Report: Lillian Leptos

If anyone thought that getting a volunteering position was an easy thing, they had better think again. 

An email and phone call to principal Donald Eddington at William Ruthven Primary, was just the beginning. To ensure that the girls fully understood their role and responsibilities, Mr Eddington emailed to the students eight long documents on the mandatory reporting guidelines and obligations, the safe schools guidelines and other key materials. These had to be read, certified and then the girls had to be questioned on these by the principal. It was only then that the girls could enter the classrooms and have any contact with the students.

Despite the barriers in their way, Constaretta and Divyansha passed and have made their volunteering work at William Ruthven Primary school the focus of their week. The girls were strategically placed in the prep area with teachers Jodie and Kathy, as not having an aide to support the students in this area, this is the level with the greatest need for additional support.

It’s a labour of love for Div, who gets to work with her little brother Rudra, though familiarity can bring its own problems. 

“Sometimes he forgets that we are in a classroom and he tries to play with me the way we do at home,” she says. But the WRSC students were well prepared for this situation through the induction discussions they had with Mr Eddington. Retta explains: “We are something like a teacher aide. We can enjoy being with the students, but we are there to help, not to play.”

 Retta and Div work mainly under the direction of learning specialist, Catherine Tascone, who has in the past taken on the role of Maths teacher at WRSC. 

“The girls are a good presence in the classroom,” she explains. This is obvious when I visit the prep classroom and find our students easily interacting with the students over a range of developmental activities. 

“The students love to go up to us to show what they have created,” says Retta as she helps a student build a metre high tower of interlacing panels.

While the WRSC volunteers have directed duties in the classroom, they are keen to help more broadly and as of next term will be helping with re-shelving books in the library until the end of lunchtime. But there is other more subtle work that the students do within the school. Arriving during lunch hour, they are in the playground with the students and like the yard duty teachers, just gently noticing any student who could maybe do with a helping hand. 

“Just today we found a student who was a bit upset. We were able to comfort them and then let the duty teacher know,” says Div.

Much as they love their Friday volunteering, the girls have not considered early learning as a career path. Retta hopes to try several work environments to better understand where her skills and interests lie. Her work experience later in the year will be in a nursing home. 

Div on the other hand is strongly focussed on a career in police industry, namely forensics. Their work at William Ruthven Primary is a great introduction for both girls to the world of work and the skills that will be needed to work with a wide diversity of people with a range of needs.