Get to know a little bit more about Chris Sarra’s journey as an educator and hopes for the future of education. It’s a powerful message.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I started out as a PE and secondary English teacher and having been given an opportunity to overcome limited expectations of myself I was determined to change the tide of low expectations of Aboriginal children and low SES children. Throughout my career I have worked as a Guidance Counsellor and school principal.
What is your current role and what does it involve?
Today I am leading the Stronger Smarter Institute which helps school and community leaders to understand the importance of and develop high expectations cultures in their schools and communities.
What do you plan to talk about on Edutweetoz this week?
This week I want people to understand why teaching is such a great profession and in particular, I want Indigenous Australians to look upon our profession as noble and worthy.
Who are your teaching role models and why?
I am still in contact with my teaching role models even today some 8 years after leaving high school… well maybe just a few more than 8. The teachers I remember best are those who took the relationship seriously and were passionate about their subject. As well as passion for their subject they had passion for the people they were involved with. My grade 9 history teacher, Mr Rimmer was one such teacher. I also remain connected to my year 5 teacher Mr Baulch. He was very strict yet he had a great sense of care and compassion that was obvious in the way he spoke and dealt with us as children. For both teachers it was obvious they had high expectations of me.
In later years I would come to know my greatest teacher and mentor, Dr Gary MacLennan, a man well known to many teacher. With tremendous passion he exposed me to the ‘hidden curriculum’ that exists in too many schools and he inspired me to do something about purging schools of this toxicity of low expectations.
What issues do you think are most pressing for teachers today?
Today our greatest challenge is about restoring integrity to our profession through purging our schools and classrooms of this toxic stench of low expectations and individual and systemic collusion with mediocrity. We must also face up to this challenge by embracing with enthusiasm, mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability as a means to enabling parents and communities to understand and be better involved in our work with their children.
I have grave concerns also about today’s federal and state governments imposing ‘off the shelf’ remedial products like ‘Direct Instruction’ from America as the ‘fix’ for Aboriginal and low SES schools, when really such an approach de-skills teachers, dishonours our profession, and is offensive to Aboriginal and low SES communities.
What are your hopes for education in the next 10 years?
Over the next 10 years I hope teachers are recognised and celebrated as prominent people in our communities with a crucial role to play. In return for such recognition we as a profession would take seriously the need for explicit and effective teaching pedagogies that are based on a professional diagnosis of individual learning needs and goals.
Remember you can follow Dr Sarra on twitter @chrissarra and the Stronger Smarter Institute @strongersmarter.
This week Dr Sarra is tweeting from the @MATSITI conference, keep an eye on the #MATSITI for some inspiring learning and sharing.