I am mid way though a few other posts on the EC conference but I started this on on the plane ride home. The speakers from the stage at EC16 were people working on a diverse range of things on a range of different levels. Even though each talk was only for 10 mins the stories they told in that time were so incredibly powerful.
I had all intentions of writing some notes as I went though listening to the talks so I wouldn't forget, but I found myself captivated by what they were saying. Not only did I forget to write things down at the time, but I think it would have almost felt rude to do so. Therefore I am writing most of this from memory and trying to fill out the details some two weeks later, so I don't feel I am giving some of them justice..
Hayley and Liz
Most schools have avenues for student voice but how authentically are we actually seeking and listening to that voice. They are who we are go to work for, they are who our efforts are directed towards so their voice needs to be heard clearly and loudly. Many student voice models are run by teachers based on agendas organised by teachers that align with the priorities that the school wants them to work on. But if we go large and truly give students a voice then big things and much better outcomes are possible. Their student leadership model is fantastic. I really loved the ideas of students organising and running their own meetings and agendas and also loved how they research and run professional development sessions for teachers, I also loved the idea that student engagement/learning proformas were designed by the students themselves and used as part of performance development process for teachers
Schools can and should be places that we are not just nourishing the mind, but also the body and soul, they are also places where we can do some good for our planet. Their sustainability program is a great example of what can be achieved in this area. Setting them up with a range of life skills that will serve them well moving into their futures. From her talk I also took away that we really need to invest in what we value. If we promote healthly lifestyles in our education programs then we should also be promoting them though all aspects of our schools, including our canteens, this is hard since good food isn't cheap and cheap food isn't good, but they make it work.
Brett's message was a powerful reminder of the impacts of kids lives outside of school. Some kids that we work with are coping with a lot outside of the class, Whether they are acting as carers for siblings are having to work a lot to support their families who may be unemployed, they are dealing with a whole lot of stuff that at most times we may have little or no idea about. As much as we want their focus to be on their schooling during the day, for some kids they have much bigger things going on and their behaviour at school is probably a result of that. Care and compassion goes a long way to supporting kids.
As a student it was interesting to listening to Amy talk. What became obvious really early on is that she was very aware about what works with her in relation to learning and what doesn't work with her in her own learning and I suspect this is the same for a lot of kids. But are we listening to them? I also picked up from this talk ideas around curiosity and creativity. These are things that we have a lot of when we are very young but it manages to get driven out of us by the time we get out of the schooling system. However the future needs creativity and it needs curiosity, it may even be the key to getting more girls involved in STEM fields
There were a few messages from Jason that I picked up on. Firstly when you empower kids with the same sorts of entrepreneurial skills as we have developed though our involvement with EC then they can show you some really amazing things, they develop a whole lot of skills from that type of thinking, even from a very young age. Secondly was his message around working with and within systems and showing that sometimes you just need to do it and prove it gets results instead of asking for permission all the time, their response may be based on the perceived likelihood of success rather than how successful it could actually be.
Companies can be commercially successful and socially responsible, it doesn't need to be one or the other and we need to be encouraging much more of that. Unlike individual schools or individual teachers the have the resources and the connections to tackle some really big problems. However in deciding what problems they can or should tackle they need to talk to teachers like Yoobi did. Even though most teachers do not mind paying out of their own pocket for school stuff, they identified that teachers shouldn;t have to and that they can help. I loved hearing about their business model, for everything you buy, they donate one themselves to a classroom in need
We all we open up our schools and invite our communities in to learn from what we have to offer, we offer a whole range of things. We offer these opportunities based on what we think it is important for them to know, but is that what they want to be learning? Is that something that they really want to know? Are they getting anything out of it they will find useful. If we want to promote learning as a life long pursuit then surely our school environments should play their part in that. However in educating our communities we are not dealing with a set curriculum, if they are going to come in, we need t offer what they want to learn. When we truly embrace our communities as learners and as partners in their own and their families education, then the school community that builds is powerful.
Tristan's talk was one of the power of community, our local communities that we live and work in, and our shared communities such as the EC tribe. What we are doing in our own communites is important and needs to be shared with our wider communities like the EC16 conference, people need to hear our story, our journey, our success. It is through sharing this that others can learn from us and hopefully have the same success. However we also need to listen to the stories of the EC community to learning what we can from them t really hear what they did and how they did it so that we can go back to our own communities armed with this new learning to strive for better outcomes.
I learnt a lot from this talk, it was a really strong example of being able to be amazing things, in really tough environments against some significant odds. Her drive and her passion for what she is doing was, I think, key to her success. On message I really took away from her talk was a conversation she said she had with her father about understanding the reasons for doing things. It went something along the lines of if you don't understand why you are doing it and I don't understand it either, then I can't make you do it. It made me think about the nature of schooling, how many things do schools still do because they have always been done that way, do the teachers and do the students understand why it is done that way, and if not, why are we still doing them?
At times our kids with disabilities are being denied things that we take for granted, like the ability to communicate. Schools are places that can help kids with communication difficulties to have a voice, but how do we make sure our communities are listening and helping to support these young people to use this voice outside of school. It was also really great to hear her ideas or scale with developing apps to replace physical resources, stickers in cafe windows to identify which places are 'friendly' towards the change she is leading, etc. She had a very clear idea of where she wanted it to go and is a strong advocate for her students.
Jessica and Kerryn
Through EC we know the power of storytelling in sharing what we have learnt with others. Learning stories that I have started to become accustomed to because my daughter is at kindy. I know the power there is in being able to see her in the moment of learning something new, or working with others to complete a task, to have that photo or that video as well as the short story to go with it. For many kids I think that that grade at the end of the term and even the comment is too abstract. Kids need to see what we see in them when they are learning, it is incredibly exciting for us to watch but most of the time they may not be aware that it is happening. Made me think a lot about the nature and role of feedback in class.
Thanks for your contribution to the event it was very much appreciated, I would love to see how your projects are progressing in the future.
Mathematics Coach and Coordinator in Regional South Australia. Current driving the Empowering Local Learners project as a numeracy strategy from pre-school to senior secondary.
Opinions in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer.