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Jake Petterwood

Becoming remote changed my life! When I first moved to the Wheatbelt I was a totally different person. Living regional and remote has allowed me to grow and change. It has been easily the best career and personal decision I’ve made!

 

As Associate Principal, I manage the day to day operations of the secondary school at Halls Creek District High School. From timetabling, staffing, behaviour management, curriculum planning my role is to oversee and enact school processes and policies from 7-12.

My days consist of working with students and families and I spent part of each day in our community working with adults to help students get to and stay at school. I also work in and outside classrooms working with students who need extra support. On a busy day I can cover as much as 17km on foot! I’m very rarely in an office but when I am it’s generally managing day to day financial and staffing issues of the school.

Halls Creek, like all of the Remote Teaching Service is almost 100% Aboriginal in its student cohort. I work with incredible local staff that provide support. We have 13 Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers and Education Assistants from the community and each one is an amazing link to the community and culture that we work in. One of the most rewarding elements of the Remote Teaching Service is getting to know people, families and communities that you would otherwise have never had the opportunity to meet with.

I’m from Tassie! I grew up in Launceston and then moved to Hobart for University. I hated school! It wasn’t until I reached about 17 and went to a big public college for Year 11 that I began to really engage with school and began to enjoy the more informal, adult learning centred environment that was provided for me.

As a 19 year old I spent 3 months in India, then the year after another 3 months in South East Asia. It was here I realised exactly how sheltered my life had been as a child. It was about this time, as I was beginning a teaching degree, that I became interested in the idea of working in remote areas.

In my second year of my Master of Teaching I applied for a teaching scholarship in WA. I completed my final prac in a Kimberley school and then went to Derby District High School and absolutely loved it. Here I caught my first barra, got bitten by a camp dog and ate some turtle. All great, memorable experiences!

After two years in the Wheat Belt, I accepted a teaching job at La Grange Remote Community School. A year after this I became their Deputy Principal.  After a year as a Deputy in La Grange I moved to a position at One Arm Point Remote Community School. I expected that I’d be there for at least 5 years, it’s a wonderful place, however after six months I filled in for a Associate Principal at Halls Creek District High School. On my first day I realised that it was easily the best school I’d worked at and I was incredibly happy when they asked me to stay. My wife came over and loved it and now we’re desert people!

Going remote changed my life!  When I first moved to the Wheatbelt I was a totally different person. Living regional and remote has allowed me to grow and change. I’ve met my beautiful wife and am expecting my first child in December and travelled the state going to incredible places. It has been easily the best career and personal decision I’ve made!

Advice I’d offer for others considering teaching in rural or remote schools:

  • As young teachers, one of the most best parts of working regionally is that you are often with young, energetic people who are around your age. This means heaps of social opportunities and support from others. New friends, shoulders to cry on and people to see the world with.
  • Lots of support. People know it can be hard out here, and leaders and other staff members will bend over backwards to make sure that you are well and developing as a staff member. In a staff of 11 there is no “falling through the gaps” like at a big school.
  • Strange experiences – Things you never in a million years thought you’d ever do, know, or experience. Everything from eating a Dugong to learning how to plant and harvest canola fields. Say yes to everything and you’ll never be bored.
  • Cheap or free housing! It’s awesome.

A fresh start. It’s amazing to get away from it all and focus on yourself and your new career. Being regional and remote gives you the chance to really get good and what you do, find out who you really are and what your goals and ambitions are.

Amazing kids/families: From the Great Southern to the Kimberley regional people are stoked to see you, they know that their schools are the life blood of their communities and to be welcomed in with open arms is an amazing experience. While it might mean that going to the shop in your PJ’s is less welcome, it also means lifelong friends  (I’ve lost count of the wedding invites, baby showers, 21sts and parties etc that we’ve been invited to) and couches to sleep on whenever you travel

Characteristics or other skills needed to have when it comes to working in a rural or remote school are:

  • Positivity
  • Flexibility - things can and do go wrong and the best teachers out here know that “going with it” and staying positive are the best way to maintain good classrooms
  • Open-mindedness  - you’ll meet people from all walks of life, and you’ll quickly learn that they’ve got heaps to teach you.

I’ve been teaching six years and am a level 4 Associate Principal. If you want it, you can get it.

Currently the bonuses at Halls Creek District High School are $15k extra pay, 2 flights to Perth a year and a free house. These kind of benefits can be found all through the state. I've had so many opportunities to lead things and even in my first year I taught 2-10 and ran interstate camps. My second year I got my first chance to act as a Deputy. Say yes to things and be ambitious.

If someone was considering teaching in a rural or remote school I’d say, do it! It’ll change your life.

Where I live.

Halls Creek is unreal. Middle of nowhere in the desert, but around every corner there’s a spring, or a gorge, or a national park. On the weekend you can be in world class national parks within an hour. You can drive up to Kununurra if you want a luxury hotel or you can stay in town and watch the footy at the local park. Every Friday and Wednesday we have school social sport amongst the teachers (High School continue to dominate ultimate Frisbee) Everyone is young, active and super friendly

Things I love best about my job are:
  • Spending time with families and kids out in the country
  • Having students who have had enormous behavioural issues at school come to me during the weekends and introduce me to cousins, brothers, family and shake my hand and laugh and chat
  • Helping teachers and support staff, improve at what they do. Being Admin can be thankless but working with graduate teachers and seeing them really take charge and become strong teachers in incredibly rewarding.
My three pieces of advice for anyone considering teaching in a rural or remote school are:
  • All people, adults and children thrive on routine. Set one for yourself, set one for your classroom and watch them thrive.
  • Fairness and consistency will win you more respect than being “cool”. (That being said, showing off your three point shooting skills also helps.)
  • There is no such thing as over-prepared.