This past Friday my school along with 16 others who belong to a partnership in the southern region of Adelaide, came together for a conference organised by school leaders. The conference was a great day of learning and connecting, kicked off with an entertaining opening keynote from Dan Haesler weaving stories throughout powerful messages of mindset and student voice. The day culminated with a student panel involving 8 students from four of the schools involved, 4 senior secondary students and 4 upper primary students.
— Wirreanda Secondary (@WirreandaSS) June 3, 2016
It was wonderful to have student voice shared, which is too often void in education conferences. It was also a challenging experience for these 8 young people to step out of their comfort zone in front of 540 adults, which I am sure many adults would be reticent to do themselves. (Mind you, I think Dominic (REC) was revelling in the opportunity to have an audience, quite the performer!)
Amongst many of the prompts and questions from both Dan and the audience, the student panel responded to, what their favourite day at school would be like and aspects they value in their teachers and how they feel about school.
Overwhelmingly, the message from our students endorsed that they were empowered when teachers fostered their passions, whether that be drama, music or leadership. That the best teachers saw something in them, that they didn’t necessarily see in themselves. That teachers who challenged them and respected their opinions and contributions are the ones they value, along with those who include them to design their own learning.
Additionally, these students used terms like “home”, “comfortable” and “belong” and phrases such as “where I can be me” when referring to their schools. Multiple warm fuzzies in the crowd.
feels like home
means family & history
is a comfortable place
is a place of motivation
is a place where I can be me#panapart
— Melissa Mulholland (@MelissaMulh) June 3, 2016
What a great job we have all done, patting ourselves on the back in the audience, warm hearts, big smiles, looking at proof that our efforts have resulted with young people on a stage, confirming how we impact their lives in incredibly positive ways. And what an amazing bunch of young people they are.
But let’s get real….these were 8 SELECTED students out of a possible 4000 in our schools.
Easy to be swept up with this wonderful student panel, but important to remember that not every student feels connected to school #panapart
— Rhoni McFarlane (@rhonimcfarlane) June 3, 2016
This student panel is fantastic, but not all students can articulate what they need/want/feel. Important to ask those students too #Panapart
— rebecca hepworth (@bechep2) June 3, 2016
It is not like as school leaders we are going to put 8 disengaged kids on stage who could potentially say “school is shit for me and I wish I didn’t have to go”. Or could we? If we are going to “get real” about impacting on young people, if we are going to face what is truly NOT working in our systems, then shouldn’t we be hearing the voices of those who are the most disaffected?
So I throw a challenge to my colleagues, to my school, to myself. Let us give voice to those who do not get a chance to be heard. Let us hear from students who don’t feel like “home” at school, who cannot identify even one adult that they can confide in. Let us shake up the next student panel and take a risk. If we continuously hear the good stuff, then we are blindly moving forward without the feedback that can make the most significant difference.
Check out the Storify from the day.
I recently attended EduTech in Brisbane, Australia’s largest education technology conference with 4 colleagues from my school. It was a great opportunity to join likeminded educators from all over Australia to share and engage in ideas delivered by highly respected professionals and some legends of our time. These speakers are continuing to shape learning in Australian schools and across the globe.
Perusing the programme, I knew exactly who I did and did not want to see. Being connected through twitter, watching TEDtalks regularly, reading educational commentary and blogs means that the names of keynotes and many of the workshop presenters were very familiar to me. This is where I began to wonder, is being too familiar with these ideas and stories and attending these events robbing others who may benefit more from the experience?
Sitting amongst a sea of educators in anticipation of the first keynote, Sugatra Mitra, it was not hard to be excited. I had seen his TEDtalk, read many of the articles and responses to the Hole in the Wall Project, I had even read and tweeted Edna Sackson’s (@whatedsaid) recent post about his visit to her classroom. Needless to say I had a fairly good understanding of Sugatra’s message. Then I sat and listened to stories I had already heard, ideas I already believed and opportunities I believe children deserve. It was difficult to tweet anything to contribute to the dialog that I hadn’t already discussed. It was a challenge to discuss with my peers, ideas that I had not already processed and I thought, how very privileged and spoilt I am! Three years ago, this keynote would have been incredibly inspiring, motivating and uplifting, but yet I felt a smidgen of disappointment. Being connected to an amazingly rich and diverse PLN online has led to an abundance of information and sharing that many of my peers currently do not access.
Why should I continue to have these opportunities at the expense of others? Why shouldn’t the likes of “me three years ago” be given the opportunity to be inspired instead?
Whilst sharing a taxi with Dan Haesler on our way to the airport, I asked Dan, whether he thought it is a waste for the already converted to be attending these events. We briefly discussed the obvious benefits and the challenges we face getting the “unconverted” to make the most of the events and how the financial investment is also a consideration. In the short ride we really didn’t come to any solid conclusion, but to suggest that it would be preferable to take a mixture of “newbies” and “converts”. So part of my responsibility having my school invest in such liberties, is to ensure that I make sure my experience at the conference develops into something more than just a “takeaway” and perhaps open the door for others to access these ideas.