Monica Morrison, from Mollymook NSW, is volunteering to provide Professional Development support at Catholic Teachers’ College, Baucau, Timor-Leste.
Since second semester commenced at the end of July we have been working very hard with our students who are completing their Masters degree in Education through Australian Catholic University in Australia. It is very quiet around the college because there are no undergraduate students around, just the staff. After the Third Years graduated, there was no new intake of students planned until January next year, to fit in with the broader plan of all schools closing for staff and students to complete courses in the Portuguese language. Our staff will need to translate all their teaching materials into Portuguese now but at the same time we are stretching their English to complete two units towards their higher degrees.
We were all very excited about the visit from Dr Gayle Spry from ACU Brisbane who was to spend two weeks with us early in semester to lead us through the framework for these units in Research Methodology and Shared Leadership. She proved to be an amazing teacher who fully understood the needs of working within another culture due to her previous professional experience. Gayle stayed in my compound and quite apart from the full-on exciting, but exhausting days of stimulating teaching strategies and fine honing of our academic skills, she was a perceptive, thoughtful and fun-loving companion as well.
On the Sunday night when she was helping me cope with providing dinner for the eight Australians who are on the staff here at the college, she fell and broke her elbow. We had a dramatic night of ambulances, hospital, and considerable shock plus assisting her over the next few days until the decision was made to fly her back home. The students were very disappointed and so were we, but poor Gayle was in considerable pain. There followed a tense time for all of us as we battled altered schedules and had to pick up the reins of becoming instant academics overnight, but the Timorese have been supportive and helpful and they were so excited when they came back from doing their interviews of teachers; it was a joy to see. The participants in the research had appreciated being asked their views on educational processes, and with someone showing interest in their teaching. One student said in her report, “When they started to tell us about their experiences we could not stop them” and another one said, “We had to get permission from the husband and family to interview the teacher”; another one said “We had to provide food and drink for our focus group interview, because that is our culture.” We had not thought of any of these things in our planning so we learnt a lot from them as well.