Teaching in Melbourne: A day in the life of Elaine Louder

This teacher at a special school in Australia spends her days helping students to develop work-related skills to get them ready for life after school
Teaching In Melbourne

I live in Melbourne, Victoria, where you can experience four seasons in one day. When getting ready for work, I make sure that I have all seasonal clothing ready: hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, coat, umbrella – even thermals. Despite the unexpected changes in the weather, Australia is beautiful. Along the peninsula, surrounded by beautiful beaches with clear blue waters, a little town called Blind Bight is where I call home.

I work part-time at Naranga Special School – it’s a 20-minute drive from home. I wake up at 6.30am, get myself and my children ready and then drop them off at my mother’s house. I get to school by 8.15am, just before our staff morning briefing begins.

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'Learning for life'

Naranga is a small school with about 150 students from 'prep' to Year 12, all with a variety of mild intellectual disabilities. Each student is given an individualised learning plan. Our motto is “learning for life”, which means that we teach our students life skills that will enable them to become independent and valuable members of society.

Students arrive at school for 9am and begin their day with homeroom (registration). I have a specialist role, so I begin my teaching at 9.25am – but once the students finish at 3pm, I’m tied up in staff or departmental meetings, so my day usually ends at 4.30pm.

My role has changed over the years, from working as the dance teacher exploring movement and choreographing dance routines for the school concert to working in the kitchen teaching food preparation skills and how to use equipment safely.

Preparing kids for life after school

This year, my role is as a specialist careers teacher, working with the senior students on skills that will prepare them for work and life after school. My days vary, so I will either take a whole class of approximately 15 students, and teach work-related skills, or work more closely with a small group on their learning goals. I also work one-on-one with students to develop their future plans.

This new role is challenging. There is so much to learn, but I enjoy it. The greatest challenge is working with students and parents to eliminate their fears and anxieties about the future. The transition from school to life beyond education is extremely hard on the emotions of students and parents. I can only imagine the fears that they have to face. I have two young boys of my own, one aged three and the other eight months. Already, I am having thoughts of them growing up, leaving home and starting their own families.

For parents at our school, the stress is greater because a lot of their fears stem from their children having a disability and not knowing what their options are. Giving them support and helping them to understand that their children do have options is extremely important and a great process to be a part of.

Every day is different. My experiences have been eye-opening and, at times, intense. It’s all in the journey and I’m sure that there will be more exciting times to come.

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