Welcome to our very first episode of #AustDem heroes, a peek into the daily lives of Australian Democrats members who do the jobs that keep the country running and we’re not talking about politicians.
Today we meet Elisa Resce. Elisa was our national president from 2017 to 2019 and the key driver behind our successful re-registration in time for the 2019 federal election.
In this interview Elisa shares:
- what it’s like being a high school teacher in the state school system in SA,
- how her life has changed since Corona Virus,
- what she’d do if she was PM for a day,
- changes she’d like to see in the Australian education system
- and more….
Listen to the recording (15 minutes) or scroll down to read the transcription.
Brenda: Welcome. My name is Brenda Thomson and I’d like to welcome you to our very first episode of #AustDem Heroes, a peek into the daily lives of Australian Democrats members who do the jobs that keep the country running (and I’m not talking about politicians.) Today I’m super excited and meeting with Elisa Reske.
Many of you will be familiar with Elisa as our national president from 2017 to 2019 and the key driver behind our successful re-registration in time for the 2019 federal election.
Welcome Elisa. Great to have you here.
Elisa: Thank you.
Brenda: Now here on #AustDem Heroes, we’d like to know more about what you do when you’re not trying to keep the bastards honest and I’m a bit of a social media sleuth so I’ve had a search around and you have managed to keep a very, very, very low profile. I think the only thing I could find about you was a LinkedIn profile that said you were a teacher in South Australia. So given that we can’t go and track you down on social media, can I ask you to tell us just a little bit about you?
Elisa: Okay. well my name is Elisa. I’m 35 years old. I live in the Barossa Valley with my wife, Kylie and our three dogs and I’m high school teacher in the public school system and a very keen player of video games.
Brenda: We would love to know here at #AustDem Heroes, what does a typical day in your life as a secondary school teacher look like? Elisa.
Elisa: Okay. So high school teachers we have a timetable and that tells us every day which classes we’re going to teach, at which time. And in which classroom. So every day we’ll go from class to class and we teach. So we greet the students, let them know we’re learning that day, do a bunch of activities, examples, work around the room one by one and make sure everybody’s on track.
Then time runs out, we pick up, go to the next place, do it again every day. But I think outside of the actual teaching time is where a lot of the real work happens. So there’s a lot of admin. Obviously our job is to design lessons for our students and we need to design them in a way that is it going to make sense to them and their individual needs. And the hard part about that is having students who are so different in the one room.
So for example the community I teach in a lot of the families are doing it tough. They may have experienced poverty and trauma and they’re going through some hard times. We also a lot of students who come from a non English speaking background so a very culturally diverse community, which is fantastic. But it does mean you need to bear in mind that not everybody can read and write in English. And some kids who have just arrived in Australia, some have been in refugee camps and never had formal education. So you’ve got all that diversity in one class room. And children with different abilities, and disabilities.
And it’s great that we understand now that just because a child is struggling doesn’t mean that they can’t learn. It means that perhaps they might have dyslexia, they might have all sorts of things going on for them and we need to try and look at what it is and how to effectively support their learning. And all that with as many as 30 children in the classroom.
Brenda: So I’m, I’m guessing what you’re saying here is that those rumours that teachers work the same hours as children are in school are a myth?
Elisa: Correct. There’s before school work, after school work, weekend work and school holiday work. Even during the day, recess and lunch, it’s not rest break over lunch, it’s yard duty or it’s keeping kids back so that you can give them extra explanations or it’s going to the next room and making sure technology’s working and nobody’s stolen the HDMI cable. It’s meeting with a wellbeing counsellor so we can better understand about a situation with a child. Or talking with a parent or it’s marking,
Elisa: This year I’m part time and I have four classes and a home room group. Yes. I teach English, I teach Australian history, anything humanities.
When you work in a high school, they will tend to put you where it’s needed So I’ve done everything from drama and even primary school choir at one point. You’ve gotta be prepared to roll with the punches.
Brenda: So how has a day in your working life changed as a result of COVID-19 and the restrictions and children staying at home and all of those kinds of things. Has that made a big difference to what your working life looks like?
Elisa: We’re just finishing off school holidays now, so we’ve all been preparing for term two. And we don’t know what term two is going to look like. So we’ve been making paper copies of things for the kids that don’t have internet so that can be posted home to them. We’ve been making online modules for the kids to work through if, there’s going to be remote learning. My challenge is knowing that some of our kids struggle to read the information. So making videos and audio files to help them understand the written tasks. We just need to be prepared for any eventuality. We’ll need to be calling home as well. Making sure that the parents are connected online, and know how to get their kids online. I’m just going to take it as it comes I guess.
