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Going rural and remote with teacher Bec Hannam

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Going rural and remote with teacher Bec Hannam

Teacher Spotlight is a new series by Firefly Education that will share insights from a variety of education influencers who inspire fellow teachers with their unique classroom knowledge and helpful resources.

The adventure of teaching in rural and remote communities can be exhilarating for some teachers and daunting for others.

Bec Hannam has spent the past three years in Doomadgee on Gangalidda Country and uses Instagram to share her experience of teaching and living in a remote community.

The journey to rural and remote teaching

The road to teaching in rural and remote communities is different for every teacher. When asked why she made the move, Bec replied candidly, ‘Because why not? I wanted a change. I wanted to say yes to new and different opportunities.’

Bec grew up in Brisbane but when a remote placement opportunity arose while she was at university, she jumped on it.

‘I realised that there is so much more outside of Brisbane, so I applied to any rural or remote town in Queensland. Doomadgee just happened to be the first school to call. I said yes.’

It has been three years since Bec began teaching on Gangalidda Country, and she has never looked back.

‘I absolutely love where I live and I am so glad I said yes.’

Doomadgee is far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life – the closest major city is Mt Isa, which is 432 km away by road.

‘So many people assume that there isn’t much to do in such a remote location, but they are very wrong!’ Bec said.

‘There are rivers to swim in and walk along, national parks to hike through, endless roads to drive and explore, and neighbouring towns to visit during the weekends.’

While Bec came to Doomadgee with a can-do attitude, the full and happy life she has been able to build has far exceeded her expectation.

‘I’ve made a great group of friends I get to work with in a community that is so welcoming and warm. And I have a job that has its many challenges, but it’s so rewarding.’

Celebrating First Nations cultures in the classroom

Bec constantly strives to incorporate Gangalidda culture into her classroom. Ensuring significant dates such as NAIDOC Week and Mabo Day are marked in the classroom is just the beginning.

‘This is still an area of learning for me and I continue to think of different ways I can integrate First Nations cultures, histories and languages into the classroom,’ she said.

‘I try to connect with community members when I see an opportunity in our curriculum to include language and culture in our lessons.

‘Yarning circles are also a great way for us to connect with one another and to share our feelings, thoughts and ideas.’

Bec believes it is important for her students to know she is making an effort to learn their language.

‘I am trying my best to include language where I can. For example, I’ve learned gayi (pronounced guy-ee) which means hi and gurrija balmbiyam, which means see you soon.

‘I have also learned how to read and say our Acknowledgment of Country in Gangalidda language.’

Bec has enthusiastically taken on the role of student outside the classroom too.

‘I have learned how important family is here in community. I’ve learned about skin names and how your skin name connects you to someone. For example, I am a sister, mother, grandmother or daughter to some of my students through my adopted skin name,’ she said.

‘I’ve also gained some handy tips on how to hunt different animals, where to go and where not to go, and how to fix a broken motorbike.’

Top tips for teachers going rural or remote

While planning and preparation are vital for any teacher, they are particularly important for teachers who decide to take up a rural or remote placement.

Bec shared her top tips for teachers starting their rural or remote service:

  1. Come with an open mind. It is not always sunshine and rainbows – there are hard times too.
  2. Say yes to opportunities and experiences. There is so much to learn, see and do when you teach in rural and remote communities.
  3. Don’t be afraid to reach out! Whether you have questions about moving, the school or the community, or if you need support when you are living in community, there are so many people who can help.
  4. Stock up on food, resources and living supplies. The further remote you go, the more you will see an increase in shopping prices.

You can follow Bec’s remote teaching journey on Gangalidda Country on Instagram @another_qld_teacher.