Guiding students through wetlands, examining flora and fauna and visiting schools to teach environmental education are all in a day’s work for teachers at Longneck Lagoon Environmental Education Centre.
They may not be in a traditional classroom, but teaching and learning is the focus for teachers in Environmental and Zoo Education Centres, such as Longneck Lagoon, in Sydney’s north west.
There are 25 of these centres in NSW, with students from Kindergarten through to Year 12, as well as TAFE, universities and community groups, benefiting from the quality teaching delivered daily by a dedicated band of qualified teachers.
According to Corina Walker, a teacher at Longneck Lagoon, visitors often don’t even realise the people delivering lessons in these unique settings are teachers.
“Teachers often disappear in these settings; it’s like we are forgotten,” Corina said. “I have been told many, many, many times I’d make a good teacher. People think we’re rangers.”
Ironically, the teachers in these settings are highly specialised and teach every lesson in front of their peers and the students’ usual teachers who visit with their class.
They are consistently driven to improve quality, which is why Corina and her colleagues are implementing Quality Teaching Rounds in 2021.
“We are so privileged that we get to teach the same lesson over and over again, so we have been able to hone and hone it to improve it,” Corina said. “QTR is so valuable in that it allows us the opportunity to work together to look for ways to further tighten that.”
Corina acknowledged the power of teachers observing each other’s practice to enhance quality as part of their own professional development.
“We are in a unique position where we are teaching in front of other teachers 99% of the time, so QTR provides us with the opportunity to refine and improve our teaching, which other teachers are seeing, so that is a really good model for supporting each other,” she said.
“It is quite a rare thing and we’re doing it all the time.”
Longneck Lagoon is one of a number of Environmental Education Centres that have participated in Quality Teaching Rounds workshops with a view to improving collaboration and the quality of teaching and learning in their setting.
Corina said the use of the Quality Teaching Model to guide the analysis of teaching and the structured process of Rounds made it a supported, non-threatening process, offering so much value to teachers in all settings.
“The QTR process felt safe and had that rigour and real quality about it that keeps you on track,” she said.
Despite her hesitation when first asked to attend QTR training, Corina returned to her centre “singing its praises”, so much so that two more colleagues, including her principal, immediately signed up to a workshop. Implementing QTR across the centre and working alongside other Environmental Education Centres is now embedded in their school plan.
Corina highly recommends other teachers consider taking part in Quality Teaching Rounds training.
I just loved it. Your training is the best PD I’ve done in my teaching career and I’ve been teaching a long time,” she said.
“It was so much more and so much better than I expected.
“I loved the quality of the discussions we had about teaching. I loved the language it provided us with to talk about teaching and I loved that was non-judgemental, non-personal.
“I feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm for teaching,” she said.