Please welcome back this week’s host Jason Borton

I’m an educator at heart. I have been at school my entire life having left school to go onto university and then back to the classroom as a teacher.
I am born and bred in Sydney and went to Asquith Boys High School before heading to the University of Technology for my teacher training. My professional journey began with a phone call on the Friday before school started in 1996 with an offer to start work in Canberra on a K/1 class the following Monday. I packed all of my belongings into my car and headed off on an adventure. To be honest I had no idea what I was doing and spent most of that first year copying my experienced colleague in the classroom next door. She was a life saver and didn’t even know it.
After working for the next 15 years in seven different schools as a classroom teacher and school leader I spent the last 5 years as the Principal of Richardson Primary School. In September last year I won the position of Director, Learning and Teaching in the ACT Education Directorate. I am very much missing being in the school environment but at the same time relishing the challenge that my current role is offering.
I think there are a number of major issues facing education in the current climate. The two biggest ones are
– the focus on high stakes standardised testing
– non-educators dominating the public discussion on education.

I hope to use this week to listen and learn from you all about some significant educational issues. I’m looking forward to the engagement and hope I can offer some value for you all.

You can read Jason’s previous blog post here.

Please Welcome this week’s host Dr David Zyngier

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I  was a youth leader when I was in my teen and really loved the opportunity to work with young kids and help them become “themselves” and the best possible. I also adored my kindergarten teacher (crush crush!). I think I always wanted to be a teacher to put into action my commitment to social justice. I didn’t start teaching until I was 30 – the kids thought I was really experienced but didn’t know that I was a newbie! I started teaching in Melbourne Technical Schools where I worked with some of the most “difficult to teach” kids who were just fantastic once they realised that you were “genuinely” there for them. I was also very active in the various iterations of teacher unions – TTUV, VSTA and then AEU. I ended my school teaching career as a principal of a private school. Now that was a serious mistake! I then worked as an education consultant and developed the very important RUMad social justice program (http://afairerworld.org/makingadifference/). After that I then completed a Phd (2007) researching student engagement at Monash University where I have been researching and lecturing in curriculum & pedagogy since 2003. I am now co-director of the Global Doing Democracy Research Project (http://doingdemocracy.ning.com/)

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

The amazing teachers, student teachers and  kids in public schools who despite all the denigration form politicians are achieving amazing results.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

The biggest reward is meeting one of your students years after you taught them and they tell you how important you were in their life. The biggest challenge is still  the same as always – remembering that for many kids you are THE difference. Politicians just don’;t understand this and want to blame teachers for their own policy failures.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

Stop funding private schools. I would cease all public funds to elite private schools immediately and reduce other private school funds by 25%  per year until zero. I would raise the ATAR level for all potential early childhood and primary teachers to a minimum of 75 (with special exemptions for under represented schools, first in family and indigenous and remote students of course) and increase government funding to teacher education courses to all more clinical models to be implemented. I wold make 2 years of early childhood education free and compulsory and de-link year 12 results form university entrance.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

I think EduTweetOz is a great forum for bringing committed and inspired educators together to share and support each other. I hope that I can assist this while at the helm

Please welcome Matt Scott tweeting from The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association Conference in Dallas, Texas

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? 

I graduated from Temora High School in the Riverina, New South Wales in 1996. I spent 1997 beginning an Information Technology degree at Charles Sturt University – Wagga Wagga campus. I was unwell for the duration of 1998 and this gave me a lot of time to reflect on my disengagement in learning and the perception I had of its lack of usefulness in the real world.  The evaluation of this circumstance lead me to transfer into a Secondary Technology Education degree, with student engagement in the forefront of my thoughts. As I began to head into the STEM learning space from the technology area, I completed a Graduate Certificate in Engineering Education at the University of Newcastle.

