It was the College’s commitment to delivering a Christian world view through coursework and reflective practice that first attracted Nada Appleby to a Master of Teaching (Secondary) at Excelsia College.
For Nada, the onsite workshops as part of the Master of Teaching (Secondary) course were a key highlight, as was the ability to study remotely with an online community. ‘The flexibility and support were wonderful, and the lecturers were highly relational and approachable and they clearly had a passion for Christian education which was inspiring. I feel so privileged to have met a variety of inspiring educators during my time at Excelsia. The staff were an unbelievable support during placement opportunities and lecturers displayed a gentle, relational approach, which is something I have tried to imitate in my own teaching style,’ she explains.
‘It was wonderful to sit under quality teaching and reflect on educational theories through the lens of the Bible. The course gave me practical, lifelong skills in the area of critical reflection and the skills for bringing a Christian world view through my teaching practice. It is a flexible, relational and welcoming environment.’
Since graduating in 2018, Nada has been working as a secondary teacher at Calderwood Christian School and has enjoyed getting to know students and grow as a teacher. She has a passion for student wellbeing and has undertaken further counselling training to care more effectively for students. ‘I have a heart for pastoral care and in the future would like to support students and their families as they traverse the sometimes difficult terrain that adolescence brings,’ she explains.
When reflecting on the College turning forty, Nada reflects, ‘This is an incredible milestone! Excelsia should be proud of the way it has supported not just emerging educators but also students in all of their faculty areas.’
If you’re interested in studying education and learning from a Christian world view, why not explore Excelsia College’s Master of Teaching (Secondary)?
Lara Pilcher first began her association with Excelsia College in 1997 when she commenced her Bachelor of Creative Arts in Dance. For Lara, studying at an institution that taught creative arts from a faith-based perspective excited her. From the get-go, she became involved in the community and was able to refine her creative talents, learning from creatives from all over the world. Lara also enjoyed being a student representative of the entire college in her final year of studies.
When reflecting on her studies, Lara explains, ‘The dance degree was vigorous and very full. I further pursued acting and singing and broadened my education after the strong foundation I gained from Excelsia.’ After graduating from Excelsia in 1999, Lara completed a Musical Theatre Certificate II at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and then a master’s in musical theatre at Arts Educational School in London. Now, she’s using her knowledge as a performer and arts advocate and she networks with Christian artists all around the world. She also produces high quality events in Sydney and London and has taught performance masterclasses in Paris, Beijing, and New York. Prior to relocating to London to further pursue performing, Lara ran her own dance studio in Perth. She has also married a man who shares her same passion for the arts as a specialist physiotherapist for artists and the couple have two children.
The creative and performing arts industry is fluid and ever changing, reflective of the number of roles and locations Lara has worked in throughout her twenty-year career. ‘I moved to Melbourne for five years to continue performing and be closer to family. I worked in Australian television, musical theatre and theatre. Then I worked as an associate professor of acting at Bethel Conservatory of The Arts in Redding, California.’ Now, Lara and her family are based in Atlanta, Georgia, working as part of films shooting for Netflix, Marvel and beyond in the region. This year, Lara also started her own self-titled business larabiancapilcher.com, providing coaching and courses for performers.
Undertaking study at a tertiary institution is a stepping stone on one’s journey to pursuing their dream career and for Lara, it’s an experience that she would do all over again! ‘Excelsia College made a huge difference to me. I’m grateful for my three happy years and I smile every time I remember it. I had the time of my life and still have many friends from College; we made lifetime bonds and have so many happy memories. My vision was broadened and passion ignited for the entire world and all the artists and creativity it carries. I believe deeply in faith-based artists and their impact on the professional world of arts,’ says Lara reflectively.
We are proud of Lara and for her drive and ambition to succeed in the competitive creative and performing arts space. She embodies Excelsia’s ethos of being a lifelong learner engaged with and positively impacting the world. ‘I love leading artists and still lead artists today,’ says Lara. It seems Lara has certainly found her calling in life and it will be exciting to see the places she will go!
