The school holidays were approaching and it was time to visit my family in Brisbane. Although I am from Brisbane I haven’t lived there for many years. I decided that it would be a missed opportunity if I didn't meet up with some of the people I've connected with on twitter. Amalgamate professionally and socially. Of course I had big plans of visiting four schools yet I only managed to visit two. Honestly, those two days of meeting, observing and talking with educators and directors of learning provided me a plethora of information to reflect upon. I don't know about you but I need time… time to process, time to think of how to apply this new learning to improve my students' learning. These two very different visits also encouraged me to question my role as a teacher, and more importantly a learner. If innovation refers to renewing, changing or creating more effective processes, products or ways of doing things, then I am an innovator.
I spent about six hours visiting St Paul’s and this experience was humbling and inspiring. The numerous heads of learning Jon had organized for me to meet were generous with their time and candid about their journey. When I met each leader of learning, Jon openly shared how their contributions have deepened students’ learning and wellbeing. Their experience, knowledge and skills were visibly appreciated. My morning began visiting and conversing with Marianne Connolly (Director of JS) and Cheryl Wegener (Head of Curriculum Development JS) about their process of curriculum mapping and Immersion Studies Time (IST). IST is their sustained commitment to Heutagogy (student-determined/driven learning). By placing students in the driving seat, they achieve deeper engagement and authorship of learning. They have been working with the Australian Curriculum for over three years and I probably could have chatted with those forward thinking ladies for hours. We then observed a prep class where Andrea’s students performed their own Opera. Through their creativity and collaborative skills, the students enjoyed performing for an audience.
Julie Bryce (Manager of Teaching & Learning) shared her vast amount of knowledge of Professional Learning Communities and St Paul’s appraisal system, explaining how customization was required to suit their context. It was at this point of the day I realized these leaders had a transparent and united vision. They also had permission to take risks…well-researched risks. “If you are going to fail, fail fast!”
Before lunch, I met with Greg Lang. Watching him with his pre-prep students, revealed his calming nature. Previously a principal of three schools on 2 continents and a lead University lecturer, Greg came to St Paul’s to shape Reggio from the ground up. Sharing his passion and knowledge of Reggio Emilia was inspiring and sparked my interest. Talking and listening to Greg reminded me that education has so many diverse elements that each educator uniquely pieces together to make learning happen. One size does not fit all.
Meeting with Heads of Learning to talk about pedagogical coaching was insightful and thought-provoking. This unique team consists of Des Hylton - Inquiry, Terese Reese - Global Sustainability, Gabrielle Kempton - Creativity, Tim Osborne - Design and Cathy Smith - Entrepreneurial. This team of five, work on a K-12, transdisciplinary remit and support all colleagues with learning design, innovation and critical reflection. They work at the frontiers of Heutagogy and operate with an open philosophy. I appreciated how they shared that they were there to support the teachers to integrate their knowledge and skills. We discussed how the element of trust was vital especially with appraisal and risk taking with learning innovations. Two things that resonated with me was the complimentary manner in which each educator was introduced and how open they were for feedback.
The open culture of St Paul’s was evident. I asked many questions, went off on many tangents (as always) and thoroughly enjoyed the conversations that took place. Jon continually gave me opportunities to think and reflect. I met the Principal, Paul Browning who came across as down to earth, humble and very welcoming. Neuroscience, trust, intrinsic motivation, failing and leadership were all topics of conversation. I must admit I was delighted to learn that in addition to being a Principal, Paul is also a primary teacher. While Jon joined his Big History class, I sat on the verandah reflecting on my day. “You learn so much if you just listen”. I’m going to take Greg’s advice and not just listen to students but also to other educators. I will seek their knowledge, experience and wisdom. Thank you Jon and St Paul’s for reminding me to be prepared to fall and fail, take risks and innovate.
The following day I visited Mount Alvernia, after connecting with @debraway on twitter. But that’s another story!
Jon Andrew @jca_1975
Paul Browning @PaulDBrowning
Des Hylton @des_hylton
Tim Osborne @TimOsborne71
Julie Bryce @JulieBryce4
Terese Reese @TereseMReese
Cheryl Wegener @CherylWegener
Gabrielle Kempton @ga_kempton
Cathy Smith @ CMSmithAUS
Marianne Connolly @66Connolly
Marianne Connolly @66Connolly