“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
“Fight evil, read books.”
These two quotes are my favourites for the year. Pithy and profound, they seem to share great truths with some hope that one can start doing something positive right now. When so many issues seem beyond the individual’s control, it is essential that we do what we can, when we can, that helps build on the collective good.
That’s what I have tried to do this year; to start or continue things that seem very important and to encourage others to do the same. The endless routines of school are all-consuming but it is important that we remember why we are doing what we do. Educators and parents are all very busy but we must keep our eye firmly on what truly matters and to me, the following are profoundly important: nurturing our democracy; learning how to learn; reading, reading, reading; and I do not say it tritely, laughter.
There’s much more of course but I do not want to run the risk of making a list.
One of the great privileges, as an educator, as a human, is to be a parent to young children. Watching them grow and learn is probably the best holistic professional development one can receive on many levels. They also make me remember what is was like to be a kid…especially in regards to laughter.
Do you remember laughing so hard you could not breathe? I laugh hard with (occasionally at) my children and enjoy amusing them more than most activities in life. I also like talking with them about stuff. Their perspectives are so fresh and likely to make me have to clarify my own thinking and values in order to discuss issues with them honestly.
Reading and travelling are two great sources of chat for our family that lead down many a winding road…but will save that for another post.
Nurturing authentic democracy
The progress made with supporting students to understand the nature of civil society and our democracy, in an authentic manner where they can participate and learn, was considerable during 2012. The Student Representative Council (SRC) was particularly impressive in their leadership in this area. These students feel passionately about many issues of local and global importance. They worked with their local federal member of parliament, the Lord Mayor, our ward councillor and also advised the Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr at a round table meeting in Wollongong. Our students addressed the local council and continue to try and influence the directions of our school. They recently presented, for the third consecutive year, “7 Ideas…” to the teachers at school in attempt to move areas of student concern in a positive direction.
In 2013 the year commences with a workshop by a NSW parliamentarian about leadership. I know they also await the 2013 federal election with great interest and plan to host an event in the school hall that has the candidates explain their policies and the impact on our local community. It should be an exciting event for the whole school.
Learning how to learn
Teachers at our school have had several years of professional development about ‘the teenage brain’ and learning but parents need to be bought into the loop. We often discuss with parents, in a range of contexts, the importance of nutrition, sleep and water, as well as digital citizenship and reading but more talk about good learning is required. Our school needs to support parents more effectively to know how they can help their children by asking good questions. The conversation is changing at our school and students and their parents are being let in on the secret that we all need to learn together and make this goal central to the life of our wider community.
We do have a plan to make this happen which commenced early in 2012 that we have shared and will continue to discuss with our community. Addressing a large audience of parents and Year 6 students about to make their journey to high school at our orientation day earlier this month made me realise that this latest generation truly are ’21st century kids’ and this theme will likely resound with their folks. Born in 2001, their experiences of life and learning are different from the students graduating high school in 2012 and vastly differ from those of their teachers and parents. When the question was posed to parents, “what will your sons and daughters need to know and do to grow and flourish over the next 80 years?” it was evident from the collective response that our “learning how to learn” is just common sense. Many parents spoke with me after their students headed off for the orientation program about their support of this ideal. They want their kids to learn and keep on learning knowing the next few years will be critical to their success and understanding of life. Many of them are really not sure what this practically means so we have a simple plan that will keep this concept on everyone’s mind.
Our new Year 7 students will be pestering their teachers with the “how do we learn how to learn in this subject?” question from Day One of high school. Parents will be doing the same to their children at home, expecting some answers. Year 7 in 2013 will commence the term with a series of varied day long sessions about ‘learning’. They will dissect brains, discover how the teenage mind works and have an opportunity to reflect on the nature of knowledge and what skills they need to keep on learning into an unknowable future. We will talk about the centrality of reading too. They will learn about metacognition.
Teachers will continue their professional learning and journey with the students too.
Have a wonderful New Year…
This year, now almost complete was, personally and professionally, a great contrast to 2011. Last year my family were globetrotters, working in Denmark and visiting Italy, France, England and Hong Kong. This year, we stayed in Australia. The best thing about 2012 is that many new professional and personal projects are in fullswing and should bear fruit in 2013.
There’s much more to write about but this is just a brief post to conclude the year before my family travels to Japan to commence the New Year. I’d like to wish you all the best for a satisfying 2013. Your support and contributions are greatly appreciated and, I’d like to think that we will have even more laughter next year at home and at work.
I hope you do too.
Featured image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Darcy Moore: http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/8300671699/