Excelsia College offers creative and performing arts courses and many of our alumni have gone on to pursue successful careers across areas such as music, drama, performance studies and screen production.
With a daughter who was valedictorian at Excelsia College for the Bachelor of Dramatic Art, Tracey Deal had big shoes to fill when she enrolled in a Master of Educational Leadership at Excelsia College in 2017. Tracey had been working as an educator for many years and felt it was time to do further study to better equip herself for higher leadership positions within a school environment.
The course’s emphasis on a Christian biblical worldview and the flexibility of being able to start her studies at any point also appealed to Tracey. ‘I have known a lot about Excelsia College from a long time ago when it was Wesley Institute and being creative arts focused it was relevant to my life as a music teacher.’ Tracey is also passionate about developing students to reach their potential and she closely aligned with Excelsia College’s mission and ethos of making lifelong learners. ‘It is a friendly, dedicated and Christ-centred environment,’ says Tracey.
Tracey was one of only three students when she commenced her studies and was able to complete her whole course online even before online delivery became mandatory at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdowns. ‘As I did my whole course online, I didn’t really have a lot of in-person interactions, but I found the lecturers for the course extremely helpful. I also enjoyed getting to know new people from all over the country and world online.’
Tracey has been able to apply what she’s studied to her leadership-based role as Principal of Penrith Christian School, a role she commenced in 2019, a year after graduating. ‘I believe God taught me to consider relevant and contemporary issues through a biblical world view, rather than just in a school setting. Studying at Excelsia College gave more meaning to the subjects I did as I was at a Christian school. I believe studying at Excelsia certainly helped me attain my goal of becoming school principal.’
Whilst advancement within one’s career can be a daunting task, Tracey felt led by God and took comfort in her favourite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5–6, which says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ Tracey has certainly learned to trust in Him as she reflects, ‘The words of the verses from Proverbs have been an encouraging and a gentle reminder daily that my calling to educate is not fulfilling unless it is through relying on God at the same time.’
Excelsia is proud of its graduates, including Tracey, who have gone on to be leaders within their communities. If you’re in the educational sector or are interested in upskilling, why not explore how the Master of Educational Leadership can help you achieve your career goals?
‘We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realise their full potential.’
– Malala Yousafzai
On 8 March, the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women are celebrated on International Women’s Day. The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Embrace Equity’. Excelsia College’s CEO Peter McKeon joined a morning tea to celebrate International Women’s Day. Peter discussed the challenges and barriers women face, including gender discrimination, limited access to education and opportunities and wage inequality.
According to Workplace Gender Equality Agency, there is a 13.3 per cent gender pay gap, a disparity most prominent in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector. On average, for every dollar males earned, women earned 87 cents, amounting to $253.50 less per week (WGEA, 2023).
International Women’s Day also highlights the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. At Excelsia College, we are proud that women make up 68 per cent of our workforce and 62 per cent of our senior leadership positions.
Another key issue that International Women’s Day addresses is domestic violence, particularly gender-based violence and harassment. Every woman has the right to feel safe and secure in her home, workplace, and community. In his speech, Peter urged everyone to work together to end gender-based violence and to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
Historically, there is an imbalance of women being able to access quality education. An estimated 15 million girls – mainly those living in poverty – will never set foot in a classroom, compared to 10 million boys (Theirworld, 2017). Furthermore, Unicef reports that 129 million girls across the world are not enrolled in formal education.
At Excelsia College, we are proud to say that 75 per cent of our students are female. Excelsia strives to provide quality learning foundations which create a variety of career opportunities when female students graduate in fields of education, social work, counselling, creative and performing arts and business.
‘Let’s commit to taking action to end gender inequality and create a world where every woman has the opportunity to succeed and thrive. Let’s all choose to challenge and work
towards a more equitable world for women,’ says Peter.
A desire to develop her communication skills, a better understanding of people’s mental health and her own mindset were the key motivators that led Alison Crooks to enrol in the Graduate Certificate in Counselling at Excelsia College.
