The School of Education (SOE) hosted visitors from its partner school in Brisbane, Australia, last week. Deputy principal Pam Dunbar (back row, far left) and 4th-and-5th-grade teacher Debbie Heenan (front row, center) of Camp Hill State Infants and Primary School were in Texas for a week and met the eight SOE seniors who will travel to Australia in November through the SOE’s study-abroad program and teach there for three weeks.
SOE assistant professor Betty Ruth Baker, who coordinates the Australia trip each fall, said the program gives students a global perspective not just about general cultural issues, but about education, because they will be part of an Australian school.
“The students learn a whole different philosophy of education and methods of instruction,” she said. “They come back with different ideas; they come back and realize that excellent teaching goes on in other places. But they also develop an appreciation for the U.S. system.”
The SOE seniors who will make the trip are already teaching in a local school each day. They are also enrolled in a comparative education class with Baker, where they learn about the Australian culture and educational system and prepare lesson plans for their visit.
The students will leave for Australia on Nov. 15, and each student will be in a different classroom with a mentor teacher. Four of the Baylor students will be at Camp Hill School, while four will teach at a high school, Whites Hill State College.
In the Australian classrooms, the Baylor students will teach a unit on American culture and will celebrate Thanksgiving with the Australian students. They will teach other material in their content areas and assist with duties like grading.
Dunbar and Heenan said the Thanksgiving experience is always a favorite at the school, where Baker has been taking SOE students annually since 1996.
Baker said the Baylor students will also conduct a research project while there, studying the role of self-reflection in teachers. Once back in Waco, they will continue the research at a local school for a comparative study.
During their visit to Waco, Dunbar and Heenan visited each local classroom where the students who will travel to Brisbane are currently teaching as interns. In addition, they visited two other local PDS campuses and also sat in on Baylor classes. They said they enjoyed getting to know the students, seeing so many American schools, and learning about the SOE teacher-preparation program.
Dunbar told the Baylor students that the education they receive at Baylor SOE is a great opportunity that does not exist in Australia, where teacher candidates are required to spend only 24 full days in a classroom before graduating.
“Our students get nothing like the contact hours that you receive and with a university professor on the site with you,” Dunbar told the students. “You are given something that is remarkable. The quality and opportunity at this university is amazing; it is an incredible program.”
After the study-abroad trip, SOE students will keep in touch with the Australians through video sharing and other Internet communications, Baker said. “When we first started the program, they were pen pals,” she noted. “Times have changed.” —Meg Cullar