What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I’ve been an Industrial Arts teacher at both Griffith and Deniliquin High Schools in south western New South Wales teaching a range of subjects, including Industrial Technology, Design and Technology and VET Metal and Engineering. I moved to The Canobolas Rural Technology High School to take the role of Head Teacher Industrial Arts and Computing. Since 2016 I have held the school funded role of Head Teacher STEM, managing our award winning STEM program, a program for all students in Years 7 and 8 in addition to their usual Science, Technology and Mathematics courses. Professionally developing other teachers to deliver our STEM course is very rewarding, and as a New South Wales Department of Education STEM Action Schools, we mentor schools at a strategic level to assist in developing their own STEM programs. Achieving the Public Education Foundation’s Secretary’s Commendation for the 2016 Secretary’s Award for an Outstanding School Initiative validated the work we’ve been doing in STEM for us.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work? 

Working to give our students opportunities to develop the skills they need to succeed in life after school, and experience things they may not get to in their everyday lives. Our students are faced with many challenges as a result of technology impacting their lives. 65% of jobs for current primary school students will apply for don’t exist yet (Intel, 2015) and 70% of young people enter the workforce in job that will be radically affected by automation (Foundation for Young Australians 2015). Working with the large number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students from families who have had a negative educational experiences is also challenging but comes with great reward.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

One huge challenge for all secondary teachers is that students now have an Internet enabled computer in their pockets, giving instant access to knowledge that once schools were the custodians of. Pedagogy needs to shift from acquiring knowledge to the application of knowledge. Trying to teach a traditional knowledge-gaining lesson or activity can have a negative impact on student engagement. As a Technology teacher, easily the most rewarding part of my job is guiding students through the design process to construct something that they had planned in their heads in Design and Technology. Seeing what a young person can produce while designing, making and evaluating with the resources now available like laser cutting, Arduino controllers and 3D printing is amazing.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

Despite being heavily invested in STEM in a secondary setting, I don’t believe that we need a STEM syllabus, rather than implementing cross-curriculum projects taking advantage of specialist teachers where possible which is the basis of most STEM models currently. Based on my experiences in primary and secondary STEM, I believe it sits best in a middle school situation in Year 5 -8. I also think that middle schools could be very well placed to support the educational and wellbeing needs of students

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

I found the use of Twitter priceless when developing out STEM curriculum at Canobolas, with the collegial nature of fellow STEM teachers sharing examples of best practice and innovative teaching ideas. Twitter also helped me source many contacts that have made a large part of my Premiers Scholarship study tour I am currently in the USA. This week I’ll be tweeting about my visit to the South Arkansas University STEM Centre in Magnolia Arkansas and attending 79thconference of The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association in Dallas, Texas this week.

TweetOz helps brings teachers together for informal, fast, professional learning and networking despite their geographic location. Many of us teachers can be time poor, and being able to follow a week in the life of other interesting Australian educators while having a cuppa on the couch is very informative.

Please welcome Louka Parry to EduTweetOz

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?
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I choose to teach because education can transform the trajectories of young people – it’s the greatest social lever for change. Through my formative expriences as a young man, I came to deeply understand the power and opportunity that education gives to individuals and communities and opted to begin my official teaching career in a remote Indigenous community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands while taking every opportunity to learn my craft. It was supremely challenging and deeply rewarding. I had great support and developed quickly as a leader, becaming the principal at 27 years old after working to support teachers at a regional level. Although trained as a middle school teacher, I’ve taught from K – 12, acted as a regional mentor and studied two Masters degrees, one in Applied Linguistics and one in Instructional Leadership. I also spent some time in policy at the South Australia Department. In my current role at EC I’m best described as an adult educator I suppose, working with teachers, leaders and entrepreneurs all over the world. As Director of Programs, I endeavour to ensure every minute of our professional learning is engaging, relevant and enabling and I’ve loved the challenges thus far.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
The teachers and leaders I’m lucky to support most days. They are the true heroes of education, the anonymous extraordinaries, who work incredibly hard to be the key figure in the learning journey of their students. I love seeing a teacher or leader’s idea become reality and the positive impact that it makes on learning. I also love interacting with my network of curious, engaged educator colleagues on multiple platforms and geeking out on some research from education, psychology, linguistics, economics and policy.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The greatest challenge for educators is receiving and taking the time to be revolutionary not just reactionary. That’s difficult to achieve with an established status quo and the inertia from the set of expectations from the industrial model of education. The world has changed in profound ways and it’s education’s time to also transform. That will only come from empowering school leaders and teachers to make the change they wish to drive.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
In a sentence, I’d attempt to rehumanise education by personalising it.
First, totally rethink the ATAR regime to enable secondary teachers to have additional freedom to use their passion to teach. I’d also look to broadly transform assessment expectations to formative model based on developmental continua targeting students point of need, leveraging technology to make this happen. I’d find a way to schools to shift to deep learning, foregrounding the need for empathy, collaborative problem solving and curiosity. And I’d find a way to systemically support all teachers to continue to grow at every career stage, ensuring incredible teachers and great leaders. Ulitmately,
I’d love to raise the status of teachers so that is actually reflects the incredible dedication and hard work that it is.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
EduTweetOz is a brilliant community of educators and it’s only through frank, focussed and respectful discussion that we can increase our collective understanding and make change happen. I hope to be able to throw out some interesting provocations and catalyse some practical insights over the week 🙂