Deciding to re commence her studies in 2020 as a mature age student was a daunting prospect for the mother of two. Alison was working as a Foundational Skills Lecturer within the Army Indigenous Development Program (AIDP) in Darwin, teaching literacy and numeracy skills to army trainee cohorts.
Despite the new season of change, Alison was able to smoothly transition back into the study environment. ‘Excelsia offered so much support – there was workshops on how to do the assignments and lots of help if I needed it. I also had counselling from the free counsellors that Excelsia offered, as it helped me learn the skill of counselling.’
Whilst Alison completed her course 100 per cent online, she appreciated being able to learn in real time, foster friendship with her peers and feel supported by her lecturers. ‘The students at Excelsia were some of the friendliest people I have met. I still have friends that I made during this course. There were a lot of people in the course who were in a similar situation to mine – they wanted to improve their position in their job or transition into a new line of work. I also found the teachers at Excelsia so amazing. They had practical knowledge of what it was like to work as a counsellor.’
In her studies, Alison not only learned how to counsel others, but also how to understand her own mind and way of thinking. ‘In the course we constantly practiced our communication skills, not just what we say but how we say it. I’ve never really had that before. We are often too focused on learning information, but the Excelsia course really helped me apply the knowledge as well.’
After completing her studies in 2021, Alison moved into a more senior position within AIDP, working as a Program Coordinator and helping Indigenous recruits to meet the Army entry requirements. Alison has been able to see a direct correlation between the skills she learned in her study and in her interactions with others. ‘The skills I learned at Excelsia have been important in helping people deal with the stress that they experience coming into the course and any mental health or trauma issues they are dealing with. The skills I learned during this course will stay with me forever.’ As for describing Excelsia, she was attracted to the inclusive learning environment and describes the College as ‘loving supported education.’
Alison also appreciated the intersection of faith within her studies. ‘I think Excelsia has a really important place in teaching counselling that acknowledges and respects the role that religion has in helping people deal with their mental health issues.’
If you’re interested in working as a counsellor and learning practical skills to help you relate to others in your workplace, why not explore Excelsia’s counselling courses? You will learn not only the theoretical knowledge but also the practical skills within a Christian worldview. https://excelsia.edu.au/study/counselling/
The area of actor wellbeing has been of keen interest to Dr Mark Seton, lecturer in creative and performing arts at Excelsia College. During his own experience as an actor, Mark noticed how performing a role could have lingering effects and heard anecdotal accounts of actors who were traumatised by roles or experienced depression due to the uncertainty of their work. In his research, Mark identified a huge gap in addressing actor wellbeing. Mark perceived that actors are peculiarly different from dancers and musicians, not because of who they are, but because of what the profession asks of them. For over 20 years, Mark has steadily been gathering research, particularly around actors’ perspectives, on actor health issues including mental health issues as distinct from physical issues.
In 2006, Mark joined the steering committee of the new Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH), modelled on the American-based Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA). In 2009, supported by ASPAH, Mark was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research the health and wellbeing of actors both in training and in the workplace. Through the fellowship, Mark travelled to the UK and spent five weeks researching at different acting schools. The report detailing his experience and findings motivated Actors Equity in Australia to conduct the first national study of actor wellbeing which, explains Mark, included ‘questions around actors’ quality of life, alcohol challenges, substance abuse and potential eating disorders, financial stress, relational stress, sleep deprivation and traumatisation of characters’.
Within his doctoral research, Mark identified that many actor training institutions actively promote vulnerability. ‘The capacity of actors to be vulnerable – their ability to affect and be affected – is what audiences go to see. They want to see authenticity or what might seem to mirror reality,’ explains Mark. However, this preoccupation with vulnerability can become a hazard if an actor doesn’t know how to process his or her character’s creation and emotional journey. This lack of process can create distress and dissatisfaction and the resulting pain can drive a desire for self-medication, including alcohol and both licit and illicit drug use. According to the 2015 Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study, around 35 percent of actors surveyed reported alcohol consumption as a strategy for ‘letting go’ after a demanding performance (Maxwell, Seton & Szabo, 2015).
