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.