TEDxMelbourne: Education Leadership

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of TED talks. I often find myself watching them in the middle of the night, when my cats have woken me up by banging wooden venetians and I’m left bemoaning the fact that I’m wide awake, but really need the stolen sleep. A good TED talk will ward off the troubled thinking that can inhabit the dark wee hours and make me feel that I’m making effective use of my time.

I’ve long admired those who are able to hold an audience for 18 minutes with their story, and have often wondered if I was capable of doing the same. Well, I’m soon to find out if that indeed is possible. I’ve been asked to present at TEDxMelbourne: Education Leadership, an independently organised TED event being held at the State Library of Victoria on July 19th. I’m one of three speakers, the other two being Will Richardson, author and blogger extraordinaire and co-founder of PLP,  and Professor Stephen Dinham OAM, Chair of Teacher Education and Director of Learning and Teaching in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne. Illustrious company indeed, especially for a practitioner like me, who tries to make a dent in the universe by sharing her thinking via online spaces and a presentation here and there. But you know something, I’m up for it. I’m proud to be representing my profession and I’m pretty sure I’ve got something worth listening to.

My Year 10 students think I do anyway. They cheered when I told them the news. I’ve been subjecting them to a TED talk or two (maybe even three or four!) this year, and they reckon I should go on the circuit and be a motivational speaker!! I don’t know about that, but I am encouraged that the kids I teach are behind me all the way. Some of them even wanted to know how they could get tickets to come.

Right now, my head is swimming with ideas. As is usual for me, my best thinking is while I’m showering and getting ready for work in the morning, and in some of those wee small hours when those damn cats are rousing me from sleep! I’ve got my iPad and iPhone near me at all times so I can capture any ideas that strike me and type them into Evernote. It’s looking patchy right now, but threads are starting to emerge. What’s probably going to be most difficult is figuring out how I contain it to a measured message within the time limit – I always find myself racing at the end of presentations when I have 20 slides left and less than five minutes on the clock.

It’s a great challenge. I’m excited and anxious at the same time. Registrations opened today, so if you think you might like to be there, you can get tickets now (they’re free). Heck, even if I bomb, I’m pretty sure Will and Stephen will make it worth your while. 🙂

*Thanks Hamish Curry, for asking me to present. Humbling indeed.

School’s out Friday

Judging by some of the comments on YouTube, there are some interesting images in this 1 minute film that AlmapBBDO created to advertise Getty Images.Here’s a description from the YouTube site:

The film is surprising when showing 873 images in 15 images per second, sufficient speed to transform the series into a video that, without any text, tells a beautiful story. All photos, without any exceptions, are from the Getty Images archives.

I’ve tried to hone in on the possibly ‘controversial’ images, but have neither the time nor patience to try to halt the video at the right spot. If you’ve got more patience than I do, you might be enlightened.

It’s freezing cold here in Melbourne right now, and the weekend ahead isn’t looking real flash either. Time to switch that electric blanket onto high and hunker down. Hope it’s warmer where you are!

Enjoy your weekend. 🙂


Connecting for a cause – the best kind of learning

For the past four years, as part of our Global Girl program, Toorak College has been connected to Daraja Academy. Daraja is a girl’s school in Kenya providing free education to impoverished girls who would not have access to a secondary education any other way. Our conduit for this connection is Mark Lukach, a former teacher who has been involved with Daraja since its inception. Mark has been skyping into our school from San Francisco, helping our students to understand the purpose of Daraja and the critical difference an educated girl can make to the community she lives in. Mark’s energy crosses our Internet connection, and enthuses our students every year.

Over this four year period, our Year 9 students have raised money to support the running of Daraja Academy by holding ‘Sleepout for Schools’ events. The girls stay overnight at school, and try and incorporate an element of fundraising into the night’s activities.

This year has been a very special ‘Sleepout for Schools’ event. An event is held in San Francisco called the Bay to Breakers. It’s a 12 km fun run, and for the past couple of years a team has run in this event raising sponsorship for Daraja Academy. At Daraja, the girls attending the school run a 12km course at the same time. This year, Toorak College joined the cause and our students began their Sleepout for Schools event with a laps of our oval. We had decided to run in teams to share the load of the 12km amongst groups of girls, but one of our very fit students, Julia, really threw herself into the event and ran the entire 12km after school. She was absolutely inspiring, and managed to raise a significant amount of money thanks to her dedication. Ruby, one of our students, designed a logo for the event, and we made badges that the girls wore during the night. I’m sure we will see them pinned on their school blazers throughout the year.