Mark is currently part of AusAct: Australian Actor Training Conference which is a collaboration of acting schools around Australia empowering teachers in the teaching of acting, voice, movement, holistic health and career development. Mark has also designed and facilitated foundational training in actor wellbeing at various tertiary institutions, including Sydney Acting School, Academy of Film, Theatre and Television, and at Excelsia College. Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art includes a unit focused on ‘designing my creative career’, which includes strategies for managing self-care in the entertainment industry, intended for third-year students preparing to graduate.
Mark has been seeking to bring an even broader notion of actor wellbeing and sustainable practice to drama schools. Questions have been raised about acting schools providing appropriate warm-ups and cool-downs at a physiological and psychological level. According to the 2015 Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study, almost 40 per cent of actors surveyed had difficulty shaking off intense emotional and/or physical roles (Maxwell, Seton & Szabo, 2015). Within the acting community, this is sometimes known by the term ‘seepage’ (Taylor, 2017). Some drama schools still unintentionally traumatise students by giving them dramatic scenes and roles without teaching them how to take on a role in a respectful, careful way. Mark explains, ‘If actors are not given training for warming up and cooling down, they might not know how to let go of a traumatic character or scene. They can take it back home or the trauma it could continue into another job, or, because there is no next job, they may still be mulling over the character they played. It can seriously impact their personal relationships. I coined a term “post-dramatic stress” as a very deliberate provocation to start the conversation that I felt was lacking in the academic community and in the training community around potential for traumatisation of actors.’
Intimacy direction workshops, which Excelsia seeks to provide for its drama students, play a key role in helping actors cope with the potential trauma in their work. ‘Part of an actor’s warm-ups and cool-downs now involve working alongside intimacy directors who will help actors safely enact intimacy of a violent nature or intimacy of a loving or familial quality and how to play them without being confused about whether it’s the actor or their character being intimate with that person,’ says Mark.
Mark has written a paper with Excelsia College Bachelor of Dramatic Art graduate Courtney Patten on what happens when actors play morally questionable characters (Seton & Patten, under review). The pair will present their findings at the Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH) Conference this December. If you want to learn from amazing academics such as Mark, why not consider studying a Bachelor of Dramatic Art at Excelsia College?
Maxwell, I., Seton, M., & Szabo, M. (2015). The Australian Actors Wellbeing Study: A Preliminary Report. About Performance: The Lives of Actors, 13, 69–113
Seton, M. (2022). Mental health for actors. StageMilk. https://www.stagemilk.com/mental-health-for-actors/
Seton, M. & Patten, C. (under review). Wellbeing in enactment of morally questionable characters: Negotiating moral and spiritual values within professional identity formation. [Submitted for publication]. Excelsia College.
Taylor, L. (2017). Out of character – how acting puts a mental strain on performers. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/out-of-character-how-acting-puts-a-mental-strain-on-performers-86212
On Thursday 10 November, accountants are celebrated during International Accounting Day. These individuals help businesses make critical financial decisions and keep checks and balances in place throughout the year. At Excelsia, we are thankful to have number crunchers who collect, track and correct the company’s finances, including Assistant Accountant, Niel Valdez. We chatted to him about his role and what he likes about accounting.
How long have you been working at Excelsia for?
1 year and 8 months.
What’s a typical day look like for you?
I spend my days mostly making sure the vendor tax invoice gets approved and paid on time. Then during the first week of the month I prepare for College month-end reporting. This is the busiest week in my work schedule.
What do you like about accounting?
I always love working with data and interpreting it for users. This is the reason why I like accounting.
What made you want to work in an accounting-based role?
You can easily branch out to any field if you have an accounting background. The flexibility accounting professionals have is what made me decide to work in an accounting-based role.
What’s the most satisfying part of your role?
The most satisfying part of my role is knowing I have provided my services to the College through preparing accurate financial report/data which will form the basis for making important policies and decisions for the College.