And now, Danielle Vandenberg (@DanielleVeeDB) settles in for the week

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

kzwqtg6cI began my career in fashion design in a large fashion house in Sydney but I always felt unfulfilled and that I wasn’t actually doing anything of importance. After two years I left and followed my calling which is a love of English, Drama and pedagogy. My own English/Drama teacher was an absolute inspiration and really motivated me to learn, I thought it was a privilege to be able to impact young people’s lives in that way. I am currently Head Teacher English and have this year, with a few colleagues registered as a professional teachers’ association focused on innovative pedagogies, which I think is an opportunity to build a learning community of teachers who want to engage students through evidence based research. Our FB group is Innovation 4 Education Association but or email to all NSW Teachers is coming soon. I really look forward to collaborating with some amazing educators!

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

Students who rely on high quality teachers, as I did, to get the most out of school. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a student whose life you have positively impacted. Like minded colleagues who are focused on transforming education, taking on feedback and deep learning. My own kids who I believe need strong role models and the opportunity to shine at school regardless of their interests and talents.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

It is an exciting time to be in education. Education hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years so to have he chance to be part of this revolution is exciting. However, it is also the greatest challenge because traditionally students and parents fear change more than they embrace it.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I would love to see the HSC exams draw on skills such as collaboration and critical thinking and instead of having exams which students possibly learn by rote, have them solve real world problems. I love teaching English but sometimes teaching the HSC feels extremely formulaic.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

Collaboration is a big one. Twitter has made it incredibly easy to engage in professional learning at flexible times and engage in meaningful conversations with educators around the world. I really hope this week inspires teachers to give new pedagogies and practices a go and it encourages people to take an interest in our professional teachers’ association so we can build a community of teachers willing to support one another in a very interesting time in education.

Please welcome @wiebam to the EduTweetOz hosting table!

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve? 

img_4400I grew up across three countries, South Africa, Botswana and Australia. My parents sacrificed so much for me and my siblings by immigrating from South Africa. They left good jobs, friends and family so my siblings and I could follow our dreams through education. Whilst at school I loved every subject from maths to science to sport as I just loved learning. So I quickly got known as the teacher’s pet. Which at the time I thought was great as who wants to get in trouble. I finished my last three years of high school in Queensland and headed to the University of Queensland to complete my Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movement Studies Education. My course (I have now learnt) is not a typical teacher prep course as the focus was more on the studies of the content areas (such as Biochemistry, Biomechanics and Sports Psychology) rather than the theories surrounding learning and education. But I must confess teaching prac was the eye opener for me. Being a teacher’s pet, I did not understand why kids would not want to learn and follow instructions. My skills a football referee (soccer for the uninitiated) came to be very valuable as man management was a strength of mine on the pitch and had also be one in the class room. Once I was finished with uni, I was married and had my first child – so teaching had to wait for a year. I then got that special call asking me to be a permanent teacher. I jumped at it with excitement even though I would have to work so hard as I was not a HPE and science teacher as I intended but a senior chemistry and maths teacher. I drove head first into it and struggled like crazy but loved it. My ambition took over very early in my career, I became a Year coordinator, QCAA panel member, started brand new subjects and was the Sports coordinator. After 5 years I transferred to become a foundation teacher in a brand new school. I loved the fact that I could be part of forming a culture. After a year I become the Acting Head of Department for Science whilst running an excellence program in engineering. I did this for a year and then applied to another brand new school. I got the job and became the Foundation Head of Department Science and Maths. After a year this role has evolved into be the HOD of Science and HPE. I have the great pleasure of being in charge of the STEM program and have been blessed with all the fantastic experiences I have had. In my head I would not have predicted that my career would have taken the roundabout path that it has but I know I would not have changed a thing!