Jason Doherty, the founder of Daraja Academy, recorded a video thanking our girls for their ongoing support.

Like Jason says in the video, the girl’s efforts were featured on the Daraja Academy site, and we shared this with our students in the days leading up to the event. The actual event was a great success, with most of our Yr 9 students participating and raising money for Daraja in the process. What made the event really special, was the fact that we knew the money we raised would be going to support the tuition for Lilian, a student at Daraja Academy. Our aim was to try to raise $2,400.00, the cost of a year’s tuition. To date, our students have raised $2,040.00, with plans to find ways to raise the extra $460.00 that will get us to the total Lilian needs for a year’s education. Our students know only too well how fortunate they are to have access to a good education, and the opportunities they will have as a result of this. It’s been truly rewarding for all of us at the school to see our students dedicated to a cause, knowing they are making an impact on a young girl’s life. This is the kind of learning you don’t get from textbooks -it’s real life connection with a cause in mind.

Daraja Academy made a video thanking people for the efforts they went to to support their girls.Take a look at these beautiful girls who now have an opportunity to education thanks to Daraja.

It’s been so rewarding having our Yr 9 students work for this cause over the last four years. Every year I hear girls tell me how meaningful it is to do something when they know where the money is headed. This cause helps them see the world differently, and goes a long way towards developing empathy, something we want our students to value.

Here are some pics from our run.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could extend the participation rates for next year, and have other schools join in to support the cause at the same time? Any takers? You’ll be better for it, if you do. I know that our students are feeling the rewards that come from giving to others and making some sort of positive difference.

*Special thanks once again to Mark Lukach, who gives so freely of his time to our girls and makes the event come alive for them. Mark usually skypes with us on the night of the sleepover as well, but this year, he had to forfeit. And for good reason. Mark and Guilia’s first child, Jonas, was born the previous night. Congratulations to you both. Toorak College girls send warm wishes your way. 🙂

School’s out Friday

Ever feel like you’re existing in situations like this? This video’s been around for awhile, but I saw it for the first time this week when a colleague shared it with me after seeing it at a PD session. Made me laugh, anyway.

I’m still at school, at 11.20pm. It’s our fourth Sleepout for Schools event, where our Yr 9 students come together to raise money for Daraja Academy in Kenya. Take a look at their blog, where they’ve dedicated a post to our efforts this week. I’ll write more extensively about this over the weekend, because these great kids deserve to be recognised for their commitment to others. Right now, they are attempting to settle down for the night, and we are getting ready to settle into our sleeping bags for what is not the most comfortable sleep we’ll ever have!

I hope your night’s sleep will be a little more relaxed and comfortable than mine. Have a great weekend. : )

Do yourself a favour…

and read this.

Why our kids need a powerful disposition to be self-managing learners when they finish their schooling, why they are unlikely to have it, and what we can do about it.

Erica McWilliam is Author in Residence at Brisbane Girls Grammar School for 2012. She and Professor Peter Taylor penned this piece, inspired in part by their visit to Zurich International School’s ‘innovateZIS Think Tank‘ conference held in March this year. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Erica speak on a couple of occasions now and find her insightful, with a no nonsense approach to the challenges facing education today. I’d highly recommend you read, The Creative Workforce: How to launch young people into high flying futures, her 2008 publication. I read it a couple of years ago and it helped shape my thinking about what we as educators need to be doing to help our young people succeed in what is a vastly different workforce compared to the one many of us entered 20 or so years ago.

I applaud Brisbane Girls Grammar School for publishing this piece on their site. There’s more than a hint of bravery in publishing a piece for your community that begins with the following two paragraphs;

For some time now it has been obvious that middle class kids are becoming more vulnerable. This is so despite the fact that they may be living in nice homes with supportive parents and attending well resourced schools and having comforts that their Third World counterparts can only dream of. They are vulnerable because learning is not personally significant to them. Kids who learn to avoid the discomfort of unfamiliar ideas, who do not welcome the instructive complications of error, who think learning is a boring necessity because it is basically about preparing for tests, who are reliant on parents and teachers to tell them what to do, or to do it for them, who expect university degrees to be passports to employability and financial security – such kids are now in real trouble.

