This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity trip for which we are both extremely grateful to have been provided with. Through participating in this program, run by The SEE Project, we were able to be involved with such inspiring schools such as Balata High School, Naseyani Primary school and the RA Special School. We had the opportunity to meet incredible people: students, teachers and locals from the Tavua area.
At Balata High School we taught two Grade 9 classes, where we learnt about as much as we taught, if not more. These students had such a different outlook on schooling and brought an energy to the lessons we hadn’t experienced before. We faced a lot of challenges throughout our week at Balata and it wasn’t an easy unit to teach. However we both enjoyed ourselves immensely and left the experience full of confidence and inspiration, and proud of our accomplishments.
Aimee’s time at Balata:
During our time in Fiji at Balata High School, there were many moments and experiences that have had a positive impact on my life and my studies as a pre-service teacher. One significant highlight was being so warmly welcomed by everyone. In addition to this, the hospitality shown to us throughout the week by Balata High School staff and students cannot be expressed in a few words. This not only included delicious meals provided for us but also traditional dance and music performances that were amazing to watch and also be a part of.
The students at Balata High School were very friendly and by midweek our year 9A class had invited us to eat with them during lunchtime. This encouraged me as I could see that during the short time we were there, we had built a positive relationship with the students where they felt comfortable to engage with us outside of our teaching lessons.
Katie’s time at Balata:
Teaching in a school in another country was something I had always wanted to do in my life so the opportunity of working at Balata school that the SEE project provided for me was a dream come true. Although it took a while for the students to get used to our teaching style, and for us to get used to their learning styles, the classrooms quickly became harmonious, engaging and fun for all involved. Our topic was foreign to both my teaching partner, Aimee, and I but supported by staff and members of the SEE Project, Zarina, Ramila and Vinesh we managed to teach a unit we were both proud of and believe had an impact on the students and their learning. This unit focused on the history of girmit and students were asked to develop scenes to piece together a story of a labourer from girmit. This topic was used as a focus to teach English through the structure of narrative and develop skills such as reading, writing, spelling and comprehension. The school community was very welcoming towards us and I truly felt like I was a part of it for the week. The cultural trips organised for us between Vinesh and Balata’s principal Segran Pillay, were eye opening. My favourite excursion would have to be to Naseyani Primary school: an inspiring school which I believe is doing an incredible job with what they have to ensure their students are receiving the best education they can provide.
There were two very special moments that I’m going to treasure forever from the week at Balata High School. The first one occurred on the Thursday, our fourth and final day of teaching. In this lesson, one of the activities was showing the students’ their work. The combined video ended up being approximately 10 minutes and all students in the room were transfixed on the screen watching themselves and their peers. It was a very rewarding moment for me, to see how proud the students were of themselves. The second moment occurred at the presentation at the end of the week. We asked some of the students to help us present our unit and experience to the education officials and staff of Balata High School and other local schools. One of the students, Riya, gave a touching speech about what her and her classmates had learnt this week and finished up by thanking Aimee and I for our time with them. Hearing a student so appreciative of what you tried to do for them, and seeing that the time and effort you put into a unit or a lesson had paid off was an incredibly special and proud moment.
One afternoon we were lucky enough to visit a rural school, Naseyani Primary School. This school had the most inspiring staff who had created an extremely well resourced and innovative environment for their students to learn in. This school had so many ideas and the passion behind them to back their dreams. It was incredible to see the ingenuity behind the school lunch program, set up by the principal and initially funded solely by parents and staff of the school before the Australian Government stepped in to assist. Their next project is a bridge which will allow students from nearby village to attend school even when the river floods – something which is currently an issue.
On our last day before departure we had the incredible opportunity to have an insight into the RA Special School located in RakiRaki. Although our visit was short, each student touched our hearts and it is a day we will never forget.
Our visit to the RA Special School, left many moments and experiences that have had a positive impact on my life and my studies as a pre-service teacher. One significant highlight was being so warmly welcomed by everyone. During my visit I found it very encouraging to see the level of enthusiasm shown by a particular male teacher. This teacher led a dance performance involving the students that was performed especially for us. Teaching students with special needs is challenging enough without facilitating a dance performance with some technical difficulties involved (when the music cut out at times) however he still looked like he was having the time of his life. This was very encouraging to see from a pre-service teacher perspective. He looked like he absolutely loved his role and his students and the students looked like they loved him in return.
Visiting the RA Special School was a really inspiring day for me. Meeting the students who had so many challenges to overcome, just to live a normal life and go to school, be so happy, friendly and welcoming really made me think about how privileged I am in my life and what more I could be doing to help make the lives of others easier. Although I had been thinking about it before, visiting the RA Special School and meeting the deaf student and her hearing impaired little brother has cemented my desire to learn sign language – something I have already begun to look in to. The welcoming items put on by the students was heart warming – especially to see the look of pride in the teacher’s face as he danced along with them. I also really enjoyed having the chance to talk to the students as well as play games and dance with them. This school is doing incredible things for the lives of their student’s and I feel privileged to have been provided with the opportunity to have an insight into their routine.
This trip is something that has impacted us significantly. We will have the memories with us forever and we can already feel our experiences shaping us in our professional ventures in education.