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

I have been very fortunate to have had 3 keys teachers growing up, Mr Riaan Van Schalkwyk , Mr Bill Wilson and Ms Sharon Cordiner. These people inspired me to work hard as I could but to also accept that there is no such thing as perfection. I will be forever grateful for all the support and guidance they gave me growing up as a student and still now as a teacher.

As the teacher now, it is my students that help to keep me motivated. They are very vocal in telling me that they do not want to sit and be spoken at. They want to learn but they can’t always express what is the best way for them to learn. For me teacher is not just a job it is a privilege  as I get to help guide my students to reach their full potential. And show them how fun science is as everyone loves exploding things.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

For me the biggest reward in teaching is the quiet “Thank you Miss”. It those times when a student is not understanding and then suddenly the light bulb goes off or when they feel like the world is completely collapsing around them and as a teacher I like being the one just to give them that thumbs up or small smile of encouragement. Teaching is more than teaching the curriculum for me – it’s about helping the students through the good and bad days to walk out of high school as good people.

In terms of challenges in education, I believe that the largest one is work load. Teachers love to teach and if there is anything that they can do to help their students they will do it. I know that I spend many many hours planning, researching, purchasing and making all sorts of things for my classes. I love doing that but then when it is accompanied by all the paperwork there are not many hours in the day. I have three young girls, a husband, fur babies, friends and family that depending on what week of the term it is don’t always get the best of me as. So work life balance is a very tricky thing when you love what you do but also love the rest of you.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I would love to see the following:

  • Teachers truly respected as professionals as without us no other profession would exist.
  • Science seen as a fun subject not just a hard one.
  •  A funding model that supports early intervention.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

Sometimes teachers can become very isolated in their classrooms. EduTweetOz is a way of connecting with likeminded people from across the country to share thoughts, ideas and feedback. To bring up a child it takes a village. So a village of educators is a great place to gain advice and support as no one teacher has all the answers.

@Thingsbehindsun come out into the open – hey Ben Evans!

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

djej9yfgI hold degrees from Durham and Cambridge universities in the UK. I have taught in four Schools over the past 19 years – mostly selective in terms of academic ability, boarding, day, boys’ Schools and co-educational institutions. I am a teacher of Chemistry and have been a classroom teacher, Head of Department, and have run the academic side of the School (in my last two roles). My current title is Director of Teaching and Learning, at a boys’ School in Adelaide. Both my parents were teachers, and so the only job I was keen not to do was teaching; unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that I had little interest or talent in other directions, and hence I followed the genes.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

The chance to impress one’s personality on the role. No teacher is ever simply a cog in a larger machine, and any other teacher would discharge the role differently. Every teacher is therefore an individual, able to inspire in their own way. All the boys with are under the age of 18, so all of them are developing all the time (physically, emotionally, mentally). Having a hand in the development of young people is always rewarding; even when they get things wrong, it’s always part of the learning process. Each new School year brings with it a sense of renewal, and you’re only as good as your last year – this serves to guard against complacency.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

Teaching is a job where every day should have a high, even if it’s only a little one – your team wins a close game, a couple of pupils have that genuine ‘lightbulb’ moment. Teaching is a job where it’s easy to keep learning, and there should be no sense of stagnation. We teach because we love our subjects, and by communicating that subject and learning more oneself, it enables us to remain engaged with the material. Introducing children to the finest minds of history, the best literature, art, philosophy and thought is indeed a noble profession.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

Where to start! We need to change the edu-narrative, from seeing education as nothing but a ‘means to an end’, to something which is essential in and of itself. Education is more than simply a ‘pre-career’, and education should be more to do with making minds than making careers. We should do more to raise the levels of subject expertise in the profession, and look to raise the academic standards for those accepted to education degrees. We should eschew the tired narrative of skills over knowledge and understand that the skills of critical thinking, creativity and collaboration are not things we should look to teach explicitly and in a knowledge vacuum. Australia is falling in the PISA rankings, and this is more to do with flawed thinking rather than any lack of talent.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

Conversation and dialogue – education is complex, and no-one has all the answers. To paraphrase Dylan Wiliam, everything works somewhere and nothing works everywhere. We need to be open to the opinions and experiences of others, whilst being clear in our own educational philosophy. Disagreement is good, lack of certainty is wise and absorption of the thoughts of others is essential.

