It’s a place filled with youthful enthusiasm. A place buzzing with conversation. A place of teaching and learning. A room where smiles are frequent, and engagement is high.
This is the Homework Club at St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Corio.
“It’s inspirational seeing the energy between the young people learning and the confidence that grows between them.” Jillian Giddings is the Co-ordinator of the Homework Club, a local parish initiative which runs in partnership with Anglicare Victoria, Geelong Grammar and Kardinia International College. The club has been operating since 2010 and still has a strong membership.
Local Grade 5 to Year 12 students for whom English is an additional language, attend Homework Club after school once or twice a week with the common purpose of improving their English literacy skills. Many are refugees from countries such as Mayanmar (formerly Burma), Iran, Thailand, Afghanistan and Sudan; some born in refugee camps, others born in Australia. Jillian explains that the Homework Club is important to the students for many reasons. “We forget sometimes that these children are coming from traumatic circumstances, so their emotional well-being is our first priority, and the learning comes second.”
These bright young people have a terrific attitude to life. After speaking with a few students, it’s apparent that they are self-motivated to attend Homework Club, not only because it helps them with school work and improves their English literacy and conversation skills, but it’s a great social event. Students especially enjoy the time they have with their Mentors. This is the most unique part of the club. The Mentors are high school students from either Geelong Grammar or Kardinia International College. They voluntarily donate their time to assist in teaching English through literacy games, maths homework, and most importantly, through friendship. One Year 11 Kardinia student has been coming along for over two years to support the club, mainly because he really enjoys the friends he’s made with the students he’s been helping. He explains that it is a learning journey for them as Mentors too; “I’ve learnt so much about different learning styles. Everyone learns differently. I think that’s what I’ll take with me into my career beyond school from this experience.”
Teachers from Kardinia International College and Geelong Grammar also attend to support learners, and have seen the difference this experience has made for both the students and their Mentors. “The kids make genuine connections through relationships that grow organically.” They have seen the Mentors reflect on their own learning, and their commitment to the club has been an opportunity to be part of providing equity and access to language. Some teachers who have been assisting with Homework Club over a number of years have seen students who joined the Homework Club with little English knowledge go on to graduate from University.
Jillian says the key to the success of Homework Club is building confidence in the students. “Children’s confidence levels grow when they form relationships, as it’s then that they are able to open up. I can see that happening each week.”
The Homework Club at St Andrew’s Anglican Church provides a safe space for students to achieve through positive engagement with others, and is a truly inspiring example of young people building strong relationships that will make a difference to the future of our community.
Story and photo: Sarah Treacy