It was a love of sport – basketball to be exact – that first inspired Korowa Anglican Girls’ School’s Head of Junior School, Joanne Barker, to become a teacher. Her family was involved in the local competition in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, where Barker grew up, and she soon became a devotee of the game.
“[At primary school] during recess and lunch, I was always playing basketball from about the age of seven,” Barker explains. “In those days, girls didn’t have formal competitions, so I played in the boys’ teams.
“I began ‘teaching’ when I started training umpires at the Nunawading Basketball Stadium. I was a referee supervisor during high school and enjoyed teaching.
“This encouraged me to complete a diploma of teaching, then a bachelor of education. I enjoy learning and helping others reach their potential.”
Barker joined the school midway through last year, saying its excellent reputation was one of the many reasons she was attracted to her new role.
“The school has a history of academic excellence and a sense of community and warmth that I believe is important, while offering a broad and innovative curriculum and developing a love of learning,” she says. “The ethos and sense of community I felt from the first day I walked in the gates has only reinforced my drive for each student to reach their personal best.”
It’s a similar drive that Barker had when she stood in front of her first class at Coolaroo Primary School 30 years ago. “My first class … was a year 1 and 2 composite class of 35 and it took me 90 minutes each way to get there,” she says.
“I remember handwriting reports with duplicate paper and if you made a mistake you had to start again, and I will never forget the dreaded mimeograph duplicator for making multiple copies,” Barker says with a laugh.
Since those early days, Barker has continued to work in schools, including other major Melbourne independent schools, where much has changed; including the fact that any typos in school reports can now be deleted from a computer screen.
“Technology has vastly changed learning over the past 30 years,” Barker says. “It has changed both teaching methods and the learning environment a lot … from students emailing and sharing work on their devices; to teachers providing interactive instruction using websites, apps and Skype.
“The days of desks in rows have been replaced with student collaboration and teacher facilitation … With iPads, computers and handwriting books, handwriting lessons have somewhat evolved.
“The way we teach has also changed, as we encourage students to be inquiring.
“Students are encouraged to be active learners, asking questions, reasoning and developing ideas, and translating their thoughts into local and global contexts, leading to service and action.
“While explicit instruction is important, the notion of the teacher standing at the front and imparting pages of ‘knowledge or fact- based’ curriculum has developed.”
Barker says at Korowa, girls are learning not only traditional subjects, but also life skills such as communication and resilience within classrooms.
“Korowa’s outstanding wellbeing program strategically and sequentially develops the girls’ social skills, implemented through a community approach, which sees students, staff and families working together,” Barker says, “[because] developing girls who are passionate, resourceful and resilient in a very fast-changing world is essential. Girls develop social skills with their peers, family, staff and other school members in a variety of contexts, giving them the confidence to face the full range of experiences that life has to offer.”
While basketball was her initial inspiration to become an educator, Barker says it is the little things that keep her inspired in her latest role.
“Every day is different: it may include a welcome hug from a three-year-old, a robust discussion on innovation or STEAM (science technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), feedback, the warm smiles as the students arrive, reading with preps or watching a music class in deep concentration,” Barker says, “It really does give me inspiration each day.”
- Korowa Anglican Girls’ School is having an open morning on March 28. Details: korowa.vic.edu.au
Korowa Anglican Girls’ School \ 10-16 Ranfurlie Crescent, Glen Iris.
- 03 9811 0200