What does International Accounting Day mean to you?
International Accounting Day is a day of recognition for accounting professionals and their contribution to our community.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) is a fantastic way to get involved in the heart and life of Excelsia College’s community. The SRC plays an important role in fostering good communication among students and staff and, more formally, it helps to run campus-wide student-focused programs and events like student cruises and orientations. Both Zoe Sadler and Tihana Vulcik were Presidents of Excelsia College’s SRC committee during their time as students and they both have gone on to serve as valuable staff members at the College. So why should you think about joining?
For Zoe, the SRC enabled her to engage deeper throughout her experience at Excelsia, as well as providing her with opportunities for self-growth. ‘Before being a part of the SRC, I’d never been particularly drawn to representative groups and certainly didn’t see myself as the leader of one. When I was encouraged by a staff member to run for SRC President, I was very hesitant, but it ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences I had as an Excelsia student.’ Zoe learned that there was space and use for every individual skill set and strength. ‘From creative to organisational, analytical to interpersonal, I can speak from experience that you don’t need to be a confidently assertive or extraverted person to contribute, or even to lead! There are so many different types of students, so what is better than seeing them and representing them by having a variety of different types of students on the team.’
A student’s time at Excelsia is about so much more than just the unit content that they study, and being involved in the SRC meant Tihana and Zoe were actively aware of ways to complement and enhance their fellow students’ experience. Zoe shares, ‘It became an absolute joy of mine to be able to love and support the students through both advocating for them and providing time for something on the fun side (which is equally as important, in my eyes). This kind of work and perspective can be transferred to any area of your life, and this has continued in how I approach my work as an Excelsia staff member. The students and their experience are still the core focus of what we do.’ On top of this, both Zoe and Tihana formed connections with staff and students they might not have normally interacted with outside of their Bachelor of Dramatic Art course.
Like Zoe, Tihana found the SRC a good platform to practise and learn leadership skills. ‘As an introvert, I wanted to challenge myself even though the idea of being responsible scared me. At the same time, I really wanted to make the student experience super fun, so that highly motivated me! A great skill I learned to implement was time managing well whilst studying full time, which serves me well in my admin job today at the College. I also got to practise not taking being a leader too seriously so I could enjoy experiences without feeling all the pressure on me. It was nice to be part of a good team where I could also distribute the load and each member was gifted in a specific area.’ Tihana also got to use her creative flair for student events. ‘My favourite events were “Just Dance”, which we put on as a casual way to end the week; it was very popular and requested by students. Seeing students have fun after a full-on week was cathartic, for myself included! This was a big highlight of my time at Excelsia,’ explains Tihana.
Being able to problem-solve and change the student culture one step at a time was also a rewarding by-product of Tihana’s involvement in SRC. ‘As a staff member now, walking through reception and seeing a student receptionist is a small way we changed the culture by bringing up the fact that we should produce student jobs to give jobs to current students. Another small way we changed the culture was to include more plants and greenery, which seems so miniscule, but takes me back to the meetings where we suggested more greenery in the College to bring more life and oxygen into the typical office building!’
If you want to bring your personality to the table, see real changes made to the College and help be part of the collaborative nature of the student body, why not consider signing up for the SRC? With Covid-19 restrictions now over, we are excited to bring more student events and initiatives back to the campus, so now is the BEST TIME to get involved!
If you would like to know more about what is involved, please contact Nicole O’Keeffe at firstname.lastname@example.org. You never know the skills or friendships you will develop!
‘A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.’ – Luke 6:40
The theme for World Teachers’ Day on Friday 28 October 2022 is ‘Hats off to teachers’. This is a fitting theme considering the disruptions our educators have faced throughout the past two years of the pandemic and their ongoing support to the lives of students and their families (The Sector, 2022). Excelsia College is proud to see its education graduates making a positive impact on the lives of children within early childhood, primary and secondary school settings. Take Darren Walker, Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) alumnus, for example. Darren is the upper school principal and former mathematics teacher at Cair Paravel Latin School, a Christian school in Topeka, Kansas. For Darren, teaching is a lifelong process, and this is an attitude that is fostered in his school’s students. ‘We don’t want our students to just learn what they need to do so they can graduate and go to college and get a job. This is about teaching kids to love learning.’
