School’s out Friday

I wish I was as confident as Hank Green in thinking that Yellowstone National Park poses no threat to our current existence.

When the Tsunami struck on December 26th 2004, I remember taking Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ off my bookshelf to see what he had to say about Tsunamis. What that led me to was his description of Yellowstone National Park and what this place actually is. Here’s an extract, thanks to a posting on

“In the 1960s, while studying the volcanic history of Yellowstone National Park, Bob Christiansen of the United States Geological Survey became puzzled about something: … he couldn’t find the park’s volcano. …

By coincidence, just at this time NASA decided to test some new high-altitude cameras by taking photographs of Yellowstone, copies of which some thoughtful official passed on to the park authorities on the assumption that they might make a nice blow-up for one of the visitors’ centers. As soon as Christiansen saw the photos, he realized why he had failed to spot the [volcano]: virtually the whole park — 2.2 million acres — was [a volcano]. The explosion had left a crater more than forty miles across-much too huge to be perceived from anywhere at ground level. At some time in the past Yellowstone must have blown up with a violence far beyond the scale of anything known to humans.

Yellowstone, it turns out, is a supervolcano. It sits on top of an enormous hot spot, a reservoir of molten rock that rises from at least 125 miles down in the Earth. The heat from the hot spot is what powers all of Yellowstone’s vents, geysers, hot springs, and popping mud pots. … Imagine a pile of TNT about the size of Rhode Island and reaching eight miles into the sky to about the height of the highest cirrus clouds, and you have some idea of what visitors to Yellowstone are shuffling around on top of. …

Since its first known eruption 16.5 million years ago, [the Yellowstone volcano] has blown up about a hundred times, but the most recent three eruptions are the ones that get written about. The last eruption was a thousand times greater than that of Mount St. Helens; the one before that was 280 times bigger and the one before was … at least twenty-five hundred times greater than St. Helens.”

Bill Bryson (2003) A Short History of Nearly Everything  Broadway Books, P.224 – 228.

Comforting, huh?

What this has done is make me attuned to any news that is reported as coming from Yellowstone National Park. When I saw a video posted on YouTube in 2014 purportedly showing Bison fleeing the park, I thought end of days was coming. Turns out, the Bison were running into the park! Verification matters, especially when you’re thinking a cataclysmic event is on the horizon!

But Hank’s message is a good one. After completing a term in a new school, I’m very aware that change is a constant. And when you’re working in the kind of job I have, you’re in a constant state of helping people try and get comfortable with change. Not always easy, but necessary!

Coincidentally, in terms of the Yellowstone connection anyway, I was driving to work today listening to a podcast called Snap Judgement. First story was about Yellowstone National Park, and a legendary female wolf who researchers dubbed ’06’ – her birth year. It’s quite the extraordinary tale, so follow this link for your listening pleasure. Do partake, and have a great weekend. :)


Starting a new job is like…

…becoming a Mother for the first time.

There’s the anticipation of something new. The transition phase you move through as you leave one life behind and approach the next. The sense you have of being competent in what it is you do and a quiet assuredness that this next stage will be OK, you’ll be up for it.

Then it happens. The birth of the new. There’s the intake of breath when you walk through the door and appreciate the expectation, the responsibility that lies with you.  The realisation that you really don’t know the rules, that you have so much to learn. You need to understand the personality, appreciate that it’s developed and you need to work with it, not fight against it.

You leap in, because it demands that you do. Sometimes there is calm, but often there is chaos as you stumble from one new experience to the next. You are constantly learning, and it engulfs you. You feel out of your depth and you seek reassurance  – you are grateful when others reach out and offer support, a kind word, an encouraging smile.

As the weeks go by, the new becomes more familiar. There are ups and downs, moments where confidence reigns and moments where it plummets, but gradually, you begin to find a routine. You begin to move in step with the new.

You’ve reached an understanding, a reciprocal relationship. You’re in this together.

School’s out Friday

Otherwise Engaged from Jack Sidey on Vimeo.

