aaron and Noah and told me he felt so sad for me as he knew how hard things must be.  It was lovely to find a cute little bunch of flowers on my desk from him and a lovely note saying he hopes that I am able to come back sometime to work there again.  He had gone around the school and found any flowers that he could to make a bunch for me.

One of the older girls came to me and told me she wanted to buy me something but wasn't able to, and I told her I didn't expect her to buy me anything, but it was lovely that she wanted to do something so nice. I told her how much I loved working with her (even though I haven't taught her this year) and that she should be proud of herself and how well she is learning English, and promised I would come back and visit.
Everyone brought along food for morning tea on my last day and the Principal made a lovely speech.  I told everyone how hard it was to leave my old school and how grateful I was that they made me feel so welcome, and how much I was going to miss working with them and the beautiful kids.  I was only there for three terms, but felt so happy and settled there and hope that one day I'll be back.  It has been nice to look at my beautiful flowers the last few days.
It's lovely that one of the Afghan boys from school is in Kobe's soccer team.  Yesterday at soccer his older sister gave me this beautiful little card and note that she had made.  Her Dad said to me 'Zeynab said Mrs King new school. Zeynab sad'.  I told him I was sad too.
I am feeling sad to leave the Afghan children and their families as I have gotten to know them and their culture so well.  At my new school there are a lot of Bhutanese, Nepalese and Sudanese children and I'm looking forward to getting to know new children, families and cultures. 

It's so hard to leave my old school for many reasons, but I have heard so many amazing things about my new school.  I have gone to visit and met the Principal who was so lovely and very happy to have me there.  It's a very multicultural school and they have a lot of children on the EAL program, just like at the school I'm leaving.  
I have heard from other EAL teachers that it's a wonderful school to work at, and I hope that I am able to settle in quickly and that I will love working there as much as my last school. I'm hoping that the change will be as good as a holiday, even though I didn't feel at all like I was wanting one. 


  1. Oh it's so tough to switch schools! I can't believe you have to do that again. What tender notes you have gotten. It's clear you are touching so many lives! Hope the change isn't too difficult. Hugs, Nancy in Nevada

  2. This brought me to tears, you are such a beautiful soul Lisa. Those kids are so so lucky to have you, it would make things so much easier for them in Australia. Good luck with your next school :)


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