The teacher's experience
Teachers from metropolitan schools have been given an opportunity to see what life is like in remote NSW by participating in a week-long professional learning exchange to teach in Connected Communities' schools.
Connected Communities contact officer Paul Hughes said the professional learning experience was a great way for city-based teachers to get past their reservations of teaching in a rural school.
"They get an understanding of the community and the school, it's demystifying," Mr Hughes said.
"Teachers can research city-based schools in person, but in these regions it's too far. Often they can't speak to teachers from the school unless they go there and this opportunity gives them a chance to see what life is like, both during school hours as well as outside of school hours, too.
"Even if the majority of the staff do not seek work in rural positions as a result of the placement, the benefits are not wasted as it gives the local staff some time for opportunities they would otherwise not be able to do.
"The Wilcannia staff use the time for staff development, time that otherwise they would not have together."
Mr Hughes said the professional learning experience was a success on a number of levels.
"The staff who are selected are quality teachers and in the long-term the [Connected Communities] schools hope some will pick up a position permanently," he said.
"For some it has been the reason why they have moved to a rural school and they have told me they would not have done it without this experience."
One country convert, Andrew Ryder, said that without being given the experience, he would not have decided to move to a rural community.
Mr Ryder, his wife Kelly and their two young children, this year moved to Bourke from his home in Wollongong and his teaching job at Airds High School. He has taken up the role of Deputy Principal at Bourke High School and Kelly, has secured part-time work as a school learning support officer. Their children, aged one and three, are already enjoying the wide open spaces.
"A move wasn't something I was actively going to seek, but the offer came up as a result [of the placement]. I am very glad I did," Mr Ryder said..
"Each school is unique, but I know that a lot of what I can offer can work out here, the transition will work and I think we can both benefit from this.
"Overall, I know that the skills I have and require for this position are the same as what I need for teaching in Sydney."
The students, he has found, are friendly, polite and willing to learn.
The main difference to working in the city is the role of Bourke High within the community.
"The place of the school in the community is a bit different. The school is the central hub of everything here. All the community agencies can use the school as the central point of contact and it's great to see everyone working together," he said.
"I didn't really know anything about Bourke before I came here but I have found it to be a lovely town, it's a great place to live."
Mr Ryder's advice to any teacher who is considering a tree-change is to consider all options and participate in the professional learning experience.
"Look into the trips as it doesn't take long to see if you can do it or not. It gave me a broader aspect on my position with the department and it has reinvigorated me," he said.
"It's one of those things that if I didn't do it now I knew I was going to spend the rest of my days wondering about it. "