A program that pairs pre-service teachers with children impacted by family violence is proving to be life-changing.
Griffith University’s School of Education and Professional Studies partnered with Beyond DV to run a six-week Homework Club for children affected by domestic violence.
A group of 13 pre-service teachers gathered each Wednesday afternoon to mentor 15 children, ranging from Prep to high school.
First-year Bachelor of Education student Annabelle Bamford-Mareroa said volunteering for the Homework Club had a profound impact on her.
“My student and I came a long way – at the beginning of the six weeks, she wouldn’t speak, but now she chats away about her pets and school,” she said.
“Being a mentor at Homework Club has been mind-blowing.
“We provide a safe space for these kids and really focus on building trust. Once those things are in place, then they are able to learn.
“It’s also changed my whole career path – I’m keen to do postgraduate study and more research in this space.”
The Queensland Department of Education ran several workshops for students on trauma-informed teaching strategies before the Homework Club launched. It was an experience fellow Bachelor of Education student Caroline Waugh said was invaluable.
“It was a completely eye-opening experience for me,” she said.
“The training we received and the skills we’ll take into the classroom after we graduate are so valuable.
“To see how the kids have blossomed has been wonderful, and to know I can make a real difference as a teacher is really good.”
For fellow Education student Kyla Withers, the project instilled confidence that she had chosen the right career path.
“This year really has been one for the record books, but this project has helped me to understand that I can do this, that I have what it takes to be a teacher.”
Griffith University education lecturers Dr Loraine McKay and Dr Tasha Riley oversaw the pilot program.
“I became a teacher to make a difference in kids’ lives, and a project like this is how you do it,” Dr McKay said.
“We’ve had amazing feedback from the kids and their parents.
“The kids come along excited to work with their mentors and it’s a two-way street – our students are developing amazing skills.”
Dr Riley said the Homework Club pilot highlighted the benefits of schools, universities and community organisations working together.
“I’m really interested in meaningful partnerships with community organisations like Beyond DV. It can be transformative for everyone involved,” she said.
“Griffith has a strong focus on social justice and that is enacted on the ground with projects like this.”
Carolyn Robinson is the founder of Beyond DV and a Griffith University education alumnus.
The former teacher said the trauma of domestic violence had a profound impact on children.
“It’s a lack of confidence and the feeling that they are different to their peers,” she said.
“These children have experienced situations where they have not felt loved or safe.
“The idea for the Homework Club actually came from a need from some of our parents who approached me to see if I knew of any tutors who would help their kids – they were falling behind and struggling to engage at school.”
Ms Robinson said the pilot program has had an extraordinary impact.
“It has been greater than anything we could have ever expected,” she said.
“The pre-service teachers are developing new skills and changing the trajectory of these kids lives.”