In his role as principal, Darren is passionate about transforming teachers into the best educators they can be and he trains teachers how to educate more effectively. ‘As a principal, I consider it my job to make it easier for my teachers to do their job, that’s my number one goal and when I can do that, I have no desire to do anything else.’ Darren always had a calling to teaching but he took a detour on this journey there. ‘After initially starting out to be a mathematics teacher, I felt the Lord change my direction and I went to law school and practised in the field for 15 years.’
It was at a Christian Schools Conference in Sydney in 2011 that Darren saw advertising for the then Wesley Institute’s (now Excelsia College’s) education programs, which piqued his interest. When he found out he could complete the majority of his studies remotely and in his own time, Darren was sold on the course and commenced in 2012. ‘I’m a self-paced and voracious learner so online learning is a really good fit for me. I joked with a couple of people that I was working full time and spending the whole weekend doing a week’s worth of Excelsia to get it all submitted and head back to work on Monday!’ Despite studying remotely, Darren still felt supported by his lecturers. ‘I always felt if I needed something or had a question that they were always accessible. Given my background, I found staff to be very helpful and solve the problems that needed solving.’
Close-knit relationships and open communication between staff and students have influenced the way Darren engages with his students. ‘As a teacher, one of the verses I find to be particularly important is Luke 6:40 which says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”’ Darren continues, ‘As teachers, we don’t just impart information to students. A teacher, whether intentionally or not, demonstrates to their students how to become like them and, God willing, forms virtue in their students’ hearts. That’s why a close relationship between a teacher and a student is really important and, in my opinion, indispensable when it comes to successful teaching. I see that at Excelsia and in the desire that a lot of the lecturers have to be well engaged with their students.’
For Darren, the Christian framework at Excelsia was also a key reason for wanting to study there. ‘A lot of my undergraduate and graduate work wasn’t in a Christian context, so I really appreciate the solid Christian world view that pervades everything that Excelsia does. As I have gone into Christian education, it’s important to me to have an education that has a Christian world view behind all the theory we confront.’ Darren also enjoyed the broad cross-cultural mix of students which opened opportunities for him to meet different kinds of people. ‘The cohorts are fairly small so I had the opportunity to really get to know people and most importantly get to know my lecturers in the way I wanted to.’
Darren completed his studies in 2014 and sees his investment at Excelsia in terms of time and money as relatively small but huge both personally and professionally. ‘I personally am really interested in educational theory and philosophy, and Excelsia helped me to develop and expand those ideas and think more deeply about what it really means to be a Christian teacher and to have an educational system that’s infused with Christianity.’
In terms of his future, Darren wants to stay firmly planted at Cair Paravel Latin School. ‘Someone once said fulfilment in life comes from finding the thing that you really love doing and finding somebody to pay you to do that, and that’s where I’m at. I’m just blooming where I’m planted and really enjoying it. The Lord has taken me through a lot of winding roads to get where I am, and I can see His leading all along that pathway.’
Teachers are highly sought after and play such a vital role in the life of a child and in transforming their future. If Darren’s story has inspired you to play a role in the lives of young adults, it’s never too late to consider teaching. Why not explore our Master of Teaching (Primary) or Master of Teaching (Secondary)?
The Sector (2022). World Teachers’ Day is coming up, and AITSL says ‘hats off to teachers’. https://thesector.com.au/2022/10/19/world-teachers-day-is-coming-up-and-aitsl-says-hats-off-to-teachers/
Every year during the fourth week in October, for Children’s Week, we turn our attention to children and their right to enjoy childhood. The national theme for 2022 is based on UNCRC Article 27, which says ‘Children have the right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental needs’ (UNICEF Australia, 2022). This theme touches on wellbeing which has featured prominently in national conversation over the past 12 months, including the impact of decreased socialisation on the mental and physical wellbeing of a child (Branley & Duffy, 2021). A child’s physical and mental needs are becoming more diverse as we become an increasingly multicultural and globalised society. According to research conducted between community organisation Settlement Services International (SSI) and Telethon Kids Institute, in 2018, almost 1 in 4 (24 per cent) of children starting school across Australia were from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, an increase from 17 per cent in 2009 (SSI, 2021).
