It has been a year of political engagement. Australia recently conducted our Federal election, the Brexit vote in the UK and the Presidential election to be held later this year in the USA. Apart from a brief reprieve for the Olympics, politics and large world events have dominated our news for the better part of 2016.
It would be easy to take a very negative view of politics, particularly when we are bombarded with information in the media and most of the lead characters are quite unappealing, in both the brief and shallow messages they continually trot out and also the manner in which they attack their opponents. However, as my children approach voting age, it has been interesting to note the interest they have suddenly developed, the opinions they hold and the manner in which they have navigated through the information they have been bombarded with to develop these opinions. As a parent, I would like my children to be good upstanding citizens who participate in issues of civic importance and how to actively think deeply about the decisions they will make as voters.
Our children are very quick to adopt the opinions of their parents or their peers particularly when these issues are discussed openly and honestly in homes; however, I have found that elections, whether in Australia or overseas, are a great opportunity to promote critical and deep thinking with our children. Rather than simply stating your position to your children, encourage them to formulate their own. What do they observe in the candidates? What do they feel the candidates stand for? What research can they conduct about the candidates? What position do they feel the media are taking and why? What are the fundamental principles and policies for each candidate?
As a father I am guilty of often pushing my own point of view and not really supporting any claims that I may make around the dinner table; however, to help our children navigate through a complex and at times overwhelming world, we should be encouraging them to formulate their own claims and supporting these with facts and figures. Encourage them to read the news and take an interest in world events. To become truly global citizens requires understanding and cross cultural tolerance. It also requires an astute mind that interrogates and supports opinions.
During the recent holidays I managed to spend some time skiing with my family. On our last day we came across a group of young boys who were playing in the snow. In years past, this would normally have involved the building of a snow man or the usual snow ball assault; however, I was a little surprised on this day when I heard one boy encourage the others to assist him as he built a wall to keep out the Mexicans. A little surprising given the boys were re-enacting a political promise given by a Politian on the other side of the world. Was this the reflection of the views of the boy’s parents or simply what he had observed on TV? Whatever the reason it reinforces the need for schools and parents to help our children to engage thoughtfully and reasonably in the world in which they are growing up and to help nurture their global citizenship in a truly digital world.
This week I am writing my newsletter article from Harvard University in Cambridge, USA. As I approach the end of my week at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, it is time to reflect on my learning and the takes a ways I will bring back to Gippsland Grammar. As part of this trip, I have had the opportunity to travel with 11 Principal’s from other Victorian Independent Schools and to hear from and work with, educational experts from around the world, and Harvard’s famous Project Zero team.
Each day, stimulus is provided from world experts in the areas of education, social science and economics. Each providing insight and discussion points to be explored in deeper thinking learning groups. As mentioned last week our key throughlines or questions for the week are;
- Learning for what purpose?
- How might we rethink learning?
- What should we do differently?
- How might we prepare ourselves?
Through my lens, as the Principal of Gippsland Grammar, I am seeking insight into the future of learning at our School and also affirmation as to our current direction. What matters most in our School and what is worth teaching?
In order to understand these questions we need to take into account the current world into which our children are growing and how they can become positive citizens, locally, globally and digitally. We also need to reflect on our vision for citizenship and the communities we wish to create for the future.
Our work so far this week has been specifically around the concept of citizenship and how we can redefine citizenship in a growing digital world. In other words, we need to nurture global and digital citizenship. We need to enable our students to take their place as leaders in a complex and civically disconnected society and this requires an ability to think critically, deeply and to help them develop the skills required to navigate the truth in modern society. If people aren’t empowered as civic agents, they live in a world that happens to them, rather than a world where they have a voice.
The cognitive demands required to become a digital and global citizen are high and our students need to become thinkers who can negotiate and reason through a myriad of information, data and opinion. Our students must be able to think across levels and contexts to develop personal connections and effect positive outcomes. These are all skills that are learnable and within our current goals as a School. As I have made clear to our students on many occasions, our role is not to tell them what to think, it is to encourage them and to guide them to think.
I am looking forward to my remaining time at Harvard and the final learning I hope to encounter. My goal is to create a mission statement regarding learning and leadership that can help to shape our August strategic planning weekend with the Board. As the Board begin to think strategically and develop long term strategic goals, we need to begin with a blue sky aspirational statement. As stated in our current strategic plan, this statement must put our students first and seek to maximise their learning experience and also aim to help them to become positive and effective citizens of the world.
As you read this newsletter, I should be approximately 6 hours into a 14 hour flight to Los Angeles, en-route to Harvard University in Boston. The purpose of my trip is to attend The Future of Learning Institute at Project Zero- Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The Future of Learning Institute at Project Zero gathers educators from around the world to examine how learning is changing in our increasingly global and digital societies. The institute also facilitates the acquisition of practical tools to support deep, relevant, and long lasting learning in a changing educational landscape.
The four key questions to be examined during the Institute will be:
- Learning for what purpose? What are the purposes that guide our educational efforts; how are they being articulated by others and in my own work?
- How might we rethink learning? How do we rethink the what, who and how of learning in our dynamic, global and digital times?
- What should we do differently? What should I and others, do differently in our teaching, learning and leadership, to meet the new digital and global demands in practice?
- How might we recast the education profession? What is our role as responsible professionals in Education in an increasingly digital and globally independent world?
As part of the Institute I will be travelling with 11 Principals from other Victorian Independent Schools. This has already provided a network for preparation and whilst in Boston a forum for discussion. We have met on several occasions and presented initiatives we are currently implementing in our Schools. Whilst at Harvard, the Harvard Graduate School of Education will provide feedback and a framework for discussion of each initiative. We will also have an opportunity to discuss how the Institute has changed our approach towards each initiative. I have presented Gippsland Grammar’s desire to create a thinking culture at our School, initially through the introduction of a common language of learning - the SOLO Taxonomy. Our introduction to this initiative and the direction to undertake this pathway were provided by the Project Zero team at various professional learning opportunities we have attended in Melbourne during the last 18 months.
