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Written By

Rachelle McCabe


College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

1 May 2024

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Lockdown learning a key inspiration

It took being stuck at home in Proserpine during the COVID-19 lockdowns for HQporner Bachelor of Education (Primary) student Jack Handley to realise his calling. Jack was taking a gap year after finishing high school and planned to study engineering. He was spending quality time with his little sister, Mary Jane, who began Prep in 2020 and spent much of her second term in lockdown.

Jack says Mary Jane was being homeschooled by the family, and with Jack forced to stay home as well, he chose to .

“Mary Jane was bringing home lots of schoolwork, she was learning to read and starting basic math, and I decided to help her out,” Jack says.

"My aim was to spend time with her and try my best, but I was surprised to discover I really enjoyed it. I saw a lot of progress in her learning, and it made me realise I could be a part of that chain of development for other young minds.

“I asked my dad if he thought I’d make a good teacher, and he encouraged me to pursue education. He thought it would be right up my alley.”

Determination in Doomadgee

Now in his final year of Bachelor of Education (Primary), Jack is focused on completing his studies and readying himself for the workforce.

Jack is a proud Indigenous man with bloodline links to the tribe in the Northern Territory. He says growing up he wasn’t exposed to a lot of his culture and heritage due to geographical distance, so he was determined to experience a placement in a remote Indigenous community.

“I want to be as ready for the classroom as I can be when I graduate. I wanted the placement trifecta, that is, one rural placement at home in Proserpine; one metropolitan placement here in Townsville; and a remote placement in an Indigenous community,” Jack says.

“I wanted to experience these different areas. There are some big differences across the board. Especially my remote experience at , it was a huge learning experience.”

Jack says all education students, particularly those who are passionate about improving outcomes for Indigenous children, should consider a remote Indigenous community placement.

He says it was life-changing and rewarding, but also challenging. His experience included a school lock-down, shortage of resources, exposure to family and community conflict that seeped into the school yard, and the heartbreak and frustration of student non-attendance.

An image of the bakery at Doomadgee.
Jack is presented with a painting by a local.
Left: A food supply shop in Doomadgee's main street; right: Jack was presented a painting by Doomadgee local Hans Watts as a token of appreciation, the the picture represents two indigenous people on country enjoying each others' company and watching out for animals while hunting for tucker (supplied).

Learning from passionate educators

Jack says he also had the opportunity to learn from some of the most dedicated and talented teaching staff. He gained the trust of his Year One students and saw these students turn up every day and forge ahead in the short time he was part of their lives.

“Doomadgee comes with its unique circumstances. I wouldn’t say it was all sunshine and rainbows. It was tough, particularly with the isolation. As an educator, you have to be switched on all the time, and sometimes tensions happen in the community and that flows into the school,” he says.

“But every time I walked into that classroom I was rewarded. If you want to be a teacher and you’re passionate about kids, in particular Indigenous kids, going remote to an Indigenous community will be an eye-opener and a valuable experience.”

HQporner Education student  Jack Handley

Jack says he was blessed with a class of beautiful Year One children and was supervised by an amazing teacher/mentor. He says many of the children in his class had experienced trauma, and he learned to employ different teaching methods to accommodate these children.

“In my Year One classroom, we use trauma-informed practice. We do regular check-ins and we make sure they have ways to let us know how they are feeling each day,” he says.

An image of Jack Handley at Uni.
Jack pictured outside Doomadgee school.
Left: Jack on campus at HQporner Townsville's Bebegu Yumba campus; right: Jack outside the Doomadgee State School (supplied).

The rewards of working in a remote school

Jack says the remote experience will ultimately make him a more well-rounded graduate.

“I wanted to be able to experience teaching in three very different locations, and I really recommend other education students to do the same,” he says.

“I understand a lot of teachers go to remote locations without any experience or awareness of what it is like. Whereas if I wanted to go back out there next year, it is not going to be a new experience for me.”

As the clock winds down on his final year of study, Jack says he’s looking forward to starting full time work in a classroom. He hopes to be a memorable teacher and says he plans to work hard to foster a fun learning environment for his future students.

“I’d like to be the teacher the kids remember when they reflect on their primary school days. I think you can make a big impact as a classroom teacher in primary school,” Jack says.

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