We are not suggesting that there is any intention on the part of the caring adults in their lives to do kids out of a rich and rewarding future – indeed, the contrary is much more likely to be true. The problem is that global transformations have made a nonsense of the scripts we still invest in to prepare young people for their living, learning and earning futures. There is no point in preparing them for a twentieth century future by relying on the rules for social advancement that worked for us back then. Put bluntly, it is not just unhelpful – it is downright dangerous.

If that opening doesn’t make you want to read on, I don’t know what will. Like I said, do yourself a favour…

Happy Mother’s Day, Mum

In 2007, at an assembly at my school for International Women’s Day, I delivered this tribute to my Mum to our Yr 7 – 12 students. I stumbled through the last paragraph, shedding a tear or two in the process. So many staff and students found me out that day to let me know my words had impacted them. My Mum wasn’t present at the assembly, but I had shown her my words in the days preceding the assembly. She had asked for me to print them out for her, and I never did. It seems right to me now to publish those words here, in this digital space, where hopefully they will be preserved and members of my family can revisit them in years to come.

My Mum

At our celebration of International Women’s day I’d like to speak to you about a significant woman in my life who has shaped me into the woman I am today. I think it’s important to recognise that what may appear an ordinary life to some can have deep significance and meaning for others.

My mother was born in 1935 and spent her formative years in Carnegie in the home of her Grandmother. Her own mother was another remarkable woman who endured a violent marriage and had to work long and arduous hours to support a family in an era when many women were home makers , living out the stereotypical mothering role. My mother’s school life was not a happy one and she left at the age of 14 to embark on her own working life.

My mother married early but the relationship failed. She became a divorcee in an era when women didn’t do that sort of thing. I admire her for recognising that to stay in an unhappy union was to deny herself deserved happiness.

My mother married my father and I was born in 1965. We lived in a housing commission estate. Some would consider this an inferior beginning. I can only disagree. I was given a wonderful childhood with many rich, rewarding and happy experiences. During childhood my mother imparted her love of reading to me – one of her favourite things to say was, ‘You’re never lonely without a book’. It is thanks to her that I now spend many of my working hours here imparting upon you my love of reading and my desire that you also discover the wonderful friends that books can be.

When I was young my mother worked in factories to help support our family. She suffered from a bad back and still does, but that did not stop her from standing on hard concrete floors and attending every day. It was this strong work ethic that became my model in life and drives me to this day.

My mother has supported me in every aspect of my life; she has guided me through childhood, my teenage years, my time at college and into my married life with children. She is my anchor to this world, my moral compass, my confidante, my mentor, my teacher, and my friend. I hope that you are all fortunate enough to at some stage in your life know a strong woman who can be a role model to you and can guide you through life’s tricky bits. I’m very lucky that for me, that woman is my mother.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mum.

Schools out Friday

I haven’t seen a new Improv Everywhere video for awhile, so I was pleased to encounter this one when I visited their site tonight. Oh, to have a leisurely afternoon like that one. It seems all my days  recently are filled with obligations. Must indulge in some good old fashioned downtime sometime soon, or I just may implode!

A long school day today as it extended into night by helping supervise at my school’s ‘Branch Out’ concert in support of the Oaktree Foundation. It was a great occasion, and the students did a wonderful job in the organisation and running of the night. Events like that convince me that our next generation is in good hands.

Enjoy your weekend. Looks like it will be a chilly one here in Melbourne. Stay warm wherever you may be. 🙂

VATE Conference – English and the Australian Curriculum

I attended a VATE Conference today about English and the Australian Curriculum. I’ve tried to export it here using Storify‘s  export option, but it didn’t work. ‘Internal server error 500’ was the message I received. : (

You can read it by visiting this link. Not as impressive as an embedded Storify, but what can you do when technology doesn’t cooperate. I hope you find it useful.

School’s out Friday

I love my iPad, but it pales in comparison to what you can buy in Germany apparently! You won’t need to understand German to get a sense of what’s going on in the video above, but you will need years of practice to achieve the amazing sleight of hand that turns this iPad into the one stop shop.

No Saturday professional development activities for me this weekend, so I feel like I’ve got acres of time to fill. Remind me I said that on Sunday night when I’m despairing about the prospect of work the next morning!

Enjoy the acres of time awaiting you. Use it wisely. : )