Brenda: I was thinking the other day about the challenges for children whose parents don’t speak English and how they manage to support them at home. Are there things that you are able to do or other resources around or available to help with that?
Elisa: That’s something I worry about a lot. The department does employ community liaison officers who are people from communities from various cultures and speak the language and you can contact them. And then they will ring home for us and make sure that the kids are doing okay. The problem is that there’s not a lot of community liaison officers. And also I think sometimes the government pushes out messages and I don’t know that they are also sending them in these other languages and in video format as well, in case they might not be literate in their own language as well. Yeah. Just really hard. I do hope they’re not being left behind.
Brenda: That leads me into a question. If you could be PM for the day and you had absolute power, what would you do?
Elisa: Okay. This one is not actually about education, but it is for my students, It would be about climate change.
I would get Zali Steggall’s climate change bill. And I would make sure that it’s as perfect as it can be and I would get it approved. Because climate change, it’s going to affect my students and I really want them to be able to grow up and in 40 years have a planet that is livable. And in the short term I want them to be able to have jobs, and I think that this bill would meet both of those needs. So Zali Steggall is an independent in the electorate of Warringah. So she’s not an Australian Democrat, but if it’s a good idea, it’s a good idea.
Elisa: What I love about it is that it is setting mandated targets. I think it’s net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And once that target is set, it is also about setting up an independent commission that would give periodic reports on how they’re going tracking towards that target. So there’s that accountability thing. So if I had power for only one day, it would be get the target in place and make sure we’re going to have to be held accountable to it so that tomorrow, hopefully the government would then need to invest in all the things to make it happen. And now’s the time because if you think about investing in science and research and technology, investing in onshore manufacturing for the renewable infrastructure, how much that would stimulate the economy, how many jobs that would create and that’s what we really need that right now.
In my community just recently in the last few years, the Holden factory closed down and that was a huge source of employment for my community. So imagine having opportunities to be building electric cars, for example, and what that could do for my students and their families. So yes, that, that is what I would do if I had power for a day.
Brenda: I wish we could give it to you.
Going back to education and looking around the world, are there other countries that you think are doing things really, really well in the education field that you’d love to see emulated here in Australia?
Elisa: I feel like I don’t know enough, apart from reading the occasional article, I don’t know what it looks like on the ground, but I have this hunch that those countries where teachers are more respected have better education outcomes.
I do feel very much like, it’s quite discouraging as a teacher. We work our butts off and we’re so passionate about trying to meet the needs of kids. But the task is so huge. Often we want to do more, but we just can’t. And then to have the media suggest that we’re just lazy. It’s really discouraging. Not just the media, but some political voices as well saying we’re lazy. There’s voices right now making it sound as if teachers’ health concerns about the virus are just because we can’t be bothered and we just want the kids to stay home. So I don’t have to teach like that’s so discouraging. We are still going to be teaching.
Brenda: It sounds to me like that you already had a massive workload and that workload is just got doubled with having to create all the different study options, audio, video, workbooks for the children to work from home as well.
Elisa: Yeah, it’s been an interesting time. I also think that countries that invest more in education funding have better outcomes. I would really love to see the Gonski recommendations fully funded. I think there’s a huge disparity between the really wealthy private schools and your ordinary public schools and that is not fair on the communities or the families. I think that if we are investing fairly in education and we can get more teachers and more classroom support staff, then maybe we don’t have to have classes of 30 kids. Which means that we’re able to target our clientele. That’s how we’re able to connect with them better because there’s fewer children with fewer diverse needs so we can be more specialist for them. I think it would make a huge difference to have fair funding and, and more respect for the teaching profession.
Brenda: If you could say something to Scott Morrison right now, what would you say?
Elisa: Oh wow. What would I say to Scott Morrison right now? I would probably say if you really believe in a fair go, then talk is cheap back it up. By implementing the Gonski recommendations. They came with a lot of research. They’re not just plucked out of thin air, they’re not some kind of left wing agenda they’re well-researched, sensible. If you believe in a fair, go then back it up with fair funding.
And climate change matters. It’s fantastic that he’s acting on science advice at the moment. He needs to start listening to climate science advice as well because that affects all of us.
Brenda: Thank you, Elisa. That was fantastic and thank you so much for joining us on #AustDem Heroes today.
Elisa: Thank you for having me. An absolute pleasure.