Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Contemporary Learning tour – Sydney (I had also attended some of the Melbourne tour). I have been fortunate over many years to have the privilege of visiting schools in a variety of capacities; mainly as a panel team leader for the IB with schools undergoing accreditation or evaluation. However, this tour in Sydney to visit a number of innovative schools (and support agencies) has been a recent professional highlight for me.
To me one of the aims of the tour(s) is to observe what is possible in education: how do we respond to a changing world in educating and preparing our students to be lifelong learners and to be global citizens who have well developed interpersonal skills. These tours are designed to challenge our thinking as educators. Is our teaching and learning as effective as it could be? Are the learning spaces conducive to rich and deep learning? Is our curriculum challenging? How much agency do the students (and teachers for that matter) have in the classroom or school? There are many other questions I could include here. It was interesting to see the shift in thinking of the participants as we visited the schools. There was rich discussion around what we observed; challenges put forward around existing teaching and learning paradigms; questions raised on how to make changes to existing practices.
I will admit I was excited by what I observed and what I believe are the possibilities for our schools. However, the tour also served another purpose for me.
All the schools we visited had a clear picture of their teaching and learning program. They could articulate this and defend it comprehensively. They understood the need to have a vision for their learners and to how to achieve this. There was continuity, consistency and stakeholders, ‘got it’. Such understanding and clarity of purpose informed budgeting, resourcing, capital works and staffing.
I strongly believe that all schools must have this clear sense of purpose and can strategically move forward with developing / consolidating their vision. The LEVNT Vision Statement reads: Our Vision is to be a leading system of Christ Centred, innovative schools inspiring students for life. It is through participating in such tours that we gain a sense of how to enact this vision.
I commend the work of Kim and Derek Bartels (LEQ) to you. LEVNT is blessed to have such educational leaders employed here (or working with us). With strategic thinking, unpacking of a vision for teaching and learning and receiving support from passionate and knowledgeable staff I believe all the schools in our region can offer teaching and learning that is contemporary, future focussed and dynamic. The LEVNT Vision Statement can be realised!
As opportunities arise I would encourage schools to send staff on these tours – start the conversation at that level and hopefully watch the flame grow.
Dr Shane Paterson
Director: Leadership & School Improvement