Emma's Learner Story

Emma's Learner Story

Learning Creates spoke with Emma (not her real name) who described what schooling is like as a high achiever within a regional town. While she likes that her grades and achievements have been recognised and rewarded, she feels many of her interests and abilities outside of the classroom - like her storytelling, digital and self-care skills don't get counted.


A conversation with Emma illuminates many aspects of her learning journey, well summarised by her as ‘I’m Emma. I’m from a rural town in Northern Tasmania. I am 15. I’m in year 10. I’ve been at the same school my whole life, I know the streets. I swim in my free time. I like reading, I read a lot. I used to do Judo … I also write and sometimes I draw.’

Emma’s sense of learning clearly includes her interests outside of school, but a large part of her journey includes feedback through her school environment when doing well at things as ‘the gifted kid’ and the College Captain. Lots of things were recognised, and Emma can see herself as someone ‘doing well’. But she also has an honest way of sharing her view of success – as being more than things you can count. More than numbers and scores. 

Emma explains ‘On a recent science test I got 83% which is an A, and it is ok, a good job…but I don’t really feel that proud of myself for anything, particularly inside of school because they’re the results I’ve always gotten.’

With a little bit of probing, Emma talks about the limitations of tests. What happens to students who may be having a terrible day?, she asks and continues ‘I don’t want people to be just judged by one number, because that’s not all they are’.

Emma wants to be judged on her learning ability rather than the specifics of what she actually knows. She feels that her ability to keep on learning is the most important thing – and hints at the fact that this should be what is recognised. Emma goes on to explain she worked very hard for her grades and doesn’t want to discount them either.

With a small primary school and only 100 people in her high school, Emma describes what it’s like to always know everyone, and is fortunate that as someone who identifies as LGBQTI, she has had good support from teachers even though ‘some people in my school aren’t as accepting and that can suck.’

Emma brings up the lack of support around mental health saying ‘it just seems to get absolutely destroyed at school.’ And talks enthusiastically about the concept of self-care as being something young people could learn as part of their education in some way.

‘I have never been taught that and there’s none of that here. There is no opportunity to learn self-care. One time one of my friends was really overwhelmed with work and I didn’t know where to start with supporting her.’

To Emma, self-care is knowing when to take a break. It’s about time management, and stress management.

When Emma describes the idea of basic literacies, she brings up the fact that digital literacy is something that needs to be focussed on more, recognising that a lot of people at her school have no digital literacy at all. She describes the focus at school on the dangers of the internet but ‘that’s all they teach you about in school, the dangers’. It seems in Emma’s case, no one talks about the good side of the internet, only the bad.


Outside of school, Emma is quick to describe her learnings:

'I have learned a lot about teamwork through Judo.'

'I learned a lot like how to email people, which is kind of a sad thing, but it’s not really a skill you get taught. Emails and texting, are two very different things.'

'Also I think I am a good storyteller, when I am telling a story that happened to me, but formal learning didn’t teach me that. I learned about storytelling from YouTube.'

And finally Emma says:

‘Knowing what to say and what not to say has been all learned through real life experiences rather than schooling.’

'In formal schooling, you don’t really get tested on whether you know what is appropriate or inappropriate to do or say in a situation but I think being able to stand your ground and debate things is going to be useful for the future.'