From the Principal

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Parents know the danger of saying one thing and doing another and being caught out by their children.

We know you lose integrity and authority if you are found to be even vaguely hypocritical, allowing a gap between what you preach and what you do.

So why is it that Australian education “experts” and bureaucrats so often talk about the importance of collaboration, agility and resilience and yet remain politically combative, tied to structural models that represent a world long passed and failing to effectively respond to poor outcomes.

This disconnect seems to appear at all levels.

Firstly, the Higher School Certificate and its attendant ATAR seem to be losing credibility:

Rio Tinto’s managing director of planning, integration and assets, Kellie Parker, said many big businesses no longer look at students’ ATARs and the HSC may be limiting students in what they choose to study. “I think we’ve got to sit back [and look at] what actually happens in year 11 and 12 and how it’s a cookie cutter to get into university, rather than a mind-expanding opportunity,” Ms Parker said. Existing tests, such as the HSC, also encourage rote-learning “at the expense of competency development” that employers want and the ATAR “may come at the expense of more engaged and intrinsic learning during the final years of schooling”, a new report outlining CEO perspectives on the future of schooling has found.   SMH, August 18, 2018.

But let’s face it, it is too easy and a “cop out” to place all the blame on educational bureaucrats and their political masters. Schools and teachers are often very reluctant to change, even if they are given the option.

Everyone wants change to occur for the system, but very few people want to change themselves personally to have that occur.”

In the face of a rapidly evolving world of work, classrooms are so often run the way they have been for a century. Teachers, feeling vulnerable in the face of change, become professionally defensive and fight against necessary innovation.

The teaching profession is said to be the oldest and most respected all over the world. Therefore, in order to retain the public perception of the profession, it is important that what goes on within the walls of the classroom is a true reflection of what teaching is and should be. However, certain teachers’ behaviour and conduct, may directly impact on the academic performance of the learners.”  Teachers’ Conduct in the 21st Century: The Need for Enhancing Students’ Academic Performance                               

Small wonder students feel confused when told to be collaborative, creative  and curious when the people who act their key educational role models do not always act in a manner coherent with what they tell students are the modern success essentials.

Thankfully, I have the privilege of working in a school where individual teachers, teaching and learning leaders and groups of teachers respond positively to changes in the world by teaching students in engaging, effective and innovative ways.

They ignore the naysayers (“But we have always done it that way”) and fearmongers and focus on what they can do to to engender the joy of learning in students and offer them the opportunity to effectively develop the skills that will provide future success.

If we are going to give our students the future they deserve we cannot allow fear and intransigence from the adults in charge to hamstring the potential that thoughtful innovation and educational agility offer.

The words of Jim Collins ring increasingly true in our fast changing world. Collins emphasises that it is crucial to continuously ask “First Who, Then What?” in going from good to great:

“You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who’s going with you. Most people assume that great bus drivers (read: business leaders) immediately start the journey by announcing to the people on the bus where they’re going—by setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh corporate vision. In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.”

We need to make sure that the right people with the positive attitudes and skills are on the government “bus”, the school “bus” and in the classroom. To do otherwise is to betray the future of our students.

At SCAS we embrace those incredible and inspirational professionals who are comfortable moving from the safety of the status quo, “walk the talk” and leave their professional egos at the door of the classroom.

“If we are to better educate our kids, we need first to better educate their educators”.

Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School
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