The first ‘day’ of our STEM X Academy was relaxed, giving us a chance to meet the other 70-odd people we would be spending the week with. Participants flew in from around the country, arriving in small waves state-by-state, and we were left to our own devices for the afternoon to settle in.
I flew in just after 11am – there were probably others flying in at the same time, but I was meeting a friend so I didn’t try to make contact with anyone. Other groups met at their airports and travelled together, which is a nice way to start the camaraderie and networking for the week.
We were given a time range of 1-5:30pm to check in, so I took the opportunity of our only real bit of free time to catch up with Jess, who I worked with and became good friends with in London. (Incidentally, she mentioned that she re-read her Meet the Teacher post and would like to update it, so keep an eye out to hear about her transition into Australian teaching!)
We went into the city for lunch (amazing burgers at Grease Monkey), then wandered around the shops. So different to Brisbane! I bought a fan for my room while we were out – they don’t have any fans in them, or air conditioning, and it’s forecast to be a very hot week. We went for a wander around the ANU campus, with her showing me some of her favourite spots and reminiscing of the good old days when we were at uni ourselves.
Then it was time to go check in and get ready for the week. I carried my luggage and new fan up the stairs to the reception area they had set up, and was given a name tag for the week, room key, and a backpack full of goodies including a water bottle, travel mug, cap, highlighters and pens, posters, and for some reason a spinning top and foam rocket thing. I was shown to my room in the block we are all sharing, just across from the main hall. We are staying in student accommodation on campus – let’s just say it’s small, mostly neat and serviceable, and I will be leaving some pointed feedback about it.
Throughout the afternoon people mingled and got to know each other a little. Some retreated to their rooms to make their beds and settle in (I did this, then took a cheeky nap), others went for a wander around the campus or down to the shopping centre. In the common room are some pool and table tennis tables so a few groups played, and there were groups sitting around various places just relaxing and having a chat.
Everyone seems friendly and nice, and I had a chance to talk with a small group while waiting for dinner to come along. As we are all science teachers, the conversations quickly turned to ‘it’s a science teacher thing’ – little jokes and things that people who aren’t science teachers just don’t really get. We compared stories of ‘school appropriate’ attire and our teaching experiences.
Then it was time to gather for dinner, with some chips and drinks served first, followed by my all time favourite – pizza. The room was set up with long tables, so most people found a spot and sat for the evening. It wasn’t really designed for mingling, but it meant you got to know your neighbours pretty well. We have an even split of primary and secondary teachers on this trip, doing separate programs, so it was nice to interact with the ‘other side’, as one person put it. We will merge in the evenings for dinner, and for one or two activities, but for the majority of the week we’ll be separated so that the activities can be better tailored to our needs.
After everyone had eaten their fill, Vic Dobos (the ATSA CEO) gave a quick introduction and we were directed through some ice-breaker activities. We were first told to organise ourselves into a line according to teaching experience first (I’m sure you’ve all done this activity with your classes before). It turns out there are only a handful of us with less than 5 years teaching experience here, the majority seem to be in the 10-20 years bracket. Sure made us feel like babies in the profession! Once we’d all congratulated the people who had been teaching the longest and the shortest amounts of time (20-something years, and a beginner teacher starting in a few weeks) we had to rearrange into our favourite STEM area, then again into the STEM area we’d like to learn more about. The group for science was by far the biggest in terms of preference, but it was a pretty even spread for what people wanted to learn more about – there was even a large group of people who wanted to learn more about all of them and couldn’t choose just one.
We finished off the evening with a quick dessert and some more drinks, then the larger group splintered off much in much the same way it had in the afternoon. A few of us went for a walk, observing the architecture and wildlife, before heading back to settle in for the night. A lot of early mornings and late nights to come this week means trying to get as much rest as possible when we can!
So far so good, seems like it will be a great week with a great, diverse group of people!