New school year…and the narrative of optimism
Our thoughts and encouragement are with our members and constituents across the education sector, as they hit the ground running for 2017. Who can fault them if they have a sense of déjà vu? After all, managing the customary flurry of activity surrounding the beginning of the school year, while still maintaining order and structure in students’ lives, is a Sisyphean task! Good on them for staying the course year on year! The year has also begun for ACEL with all the transactional immediacy one would expect in a dynamic, purposeful and mission-driven organisation. Like our stakeholders, our program of work precludes any resting on past laurels.
All this in-the-moment activity, has not deflected or dulled our resolve to make this a watershed year for our sector’s “narrative of optimism.” Time and again, the media has given short shrift to our sector’s performance on strategic metrics like teacher quality, student outcomes and funding utilisation. We ardently believe that such one-sided public commentary, obfuscates the unrelenting courage, commitment, compassion and competence that our teachers and educational leaders demonstrate in their vocations. ACEL is no Pollyanna in its championing of the sector’s cause. It recognises that there are improvements needed to make the sector’s performance exemplary. However, it heeds the poet Kahlil Gibran’s stricture that, “to measure something by its smallest deed, is to reckon the power of the ocean by the frailty of its foam.”
It is precisely for this reason that Cooperrider and Srivastva stress that, “inquiry into the social potential of a social system must begin with appreciation.” We therefore eschew the default negativity in “deficit discourses” and choose instead to act to redress the balance in two significant ways in 2017:
1 Identifying and celebrating the work done by our teachers and leaders across the country and;
2 Convening and providing high quality professional development to regional and remote areas to democratise program and resource access and enable self-directed learning.
Our calendar of activities for this year reflects this conscious recalibration of mindsets, as we work to strengthen the sector’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate and heighten its own positive potential.
• Well Being Conference – Darwin: ACEL’s 2017 Wellbeing Conference, with the powerful theme of, “Unleashing the Power of Confidence – Strengths Based Perspectives and Wellbeing,” was held in Darwin on the 22nd of February. The Hon Eva Lawler, Minister of Education NT inaugurated the conference, which was supported by the Department of Education NT. More than 300 educational leaders from all states and territories, as well as New Zealand, came together to explore the importance of Wellbeing on staff and students. International keynote speakers and presenters, brought the theme to life, by sharing their insights, research and experience with delegates.
• Strengths Based Schools Workshop series: In this highly experiential workshop series, Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener introduced participants to key issues and skills related to developing strengths-based schools. He focused on the need to create school cultures that supports strengths and explored the impediments to achieving this in practice. Workshop participants gained practical skills such as ‘strengths-spotting’ and learned various ways to develop strengths. These workshops were held in all the major centres, as well as in three regional areas: Port Lincoln (SA), Armidale (NSW) and Karratha (WA).
• Online Learning: We have launched the ‘Resource Centre’ in the beginning of March. It will be the keystone of ACEL’s online learning portal. The Resource Centre contains over 600 resources including articles, activities, podcasts and ACEL Conference videos. It has several unique and engaging features:
• Curated for educators against AITSL professional practices
• Search function to enable quick and targeted access to resources
• Self-directed professional learning opportunities for educators
• Monthly updates.
• The National Disability Leadership Summit will be held in Sydney on the 19th and 20th of June. The transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) brings opportunities as well as challenges for schools and parents. It is important for educational leaders to embed accountability for outcomes for students with disability in the current framework. The National Disability Leadership Summit will provide an opportunity for leaders to consider, reflect on and discuss the reforms. The Summit will seek to support educators provide a strong foundation of high expectations for students with disability, and better outcomes for these children and their families.
• The Early Childhood Leadership Conference will be hosted in Brisbane on the 1st and 2nd of August 2017. It will provide delegates with the opportunity to develop their professional knowledge by engaging with international and national leaders in Early Childhood. The themes for the conference have been chosen with unambiguous calls to action:
• Inform – What else can I learn about early childhood and leadership, my areas of passion and skill?
• Create – How can I innovate my workplace, and develop both my colleagues and I?
• Realise – How can I apply the learning I gain during the conference to my workplace?
• Visible Learning Symposiums followed by Foundation Days are being held in Sydney and Brisbane in March. This two-day format will enable participants to get an overview of John Hattie’s research into the key drivers of learning. This will be followed by sessions that will focus on ways in which Visible Learning can be implemented at the school level. Similar events are also being planned in Albury and Hobart later in the year.
• Visible Learning for Literacy: This one-day workshop delivered by Doug Fisher, supports schools to accelerate student learning across the curriculum with high-impact literacy approaches. Participants will discover the literacy practices that ensure students demonstrate more than a year’s worth of growth, for every year spent in school. They will also learn the most correct and timely approaches to designing classroom experiences that maximise student learning.
• Lessons from Henry V workshops: We will shortly be announcing a series of workshops hosted by Ben Walden in key locations across the country in August. Ben’s keynote address at the ACEL Leadership Conference last year was a highlight for many delegates. He will continue to build on the Leadership lessons in Henry V during these workshops, thus making them more relevant and operational for school leaders.
• New Voice Scholarships 2017: Applications for the ACEL ‘New Voice’ Scholarship will be out in the next few days. This initiative, launched in 2015, represents a total commitment of $300,000 over ten years by ACEL. All forward-thinking, enthusiastic and responsive educational leaders wishing to be considered for these scholarships, should contact ACEL. Please check out the Awards section of our website for more information.
Happy International Women’s Day!
We celebrated International Women’s Day this month – a global celebration of achievements of women from all walks of life and all domains of work. While the event has been observed since the 1900s, its significance has increased substantially in recent times. I would like to give a ‘shout out’ to all the talented women leading our systems, schools and classrooms and thank them for the very significant work they do in shaping the future of our communities. I thought it would be apt to finish with an excerpt from Phenomenal Woman – Four Poems Celebrating Women by Maya Angelou, the African American poet, and civil rights activist.
“It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman