A day in the life of ... Samantha Pidgeon

On a hot day in Brisbane, Australia, this high school English teacher finds her young public speakers a joy to work with, offers support to a refugee student and sets up a `yarning circle'

It feels as if this term has gone on for ever but it's only a couple of weeks old. It's Tuesday, and I leave home at about 7.15am so that I can mark a pile of draft essays to return to students later in the day. At 8am, I head to the library to coach our public-speaking group, which meets before school.

A competition is coming up and group members are busy putting the final touches to their speeches. These students are motivated, dedicated and a joy to work with.

School officially starts at 8.55am. I teach a 70-minute lesson to one of my two Year 8 English classes. The 13- to 14-year-olds are using one of the school's new "laptop caddies", so it's a bit of a rush to get it unlocked and down to the classroom in time, but it is a vast improvement on having to use a dedicated computer room. It also means that students can work on a variety of activities at their own pace.

Independent workers abound in this lesson, which frees me up to give special assistance to two children who are really struggling. One has learning difficulties and the other needs support in English since he arrived in Australia as a refugee only 18 months ago.

At 10.05am, I get back to my desk for morning tea. One of the public- speaking students is waiting for me. In the past hour, she has had a light-bulb moment, so I spend the next 10 minutes drinking my morning tea and listening to a new speech. As she leaves, I am asked to meet a group of trainee teachers who have arrived at the school for the first day of their practice.

After an hour of administration duties for my role as head of department, I observe a colleague teaching their class as part of our professional development programme. We don't have a lot of time for post-lesson discussion, however, as we need to attend a fortnightly full-school assembly. This week, the assembly is special because it's Anzac Day, the national day of remembrance, and we have special guests. The atmosphere is sombre.

I head straight from assembly to playground duty, where I try to stay in the shade as it is 29 degsC outside.

I make it back to my desk shortly after 1pm, which leaves enough time to munch on an apple as I get things together for my other Year 8 English class. Today, we are starting a new unit on indigenous stories. I need to get to the classroom early to set it up for our "yarning circle", where we will share a children's picture book, My Country by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina.

After school, we have a staff meeting in which we are briefed on a range of projects happening around the school. We also see a demonstration of how to access student information using a new function on our state-wide schools database.

At 4.15pm, the meeting ends and I go home for a short time before heading back out to a local primary school's meeting of parents and citizens. I speak to them about changes to our school's admissions policies. A great deal of parental interest and concern surrounds this shift - the meeting is an opportunity to address some of these concerns and to promote our school to parents who are still making enrolment decisions.

I get home at 9pm, too tired to make dinner or to do any more work. I set the alarm for early in the morning so that I can prepare for another big day.


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