Appreciating and learning differences

Bridget Kennelly, left, arrives at Taborio by boat.
Bridget Kennelly, left, arrives at Taborio by boat.

With a year under her belt already, St James Primary School, Jamestown, teacher Bridget Kennelly is well into her Palms Australia teaching opportunity.

Ms Kennelly was recruited by Palms Australia in early 2019 and is now teaching students and mentoring local teachers in the small Pacific nation of Kiribati.

She is engaged in a two-year contract in response to a request from Immaculate Heart College in Taborio, a small settlement of less than 1000 people on the North Tarawa atoll.

According to her own experience, teaching and learning in Australian schools relies more on material equipment and formal modes of education while in Pacific countries it tends to be more connected with families, the community and the church. It also included more practical, everyday life skills that also have deep cultural meaning.

She has found students in Kiribati have skills such as resilience, perseverance, cooperation, determination as well as a generally positive attitude.

"I have come to realise that for me the universal values of teaching are respect, compassion, understanding and patience," Ms Kennelly said.

She has also come to realise the differences between Western and Pacific cultures.

"I feel that the best way to achieve outcomes for my students is to combine key elements of a formal education with a cultural education. That approach nurtures practical and social skills as well as personal strengths and qualities thereby supporting opportunities for my students to live well in Kiribati."

Bridget, middle back, with students from the school she is currently working at.

Bridget, middle back, with students from the school she is currently working at.

The Principal of Immaculate Heart College, Sr Maata Berenato said that as the result of the work Bridget was doing the students' attendance and communication had improved considerably and her "approach to the teachers has enriched them in a positive way."

Bridget will complete her contract at the end of 2020.

Palms Australia is a registered charity that has been working to reduce poverty through long-term, skilled volunteering for almost 60 years.

If this is something you think you might be interested in, there is a few spaces left on the Encounter visit to Kiribati from May 20 to June 1, 2020.

For more information you can call the Palms office on 02 9560 5333.