Nadia Di Martino, Associate Lecturer and Course Coordinator for Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at Excelsia College is currently conducting research on early childhood teachers and their cultures and how they are best placed to support children and families who come from multiple backgrounds in Australia. As part of her research, Nadia has seen that there is not only one pedagogy or right way of teaching. ‘One size doesn’t fit all and teachers’ pedagogies need to be flexible and culturally appropriate. In early childhood education, we say that all learning happens in relationships and if I do not understand why my colleague, a parent, or a child is doing things in a certain way, there’s a lot of ethical issues and misunderstanding and internal conflicts that could happen.’
In her research, Nadia wants to look at teachers’ pedagogies, that is, what they’re doing and the rationale behind it. ‘When teachers understand more about their own cultural background, they can undertake critical reflection and see how their own world view affects the way they do things. For example, I was looking at teachers putting food on the table without a plate, and I thought that was disrespectful for the child but then I spoke to the teacher and she explained to me in her culture it’s an important part of food sharing. For children’s mental health, I think we should be open to different ways of teaching children but also caring for children. I see some early childhood services now that let children sleep outdoors which is culturally appropriate in Sweden and Denmark for example, or some children sleep on the floor and that’s acceptable.’
Local, Indigenous, and international teachers need to be understood better when they go into a preschool environment, and global competencies need to be intentionally developed. ‘Mental health is a lot about belonging and feeling like your identity is understood and included. We have the Western model of family that assumes the parent is the primary carer of a child. However, in the context of Indigenous families, for example, we’ve seen that relatives might look after the children, but we still lack that cultural understanding of what the family unit is doing and their roles,’ says Nadia. ‘We need to develop an understanding of other cultures and ways of doing things. It means teachers don’t have to change their ways, but they need to accept and appreciate why others do things certain ways. We want children to have the best opportunities in life and the best learning, so we need to unpack cultural differences and similarities. In New Zealand there is already some wonderful research being conducted with Samoan infants and toddlers, which helps develop culturally appropriate and innovative practices and philosophies for teaching.’
We can’t wait to see how Nadia’s research impacts the future of early childhood educators and the wellbeing of children. If you’re interested in studying from forward-thinking and innovative educators such as Nadia, why not explore the Bachelor of Early Childhood Education (Birth to 5)?
Branley, A. & Duffy, C. (2021, September 1). How to tell if lockdowns are affecting your children and what you can do about it. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-01/how-to-tell-if-lockdowns-are-affecting-your-children/100421580
Children’s Rights Queensland. (2022). Right to Mental Health Support. https://childrensrightsqld.org.au/right-to-mental-health-support/
Matapo, J. & Utumapu-McBridge, T. (2022). Pepe Meamea as a Framework for Samoan Infants and Toddlers in Aotearoa New Zealand. World Studies in Education, 23(1). pp.97–114. https://docserver.ingentaconnect.com/deliver/connect/jnp/1441340x/v23n1/s7.pdf?expires=1666065262&id=0000&titleid=72010110&checksum=7E65A31AAE7787F67AB4D194DCED8BD1&host=https://www.ingentaconnect.com
Settlement Services International. (2021, March 24). Culturally diverse children missing out on early childhood education are more likely to face vulnerability. [Press Release]. https://www.ssi.org.au/news/media-releases/2606-culturally-diverse-children-missing-out-on-early-childhood-education-are-more-likely-to-face-vulnerability
UNICEF Australia. (2022). United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children. https://www.unicef.org.au/our-work/information-for-children/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child