Every Monday Kay Morrison takes a trip around the globe without leaving her classroom.
From Hong Kong to India, Poland, Syria, Iraq, Russia, Italy, China, Iran and beyond, countries and customs colour Kay’s day as she teaches Beginners English at Wandana Community Centre.
Drawing on her own experience as a migrant – and more than 40 years teaching children and adults here and overseas – Kay connects with new arrivals through friendly conversation.
“As a migrant from Ireland, I found listening to the Australian idiom very confusing and, as well, the surroundings were so huge,’’ says Kay, who arrived in South Australia in 1972.
“So I really empathise with them.
“Initially I focus a lot on the conversation so that we can at least communicate and when we have the very basics, we do the alphabet and build up from there to the sounds.
“This approach to teaching is a way that will engage the students as they apply themselves to a more structured programme of listening, reading and writing.
“They are exposed to learning everyday skills designed to help them fit into the community with some ease and confidence.’’
It’s not unusual for Kay to speak in Gaelic or break into song, usually a rendition of It’s A Small World.
“I get to know them and we get to know each other; who came by air, who came by boat, festivals, family, who they left behind… We all have a story.
“Recently I was very touched because one woman, she is from Iraq, wanted to share something with me because it was Easter so she brought in the Koran.
“I’m lucky because I get to see the lovely understanding between people, even if they can’t speak one another’s language.’’
One of 36 Wandana volunteers, Kay initially visited the centre to join the walking group.
“I looked around and asked if they needed support. I haven’t got that many talents but I thought the one thing I can do is teach.’’
For those considering volunteering in their local community, Kay has a simple message: “Oh, come on! It gives you a real sense of giving back but also I think you have to like people and be good at engaging them.’’