Meet our Trainers: Rebecca Dallam
Why did you decide to become a trainer?
Initially, I didn’t want to become a trainer. I thought that wasn’t for me. But in 1998, I came to Australia and got involved in Montessori education. I noticed that AMI 6-12 teachers here took their training overseas and upon their return, were quite isolated. Coming from the US, where there were lots of training centres and a vibrant 6-12 community, I noticed there was a need not being met within Australia. I put my hand up because I felt able to participate in the Training of Trainers program. I had had lots of experience in different places and so I thought ‘why not?’.
What do you most enjoy about working as a trainer?
I find it’s really gratifying working with adults. I enjoy seeing when a light is going on. I’m often thinking ‘how can I help with community?’. I enjoy it when I can be a bridge and help connect the community.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in being a trainer?
Going through the Training of Trainers program is challenging. The strong organisational support for trainers in training that I have seen overseas has not yet developed in Australia. The program puts a financial strain on the family and there’s no guarantee of work afterwards. Sometimes you need to quit your job or borrow money to participate in the Training of Trainers and if there’s not a course to run at the end of it, that can be very hard. In my case, AMI trainer Allyn Travis was my mentor. She was extremely supportive in every way possible, organising my lectures around the required travel, allowing me to take my children overseas as needed. I was even living in her home for a while. After I finished on the program, I went back to teaching with new eyes. I felt fresher and more enlightened. Even though I did this for practical reasons, it was a wonderful opportunity.
When I started on the Training of Trainers program, I felt some trepidation. I looked at other trainers and saw that there were big shoes to fill. There is a lot of content in the 6-12 course and trainers need to be well-read. After I qualified as a trainer, based in Sydney, I felt like a new trainer for the first four years. It wasn’t until I started working in other locations that I could see myself moving along the continuum. Now I know I’m not a new trainer anymore.
What words of advice can you offer anyone considering studying for an AMI 6-12 Diploma?
The AMI 6-12 Diploma course is like no other course you have done. It’s unique both in terms of content and structure. The aim is larger than just making you a teacher. It’s about the transformation of the adult. Students learn to cooperate with peers while thinking deeply and making the knowledge their own in their training manuals – the albums.
In some ways it’s a little like having your first child. You approach it with a set of ideas about what it’s going to be like. Once you commit, it’s too late to go back if things are not as you expected. We can connect prospective students to someone who has done the course, but it’s a pass or fail course with no grading, and the oral delivery is different from what many have experienced. I would also say that the more organised you are, the better your chances of success. The course encourages students to help each other. This happens all the time from Supervised Practice to supporting each other by sharing your own understanding of the content. The ideas are so transformational and the benefit of the training will be with you forever. The more we can share these ideas, the more we can change the world.