Students as teachers

To our students today and tomorrow.

Every year we are approached by TAFE and Universities to have students do their placement at Bonnie’s. We usually take on 2-3 students a year. We love having students doing their placement with us. As workers, we tend to work the same way, year after year. Hosting a student allows us to question our practices and why we do the things we do when supporting the women and children at Bonnie’s.

When I returned to study after working an extended amount of time in other industries, I became a student again, doing placements. At one of the services I was placed in, the word ‘student’ was linked to being inexperienced: needing to be taught or shown the way, a second class worker, minute taker, archiver, volunteer, transport person. I never felt a sense of belonging because every conversation, even over lunch, was about ‘teaching me something’.  All of my working experience before entering the community sector had somehow added to nothing. I was expected to be a wide-eyed ‘student’, with little to share and teach.

A year later, I entered another placement and my supervisor saw ‘student’ differently. I was respected as a learner and was seen to bring as much as I took from the experience. I learned that as a student, I was not just a learner but a teacher too.

I took this experience with me and I now apply this at Bonnie’s, when we have students with us. Our students teach us so much about accountability, professionalism, dedication, critical thinking and reflection, decision making, client choices, clients’ self-determination, hard-work, advocacy, and that we need to still keep social justice at the front and centre of all our work and interactions.

It is the willingness to continue to learn and improve our on practices that keep us relevant in our work. But sometimes, to remain up-to-date and applicable, we need the assistance of fresh eyes to help question what we do and encourage us to improve. Having students work with us allows us to take time to reflect on the way we work every day.

Most of our students choose to work with Bonnie’s and we are privileged to have them join us because they believe in what we do. I thank all the students that have decided to stay on to work at Bonnie’s and those who are now professionals throughout the sector. Thank you for your willingness to teach us.

Written by An, Photo by allison griffith on Unsplash