You know, if this didn’t make me laugh so much I’m pretty sure I’d be crying instead.

What’s happened to moments? What’s happened to shared experiences between two people that necessitate and deserve alone time? Why do we feel a need to share beyond the moment?

I don’t have the answer, but I do know that I participate in this new era of sharing beyond the moment. I did it tonight, although not in the context of a moment like a marriage proposal. My husband and I were at a trivia night, and I was engaged in a dialogue via text message with a new colleague who is making my life at a new school joyous. We were sharing repartee via text about my husband’s purchase of a sleeping bag that weighed enough to warrant the hiring of a sherpa when my son ventures on a school trip to Central Australia.

And you know what, even though it took me away from the people I was sitting with, it was a shared experience with someone who is making a difference in my life, someone I truly value right now when life is tough negotiating a new landscape. And that means something. So, even though we exit real life spaces for brief moments to engage in online spaces with others, sometimes we do it because the connections there matter deeply.

Is that enough of a answer to the questions posed above?

Maybe. It worked for me tonight.

Have a great weekend. Make a connection with someone. Face to face or otherwise, just make a connection. :)

Scaling change – Spark talk for Digicon 2015

I presented a Spark talk at Digicon 2015 on Friday just gone. It was part of their fringe festival and presenters were asked to put together a 12 minute talk for the event. My presentation was entitled, “Lonely childhood no more – time to scale” and the focus was on what I think needs to happen at scale in schools to build capacity in our teaching workforce and as a consequence, help our students make the most of the potential offered to them by effective use of technology within learning programs.

There wasn’t a huge audience, and I was grateful to Jenny Ashby who used Periscope to record the talk and share it via Twitter. As you can see, I’ve uploaded it to YouTube so you can take a look. The sound might not be so great, and it’s a narrow frame view, but you’ll get the message if you tune in for the 11 minutes and 14 seconds it takes to watch it and you’ll understand the reference to ‘lonely childhood no more’!

In the talk I make reference to the recently released 2015 K-12 edition of the Horizon Report. In it, they identify scaling teaching innovations as a wicked challenge. Below is a screenshot from the contents page of this edition. I would highly recommend you follow the link to the report – it’s extremely pertinent to leadership teams in all schools today. 2015-07-26 19-44-52

Looking forward…

On January 1st this year I wrote a post entitled ‘Looking Back…‘. In it, I speculated on what 2015 would bring.

Fast forward to today, and I’m about to head into a staff briefing where I will be farewelled from Toorak College.

At the start of Term 3, I will begin a new job at Wesley College in Melbourne, where I will take on the position of Head of Digital Learning and Practice.

Did I even contemplate on January 1st this year that this was the course I would find myself on?

Not for one minute.

But it’s happening, and I need to find a way to extricate myself from a place that has made such a significant impact on my life. It feels like a bit of a ‘To Sir with Love’ moment, because how do you thank a school community that has helped you realise your potential and enabled you to become something you never thought you would be?

In 2005, I was working at Monterey Secondary College, a school that also had a significant impact on my life and gave me such good grounding as a teacher. It was a school I loved and the memories I have of it are dear to me. But in 2005, I was teaching a Year 8 class that was making me question my ability as a teacher. I was a parent of young children, I was stressed and I was contemplating leaving the profession and doing something completely different. I saw an ad in the local paper for a part time Teacher Librarian position at Toorak College and it sat on my kitchen bench for over a week before I decided to apply. I felt traitorous to the public education system because I’d been such a strong advocate for free education for all, but I needed change – I needed to reclaim myself and my place in a profession that mattered to me.

I got the job, and in doing so, I unwrapped the gift that was Toorak College.

This gift unveiled opportunity, growth and insight. It helped me realise that the skills I’d developed in the public system were founded in good practice and could be applied in different contexts. The gift revealed new colleagues, new friends, and professional development opportunities that I’d not been able to explore in my previous job. I embraced all it offered and ran, hurtling into the unknown and discovering a significant part of my life’s purpose in the process.