Welcome to EduTweetOz, Kelly Maree Cheung (@AustralasianEdu)

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

20160418_130449School avoider. Truant. Forger of parental signatures. Frequent visitor of sickbay with phantom pains. Socially anxious. Quiet underachiever. Constantly reading. I was the kid that didn’t cause trouble in class – god forbid attention would come my way. Even when I was in class – I wasn’t really present. Yet, I really liked, and still like, learning. I really liked, and still like, dialogue and discussion about what is and what could be. With much hesitation, I thought I’d give teaching a try, and I quickly realised how much I loved the work.

Returning to the school environment on my practicum made me realise that schools can be places where even the misfits can fit in, if a community is welcoming, knowledgeable, and willing to work towards a sense of inclusive belonging. In my years since, I’ve taught secondary English and History, coached debating teams, mentored students as a Year Advisor, and constantly worked towards ensuring all students know that they are recognised and valued for who they are.

I’m currently away from the classroom completing a PhD on the text choices of secondary English teachers while primary parenting a kinder child and a one year old.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

My own teachers – the good and the exemplary, have always inspired. Shoutout to Kevin Williams and Paul Cannon from Primary, and Josie Mitchell (deceased), Anne Heaney, Brian Bowe, Graeme Judd, Deborah O’Neill, and Michelle Peters from Secondary.

My students have always inspired and motivated me to give them my best.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

The biggest rewards are always in those moments of shared success; whether it’s a student finishing a novel for the first time in their life or writing something that is really important to them. The challenges are the barriers students and teachers face in and beyond the classroom. Education may be a series of personal accomplishments, it may be the unfurling of a larger world but while a competitive ethos strips opportunities and avenues away from all but the most privileged, education as a mission is tarnished by iniquity.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I would make schools centres of communities and open to the public. Health and specialist professionals should work within communities of schools and be freely available to all families to ensure all students receive timely interventions in support of their learning needs. I’d also ensure needs based funding was sustained for as long as it’s needed.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

EduTweetOz brings together a range of individuals across sectors providing snapshots into the complexities within the Australian education sphere. I hope my turn on the account provides insight into some of the complexities within my experiences and understanding of education in Australia.

Batter up! It’s Marco Cimino (@MrMCimino)

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

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I have been involved in education in a lot of different forms throughout my life. I went to a Catholic primary school, then a Catholic high school, then a Catholic university, then I worked at a University, and then gained employment at a Catholic high school. Whilst I have been heavily involved in Catholic education, I am committed to furthering the cause of education across all sectors and systems. I spoke about why I became a teacher on my blog, but, I will paraphrase it here. On the first block of my practical visits during my Graduate Diploma of Education, I sat in with my supervising teacher during parent-teacher interviews. About half-way through the interviews, a man appeared with his son (an all-boys school in a working-class suburb – my old high school as it were). The boy’s father sat down in front of us, wiped his black, greasy hands onto his mechanic’s tunic and shook both of our hands. The following moment is forever seared into my memory, never to be forgotten, and eternally there to inspire me to be the best educator I can be: at the moment we told him that his son had topped his class, he broke into tears and said in broken English, ‘I have worked 2 jobs for the last 5 years to make sure he doesn’t end up like me: breaking his back to make sure his kids can have the best life.’ That is when the totality of my decision to become a teacher really hit me: This is exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The rest of my life is to be dedicated to changing the live’s of others. After all, even if I only change the life of one child, then it’ll all be worth it.