The timing of this Institute has been perfect in terms of our implementation of the SOLO Taxonomy and also the Board’s Strategic Planning retreat to be conducted in August. I am hopeful that this opportunity will provide stimulus for our discussions and greatly influence the future directions of our School.
I would like to thank the School Foundation for funding my trip to Harvard and also for their ongoing support of Gippsland Grammar. I would also like to thank the School’s Board of Directors for their support of this opportunity.
I look forward to posting next week’s newsletter from Harvard.
I would like to welcome all of our students and their families back for Term 3. It was great to spend some time with the students this week and see refreshed faces and hear of great journeys and adventures had over the break.
This term we welcome back Mr Peter Ries who returns from Long Service Leave and resumes his role as Head of Humanities. We also welcome back Ms Natalie Walsh to Garnsey Reception. Fortunately, we have been able to retain the services of Mr Richard Macaulay who will be joining our Year 9 team. Mr Berian Williams-Jones will be leaving us at the end of this term to take on the role of Head of Boarding at Brisbane Grammar School.
We were very fortunate to be able to conduct our Annual Staff Conference at Garnsey on the first day of term. This was a great opportunity to spend time with our staff in further developing our understanding of the SOLO Taxonomy. As I have mentioned in previous newsletters, the SOLO Taxonomy will become our common language of learning. The advantage of using of the SOLO Taxonomy is to provide a consistent language for students to understand where they are with their learning and also how deep they can progress with their learning. For our teachers this enables consistent, constructive and effective feedback to be given to students in a common language across all subject areas. It also provides a framework for differentiation of student ability. I was thrilled that we achieved our learning objectives for the day and our staff our now confidently moving their own learning forward. I would hope that most of our students will become more familiar with the SOLO Taxonomy this term and I encourage our parents to quiz them as the term progresses.
I know that many of our farming families have been struggling recently after the current changes to milk prices across the country. As mentioned in earlier articles, this will impact our community for some time and we must rally to support all of our families in need. If any of our families, or families that you know are in need of assistance and financial advice, I can recommend Christians Against Poverty. CAP (Christians Against Poverty) is an award winning not-for-profit charity that has been operating in Australia since 2000, being founded in the UK in 1996. With Debt Centres in every state and territory, CAP offers free debt counselling and advice by fully accredited staff who are supported by local support workers to help deliver this service. Debt Coaches meet with families in their own home and help bring financial information together to form a sustainable budget and negotiate with creditors to provide a way forward and out of debt using the family’s own resources. This financial counselling support, creditor negotiation and personal support continue throughout the family’s journey out of debt. This service is now available in the Sale area with the Gippsland East CAP Debt Centre operating out of the Baptist Church one day a week. Steve Postlethwaite is the local debt centre manager and is available to meet with families by appointment. The service is open to anyone regardless of age, race, religion or belief, gender, or status, (previous CAP clients have come from all walks of life), and is totally FREE and confidential. Call 1300 227 000 for further information or to book an appointment, or follow this link to their website for further information about CAP and to read some client testimonies about their experience with CAP.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish our students a happy and safe mid-year break. It has been a very satisfying semester and I am happy to stress how proud I am of our students and their achievements. It has been an incredibly busy six months and we have shared many great moments.
As mentioned in my newsletter last week, please take time over the break to carefully read through your reports and establish where growth can occur in the second semester. Look for and celebrate the strengths and successes you have had and develop strategies to take advantage of opportunities going forward. In particular, I ask our Year 12 students to plan their break carefully. Make sure you have time to relax and recharge, as second semester is busy and at times overwhelming. Also ensure that you schedule time to review the concepts you learnt in Semester 1 and then plan to get ahead for Semester 2. Your time will be very valuable during the final weeks of Year 12.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Tim Clemens who leaves us today. Tim had planned to move to Melbourne with the family in 2017; however, an opportunity arose earlier this term and Tim has elected to leave us in Term 3. We wish him well for his future adventures and know that he will be a success wherever he teaches. We congratulate Mr Tyler Smith, who will step into the Head of Year 9 position next term. We also welcome Mr Richard Macaulay who will also be joining the Year 9 team.
I would like to thank Ollie Nash and Emma Dean who have been helping in Outdoor Education and Garnsey reception. Both Ollie and Emma have been an asset to the School during Semester 1. Ollie will continue to work in our Outdoor Education program with Cass Booth upon her return.
Next term we welcome back from leave Mr Peter Ries (Head of Humanities), Ms Cass Booth (Head of Outdoor Education) and Ms Natalie Walsh (Garnsey Receptionist). I trust that they are all well rested and ready to resume their roles with energy and vigour.
We have recently been working with the Wellington Shire to ensure that our pick up and drop off points around the Garnsey Campus are safe for our students - particularly the bus areas in McGhee St and York St. As a result of our discussions, the signage for no- standing zones will be made more visible on the Western side of McGhee St and the Northern side (showground side) of Dawson St will become a no-standing zone during school hours.
We ask that Garnsey parents approach the School from Princes Hwy and travel in an anticlockwise direction, West along Dawson St and then South along McGhee St, using the Southern or School side of Dawson St to drop off and pick up. We would like to stress that parents should not use the Northern side of Dawson St or the Western side of McGhee St, as this will encourage students to cross the road between parked cars and buses. The Shire will be patrolling these zones in Term 3 and parents face fines if they use these areas.
Once again I would like to wish our community a happy and safe holiday and look forward to seeing our wonderful young people at the beginning of Term 3 on 12 July.