Bringing it to the teachers: Building a professional network among teachers in isolated schools
Teachers in isolated schools are often under-resourced and overwhelmed with additional pressures. Teaching in an isolated community can sometimes challenge teachers' skills and knowledge, particularly when additional pressures such as behavioural issues associated with students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) like behaviours are present. Teachers in isolated schools catering for students exhibiting elements of ODD need additional support and resources, but distance and isolation are barriers to the provision and receipt of these services. Professional support networks are often relied on by these teachers, but these support communities can be hard to build because of the physical distances occurring in rural NSW. Thus, teachers in isolated schools are often faced with dealing with stress and student behaviours on their own, with very little support, which might leave them feeling disconnected. One method of connecting isolated teachers is through an online Community of Practice (CoP). Websites which can enable the development of a CoP have been proposed as a way of solving this problem. This study was developed to examine the building of an online support structure named 'Bringing It To The Teachers' to provide for an emergent online professional network for teachers in isolated rural NSW schools. The study involved ten teachers from five isolated schools catering for students who had been identified as displaying oppositional and defiant behaviours. This paper presents the preliminary findings of the study, investigating the elements required for successful development of an online CoP for teachers in isolated rural communities.