I am now a HSIE and RE educator in South-West Sydney, and have worked at a University in the past, acting as the Student Rights Advocate (providing support to students), and also helping the elected student representatives. In 2017, I will be undertaking a few major ‘projects’: I will be the Assistant Year 11 and 12 Coordinator, I will be going back to uni part-time to do my Master in Educational Studies, I will be training to teach VET, and I will also be undertaking a leadership formation program.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

The students. It’s as simple as that. I am there to serve them. After all, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have a job. I aim to provide them with the best learning experiences they can get. They keep me honest and push me to help them.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

Rewards: Being responsible for the formation of young minds as they enter the world and become our future leaders. One of my favourite moments is when students approach me either when I am still teaching them, or many years later, and tell me that I helped to make them who they are today (I always assume it’s for the better – it helps my ego).

Challenges: Not really knowing where the world is going: how can we prepare students for the world when we don’t know what’s around the corner. There are trends and fads, sure, but as sure as night follows day, there will be something new on the horizon that we will then need to prepare students for. Trying to stay on top of it all is a challenge.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I would like to see an increase in teacher professional development allowances in schools. Something along the lines of 20% of their timetable should be release time to allow them to undertake professional reading, program, or do something that will ultimately benefit their student’s.

I would also like to see (as do many educators) an increase in funding and an increase in the type of technology available to students – along with appropriate training for the teachers on how to use it. After all, the only thing worse than spending money on technology is spending money on technology and then have it sit there because no one knows how to use it.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

EduTweetOz goes a long way to helping educators connect – as I always say, no educator is an island. Where student learning is concerned, every educator anywhere should be doing whatever they can to help them. I never claim to know all of the answers – sometimes I need to run it by others. 

It is my aim that this week I can engage everyone in a meaningful and respectful debate about education and to help as many people as possible to connect to not only benefit their own professional development, but also their students.

To kick off 2017, please welcome Ben Kirkman (@ben46k)

 

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

nt38e3eeI have worked in a number of Primary schools across South West Sydney as a mainstream and special education teacher. I have always enjoyed a challenge and have often put my hand up to undertake a variety of roles within the Department of Education. During my career I have undertaken roles as an Assistant Principal, Itinerant Support Teacher Behaviour, Disability Programs Consultant and have worked as a Deputy Principal in two schools. In 2017 I am about to begin a substantive role as Deputy Principal at Prestons PS which is near Liverpool in New South Wales.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

The three main stakeholders within schools motivate and inspire me. I want to ensure that public education in NSW consists of outstanding teachers and I aim to serve them as part of a supportive executive. I have worked with wonderful staff (teachers, SLSO, Office admin) and their commitment to student learning inspires me.  I want parents of public education students to be proud of the system that their children are educated in and am motivated to ensure that home/school relationships are a priority of the schools that I work in. Lastly, the students are what drive me the most, especially those who require additional support or assistance. I am lucky to say that each day, I drive to work knowing that there is nothing else I would rather do!

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

On a personal note, my biggest reward working in education is seeing that ‘teachers make the difference’ and that in the schools that I have led, student growth is linked to quality teaching and can be backed up by data. I have been fortunate to work with amazing teachers in wonderful schools that each day make life changing differences to students, families and communities.

The biggest challenge for me from a big picture perspective is the national conversation regarding education. (As these conversations often reflect policy).  I have always been interested in words like vision, culture, purpose and why… and I think Australian society in general is often unsure about what they want schools to be. What is innovation? How innovative do we as a society want schools to be? What is fair? What content does society value? What skills drive the workforce? How do you measure engagement? Do we value compliance? To drive conversation around those themes, we need to understand the why… What is our purpose? I think that is a big challenge moving forward that affects policy and decisions that influences how successful we can be.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

If I had the ability to make changes to the education system my first three priorities would be.

  1. A Pre School attached to each Primary School to support early intervention.
  2. A continuation of or improvement to the Local Schools Local Decisions reform.
  3. A funding model that is sustainable, valued and equitable at a National level.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

The poisoned chalice of hosting on the last week of the holidays! My intention over the week is to support all educators in beginning 2017 with a growth mindset, inspired to make a difference in students’ lives. I hope to have conversations about instruction, current research, goal setting, relationships and hopefully provide a platform where each contributor can share ideas and thoughts that can support quality instruction and build positive school cultures.