It has been an exciting time for the residents of Tamworth, and not because Tamworth Airport recently became an international airport for the day, or that the city of 62,000 residents, five hours’ drive north-west of Sydney, is playing host to the Auckland Warriors.
Deep in the heart of Tamworth just off Peel Street, a short stroll from Tamworth Memorial Town Hall, there is another team in town. It comprises three Year 9 students from St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill, who are continuing their off-site learning together.
For all students across Australia, this time of isolation has been incredibly difficult – whether it is the change in daily schedule, the loss of interaction with teachers in a classroom, or the absence of Monday night chicken schnittys at Joeys …
Good mates Sam Sleeman, Ben Chick and Sam Anderson began their journey at Joeys only at the start of 2020 and, despite the short amount of time spent on-campus, they are already thoroughly enjoying their time in cerise and blue.
Like Dubbo and Wagga Wagga, Tamworth has forged a strong connection with Joeys, and the number of boarders from the region continues to grow. In 2020, 15 students are from the region. Sam Anderson has noticed a number of local boys at the College: “Joeys has almost become a school for boys from Tamworth!” he says. “There are two or three in the year above, and a group below us; I’ve seen a lot of the same boys from back here in between classes at Joeys.”
“There are two or three in the year above, and a group below us; I’ve seen a lot of the same boys from back here in between classes at Joeys”.SAM ANDERSON – YEAR 9
Having mates from home has been hugely beneficial for the boys as they begin life at Joeys. “Having two of the other boys from Tamworth has been really great, just to settle in,” says Ben Chick. “We knew each other, and we have helped each other along the way finding new friends.”
For Sam Sleeman, his time at the College has awakened a keen interest in learning. “At my old school I didn’t really enjoy school that much, apart from the sport, but now … I enjoy my Maths because we have a good teacher, same with Science. I like most subjects which is good. I’m learning more things and it’s more hands on, which is more enjoyable.”
Having Sam back in Tamworth, his parents Jane and Shawn Sleeman can clearly see he is enjoying his time as a Joeys boy, and have already noticed a change in his dedication to study. “It’s amazing,” says his mum Jane. “I have seen the maturity in just a term. He just seems to have grown as a person – like his dedication to his study; he has always been one who would do his work, but it’s just to the next level.”
Above: Sam Anderson, Ben Chick and Sam Sleeman were good friends in Tamworth, before commencing Year 9 at Joeys at the start of 2020.
In down-town Tamworth, it is easy to see how invested the boys are in their off-site learning. They each have their own corner of their rented office space, where they engage separately with their online classes.
Whilst Sam Anderson connects with his teacher in a class via Zoom, Ben Chick utilises some recently posted reference material to continue his class work, and Sam Sleeman busily takes notes for the lesson he is currently engrossed in.
“The care that you see, especially in the online learning, and teachers making that contact. Even the Heads of Department are checking up on the boys”.JANE SLEEMAN – SAM’s MUM
The additional resources provided by teachers during off-site learning has been helpful to students like Sam Anderson. “They have been great! They have given a lot of additional material to push on with if we finish our work. They are always there if we need them. We can just flick them an email or send them a message, and they will send back a diagram or explain something through Zoom. I think they have been really helpful.”
Sam Sleeman’s mum Jane is encouraged by the effort and additional support that the boys are receiving. “The care that you see, especially in the online learning, and teachers making that contact. Even the Heads of Department are checking up on the boys, and going that extra mile for them.”
Although each boy is learning individually, they greatly appreciate the ability to turn to one another for collaboration, advice, or simply a second opinion on an answer. “I think being at the office not only gets you out of the house, but having those two boys there really helps,” Sam Anderson says. “If you are stuck with something and you’re home alone, you may not have anyone to lean on apart from your teachers. But having the boys at the office, you can simply ask, ‘Hey what’s this mean?’ or ‘What’s the go with this?’ and they might have the answer. It’s always great having someone to lean on.”
Sam Sleeman agrees: “It’s been really good. It’s something different and better than staying in the house all day. We are in the same class for some of our subjects, and during those classes we help each other. If I don’t get something in Maths, which most of the time I do, I just ask for them to help me, and most of the time they do.”
For the boys, the focus on learning and additional study has become the norm for them at Joeys. Sam Anderson finds that on campus, studying as a team can have enormous benefits. “It’s good having mates around, and knowing they are doing the work as well. Two hours of study a night might seem like a lot, but if you have your mates doing it at the same time, then you have to get on with it, and it makes you a better student at the end of the day.”
For all the positives that have come from continuing their learning together in Tamworth, both Ben and Sam Anderson admit they have begun to miss the routine of College life. “I like my routine, so I’m loving that about Joeys,” Ben says. “ I’m definitely missing the study at night; the teachers are there to keep me in line and help me with my work. In hindsight I have also found that collaborating in class has been great,” Ben says.
Sam Anderson agrees wholeheartedly: “Having the ongoing routine, knowing that I have Maths next, or English in third period, and then there is training straight after that, then it’s study and then it’s dinner, and it’s like that every day, so you know what you are doing. I prefer that routine than going with the flow.”
As the College gets ready to welcome back Years 8, 9 and 10 at the beginning of Week 5, the three boys are eager to get back to the College and kick-start their Joeys adventure.
Sam Sleeman’s dad Shawn pressed his son on just how much he wants to get back to school. “I said to him the other day, ‘Sammy you’ve had your stint in Sydney now, are you right to come home and be enrolled back into a school in Tamworth?’ and he said, ‘No way dad, I’m ready to go back! I can’t wait to go back.’ That alone just speaks volumes. He’s ready and raring to go, and he can’t wait to get back down there amongst it.”