Two young Ascham Old Girls, Kate Stanton (2013) and Emma Verdicchio (2016), out of School for less than a decade, have loved the opportunity to return to Ascham this year as prac teachers. Kate and Emma undertook Teacher Education internships as part of their Master of Teaching at the University of Sydney and have come full circle, discovering a new level of respect for Dalton and all the opportunities it provides.
Kate has been teaching German in the Senior School and says she much prefers to teach with Dalton, as the Study helps her really engage with students. ‘I like that there’s opportunity for teachers to follow up and provide direct feedback. You feel like your expertise is valued,’ she said. Kate revealed that her internship experiences at other non-Dalton Schools quickly showed her how teachers have much less opportunity to engage directly with students: ‘For me, doing prac teaching in a mainstream school was confusing. The lessons are longer, but there was no opportunity to sit with students and tell them, for instance, how they went in a test.’
The Study, Kate reflected, ‘is a great opportunity to talk about the work [students] submitted the week before. You’re not giving them tasks with no purpose; it’s an ongoing dialogue. I like that if you write: Come and see me in a Study so we can talk about this, that the students do come and find you!’
Kate’s experiences prac teaching have also given her the opportunity to acknowledge Ascham’s balance with technology. ‘It was a sigh of relief to see that Lessons are a laptop-free space so there’s full engagement,’ she said. She has found this particularly reassuring: ‘It’s nice to know that even though a lot of time has passed, it still feels like the same School.’
Emma Verdicchio’s experiences teaching in Hillingdon have also served to reaffirm her view that Dalton’s strength is that it enhances the lives of Ascham’s students. She enthused, ‘I am a Dalton fan. The more I reflect on it in adulthood, the more I see the value in it. The ability to plan is such a skill, which people often don’t learn until adulthood, but you learn it at Ascham so that it becomes second nature for you.’
In Hillingdon, where Emma has been teaching Year 2, students are taught the skills of planning via the Ascham Diary. ‘The diaries are part of the girls’ day-to-day life,’ she said. ‘The daily writing in the diary, which is such a Dalton ritual, is also a Hillingdon ritual.’
Emma explained that the idea of planning, which is developed through the systematic placement of homework, helps to ingrain these habits. ‘Monday is Matific,’ she said. ‘Tuesday, the students do spelling. This helps as they have a routine of home learning. In addition, the Lesson planning aligns entirely with their homework… and that’s how it is in the Senior School as well. For example, today we did a grammar unit on narrative writing, and the girls will go home tonight and do homework on narrative writing.’
Emma has loved working with her Year 2 class and having the opportunity to put her academic learning into practice. She has also benefitted from seeing how Dalton is taught to Ascham’s students from a young age. ‘It makes sense to grow up with Dalton,’ she said. ‘That means it’s not such a shock when you reach the Senior School. You already have that sense of responsibility and independence.’
The importance of learning Dalton skills and habits early is a wonderful opportunity for Hillingdon’s students. But whatever age or stage students are at, Kate and Emma’s experience back at Ascham as teaching interns has reminded them just how lucky both Ascham students and their teachers really are.
Skye Barry | Ascham Old Girl (Edwards 1994)