Home visit experiences at KSOTA

Host: Kimberley School of the Air
Written by Amanda Ogg – Year One and Two Teacher, Kimberley School of the Air.

Throughout this website are stories of those living and working on cattle stations and in other remote areas, detailing how they’ve come from across Australia or from around the world to be in the places they are today. My story is no exception to this recurring theme.

I am the Year One and Two teacher at Kimberley School of the Air (KSOTA), based in Derby WA. Originally from Scotland, I moved to Perth at the age of 15 in 2008 where I completed Year Eleven and Twelve and then my Bachelor of Education.

My journey at KSOTA happened quite by chance when Paul, our principal contacted my friend to offer her the job. He persistently phoned her for a few days as he needed a new teacher. She wasn’t in the position to be able to accept, and I asked her to give him my number. At that point in time I was on a contract that was to come to an end within the next two days and no other job prospects on the horizon for the following year. Three days and three thirty-minute phone calls later with Paul and I accepted the job. I had never anticipated moving to the country to teach, never mind as far north as the Kimberley.

2.1 copyTaking an air lesson from Yougawalla with Tilly Sale. We really get a sense of the technical glitches that crop up from time to time with our students.

I began work at KSOTA with little understanding of exactly what lay ahead of me in terms of distance education. Unless you work at, are a student at, or a parent of a student at School of the Air, it is always a difficult task to fully explain exactly what any given day or week might look like for us. In many ways it is similar yet so far removed from a mainstream educational setting, but our focus remains; providing quality education to our students.

Our school caters for students living on cattle stations and in remote communities. We compile two week’s worth of set work and other associated resources which we then mail out for them to complete with a tutor at home. Sometimes this person is their mother or an employed governess/home tutor. The students connect daily with us, their class teachers, via Satellite on their computers for whole class and individual lessons. The online platform, Centra/SABA can be likened to Skype with a whiteboard. We create lessons in Power-Point which are then uploaded to and displayed on Centra. We can all draw on and add text to the slides and use microphones, webcams and a chat box to interact.

Teaching at School of the Air is unlike any of my prior training or experience of working and learning in a mainstream school. It is a completely different environment which needs to be constantly flexible and adapted to suit us, the needs of the children and has to account for technical hiccups, often caused by the weather! It’s funny that a small amount of cloud coverage can sometimes be the difference between a student being able to be logged or on not. Or even the fact that the use of a webcam can stop a microphone from transferring sound through to one another. It’s not always easy but somehow we make it work.

Some of the children within my lovely class feature on Central Station as their parents and stations contribute as weekly hosts. Central Station owner Jane Sale’s daughter Tilly is in my Year Two class as well as Will from Country Downs. Lachy from Liveringa and Will from Myroodah are in my Year One class.

2.2 copyWho doesn’t love a good sunset? Watching the sunset from Jane’s Lookout at Yougawalla with Acting Principal Cathie Bonner and Year 3 and 4 Teacher Clare Stack.

The biggest perk and most important part of the job would have to be the home visits where we get to visit our students.

Home visits are vital to engage one on one with each child and work with them to meet specific learning goals. These visits provide us with the opportunity to develop and enhance strong teacher-student relationships and positive working relationships with their immediate family and home tutor. The children are always thrilled to have us visit and excitedly greet us with cheery faces

Nothing compares to spending time exploring new parts of the Kimberley region, some of which the average traveller will never see. Although for the most part, the purpose of our visits is to complete literacy and numeracy based tasks and assessments, they are also a great opportunity to learn more about our students and where they live. They love to take us on tours of their home and station and tell us exciting stories along the way. Home visit see us learning and applying new skills that are specific to their everyday life of living on a remote station. These are experiences which the ordinary school-going child in the city wouldn’t normally experience in daily life.

2.3 copyWill Daniell shows us the art of Boab nut cracking at Myroodah Station.

Sometimes we get to experience mustering horses and are taught the basics before we ride them. Boab trees are a prominent feature in the Kimberley and unbeknownst to me we can crack open and eat the contents of Boab nuts. Will at Myroodah taught us the art of selecting and cracking the best Boab Nut. It was great fun watching him throw the nuts at the Boab tree to reveal the insides. Other visits have seen us travel up hidden dirt tracks on the Gibb River Road that open out to a beautiful spot on the Hann River. An unexpected adventure so we have no bathers, we take a dip fully clothed and hope there’s no crocs! Lesson learned; always bring extra clothes as you never know where you’ll end up going or how dirty you may get. I’ve also been lucky enough to fly on a chartered plane to the Mitchell Plateau, providing one of few opportunities to see the Kimberley from above (Made less exciting by the fact I had taken ill the night before and spent the entire two hour flight there and then back again trying not to have a spew!).

Each station is unique and different in its own way. We experience something new each time we visit our students and I hold special memories of each visit. I could never have anticipated the experiences I would be in for when I moved to the Kimberley but it’s an experience I would never trade for the world. The Kimberley region holds some of my favourite places in the world and I am continually excited about what I am to experience next as I continue on my journey at Kimberley School of the Air.

2.4 copyMy favourite part of the Kimberley is getting to explore this vast and beautiful landscape. I finally made it to the Cockburn Ranges in July 2015 on a road trip of the Gibb River Road.