Every day before school starts, Prep teacher Tahnee Brown communicates with each student in her class – 90 per cent of whom speak English as a second language, some of whom have fled war-torn countries – about how they are feeling so they know they are in a safe and caring place.
Then she uses her extraordinary background in early childhood education, having worked in child care centres and kindergartens for more than 15 years before studying to become a teacher, to provide exciting lessons which include the use of activity stations, nature walks, and even writers’ workshops with Years 3 and 4 buddies.
Her warm, insightful and academic approach has earned profuse praise from parents, grandparents, colleagues and her school leaders at Wisdom College on Brisbane’s southside.
Her approach is one of the reasons she has won the 2017 Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award.
Ms Brown said while she teaches everything that is in the Australian Curriculum and ensures her children are academically challenged and progressing, developing a child’s social and emotional wellbeing was equally important to their learning.
“Before we start each day, I ask students questions such as ‘How are you today? How are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way?’ and ‘How can we fix that?’,” she said.
“We work together, recognising that all emotions are okay, finding ways to process and manage these effectively and thinking of ideas to help ourselves better. This is a great strategy to ensure that all students have a positive start to teach day, having been heard and having their feelings validated.”
Ms Brown works with another teacher across two classrooms – one of which has exciting activity stations that are changed every few weeks. There are plastic animals in sand buckets, a medical station with x-rays and dress ups, sensory boxes, word cards, colouring and numeracy-based activities.
For students who have English as a second language Ms Brown uses word and picture cards, facial expressions, translator apps and even students’ siblings, but most importantly, she builds relationship with them and their families. Some are refugees who have faced extreme hardship.
She encourages students to bring something from home to make them feel safe and secure: photos, toys, even the blanket they hide under if that is was they do to feel safe.
The winners of the QCT Excellence in Teaching Awards were announced at a ceremony today, as Queensland celebrated World Teachers’ Day.
Congratulations Tahnee on winning the 2017 Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award.