The gift introduced me to classes of students hungry for knowledge. This is perhaps the richest part of the gift – the opportunity to form meaningful relationships with students and the deep satisfaction I have had working in classrooms where we have shared learning moments that are etched in my memory. The gift enabled me to travel with students to destinations like China, Italy, Laos, Borneo, the Kimberley region and on OEG trips to the Murray River and various camp destinations. My happiest moments have been in classrooms and on trips where we have immersed ourselves wholeheartedly into whatever presented itself to us, and we have laughed and learnt alongside one another.

The gift has seen me through the best of times and the worst of times. It was in the worst of times that the gift unveiled true friends, and I am forever indebted to Megan Davies, Lee-Anne Marsh and Mae-Louise McGuinness who held out lifelines that helped me work through challenges that have also been growth opportunities.

The gift has taught me an enormous amount about leadership and what it takes to bring people with you. I am grateful to Noel Thomas, former Principal, who didn’t stall me in my evolution as a teacher who shares their practice publicly. Allowing me to write this blog and being transparent about my place of work was a very generous gift indeed. Current Principal, Helen Carmody, has also been instrumental in my growth and has taught me so much about what it means to lead an organisation through change processes. If I can be half the leader Helen is, I will be doing my next job well.

Like all gifts, you can choose to put them on the shelf and glance at them, or you can make them part of the fabric of your life. Toorak College has been a rich tapestry in my life. I am grateful for the gift it has been and the experiences I have had as a result of gracing its walkways. I am grateful for the people in it who have helped shape my life. I will hold it dear and use what it has taught me in the next stage of my career. I will reflect on it, glance back, learn from it and relive fond memories. I’m proud of what I have brought to it – I am leaving it with gifts that I think will help it grow.

A new gift awaits. There is an excitement surrounding it, and some apprehensiveness too. What will it unveil? What will it teach me? What impact can I make on it? It will reveal itself, in time. I welcome it into my life, and hope that I can be a gift to it.

School’s out Friday

My students are currently enmeshed in the John Green component of our ‘Language of our Times’ class. In the past couple of weeks they have been working in teams and collating research about John, trying to ascertain how he uses the Internet to build community and thus increase his audience.

His success at doing this, in an entirely authentic way, has changed his life. He’s incredibly successful, has had two of his novels made into feature length films and has had YouTube approach him and his brother to host ‘Crash Course‘ – a range of fun educational videos about science, history and literature. But as this video suggests, it’s also changed his life in ways he probably never anticipated. He’s become a recognisable Internet ‘star’ and and this means a life of constant attention. The price you pay for fame I guess.

John says in the end stages of the video that he thinks that some kind of loss is inherent to change. I think he’s right.

I’ll leave you with that, and wish you the best of weekends. Melbourne is promising an almost balmy 19 degrees C this Sunday. If the sun is shining, I’ll be basking in it. Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it. :)

Creating a Connected Organisation = Leadership required

Make sure you click through every one of Ayelet Baron’s slides about the need to create a connected organisation for the 21st Century. When you do, think about where you work and whether or not leadership in your organisation is living on the edges to provision change.

If you’ve seen me present anywhere recently, you will know that I am fascinated with what it is we need to be doing to prepare our students for future working environments very different from the ones many of us (teachers of a certain age…) walked into.

For that matter, I envisage the profession of teaching and our classrooms of the future will look very different too. There is no room for “that’s not how we roll here” thinking.

Screenshot 2014-05-21 21.05.24


(Slide 24, from Ayelet Baron)


I was reminded of this today when members of a school visited to see what it is we are doing with technology across our campus. At the end of our discussion one of the visitors said that he realised innovation was being stifled where they worked. They were worried about those resistant to change, rather than embracing change and working with resistant staff in the process.

It is challenging leading change. You’ve got to suck your breath in deep and and hold it. Every now and then you get to exhale and revel in both small and large victories. It’s not easy, but it is necessary, and worth it.