2017 Principal's Blog_March

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a breakfast at Parliament House this week where Rob Stokes, the recently appointed Minister for Education in NSW gave a keynote address.

There were a number of points that Mr Stokes made about education which resonated with me…for a variety of reasons.

Mr Stokes described how education, in his view, is the job of the parents and that the role of schools is to support parents in this endeavour. He was, by no means, underestimating the significance of the role that a school plays in this regard but he provided an interesting perspective that I hadn’t really considered before.

I would assume that many of us see this relationship in the reverse – that it is the job of a school to educate a child and that a parent’s role is to assist in this process as best as they can. After all, that’s what schools were invented for, right? When we moved in from the farms and created urbanised society some 150 years ago, we also decided that child labour wasn’t okay. At that stage, we needed something for children to do until they were old enough to work. Schools then took over the responsibility of education.

The point that he was making was that it is actually impossible for schools to cover everything that a child needs to learn. Schools can do their best to instil acceptable values and a love of learning but there is so much more to ‘education’ than this. We all know the importance of the relationship between home and school in nurturing a child’s educational journey but it is certainly important to never underestimate the powerful role that parents play as teachers.

Another interesting point that Mr Stokes made was the importance of creating future focused schools. He quoted Canadian professor, Marshall McLuhan, who said “Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s jobs with yesterday’s tools”.

Truer words were never spoken in my opinion!

We need to insist that our ‘educational tools’ are significantly upgraded, so that we can not only meet but excel in meeting, the learning needs of students. Our tools are many and varied but they include physical learning spaces, furniture, technology and equipment, but equally important is mindset. The capacity of teachers AND parents to understand how students learn and to have a mindset which is committed to empowering students to have agency in their own learning, is a critical tool for our future focused learning  tool kit. I would go so far as to say that agency is the greatest antidote to anxiety when it comes to the learning environment in schools.

‘Agency’ is about having the capacity for self-determination. It is the ability to play an active role in your own learning and make independent decisions about it. It is about the capacity to see yourself objectively as a learner and to articulate your own process of learning. Make no mistake, this is not simple, but I believe it is fundamental to the shift that needs to take place in 21st century education.

We are consistently endeavouring to upgrade our tool box at Turramurra High School.  This year we are looking at how to develop agency in our students, staff and in our school executive leadership team. One of the key approaches we are taking is a “Four Cs” approach to transformative learning. The Four Cs are Collaboration, Creativity, Critical thinking and Communication. These are not new, they have been discussed in educational circles for some decades now, but we are working with Professor Miranda Jefferson to  teach and assess the four Cs to empower students to be able to  describe themselves in terms of these and other more complex learning dispositions.

I hope that my reflections on the message from our new education minister have struck a chord with you. As always, I value your thoughts and responses to my blog via the school email address turramurra-h.school@det.nsw.edu.au

Stephanie McConnell