Life is no brief candle, but a splendid torch to be made burn ever more brightly.
Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop AC, CMG, OBE
The educational leadership journey I have followed has seen me develop a transparent vision I share with my colleagues and those I report to. My Vision is to;
“Support and encourage all students within an educational atmosphere built on tolerance and mutual respect, so they are able to achieve to their full potential and develop into self-managed, and self-motivated lifelong learners.”
My vision is underpinned by my own values of;
- Fairness and equity
- Respect for all
- Love of learning
- Striving for individual excellence
- Integrity and loyalty
- Appreciation of diversity and tolerance of difference
- Promoting the value of teamwork and service to the wider community
- The virtue of family values
Recently, as our Year 12 cohort leaves The SCOTS PGC College at the conclusion of 2013, I sought their feedback on how they believe I have shared, implemented and lived my vision and values. Through this open and honest communication they provided informed and reflective feedback. They confirmed that I shared a vision that was truly student-centred, and focused on the ideals of developing each of them into self-managed, self-motivated, lifelong learners.
I believe a student’s educational achievement cannot be measured through academic success alone. The focus for all exemplary educational institutions and education professionals should be on developing individual students into lifelong learners, each with a positive self-esteem to succeed. Further, our aim should be to enable them to develop and engage in an ever changing world. In 2008 I used this philosophy as the foundation for developing, in conjunction with boarding and College stakeholders, a Vision Statement for boarding at The SCOTS PGC College:
“To provide a boarding experience that will allow each boarder to develop life skills to cope with and engage in an ever changing world”
This Vision Statement now underpins the social, emotional, pastoral, and academic practices in the College’s boarding community. The attached Annex (Annex A) shows the relationship between this shared vision and all College stakeholders. Further supporting this vision, the College’s boarding community focuses on ensuring that, by the time a boarder leaves the formal education system they must have ‘learned how to learn under self-motivated and self-managed conditions’. Thus the boarding community has developed into one in which the boarders not just live, but in which they live and learn how to learn.
To enact this, I developed a Pastoral Care Program that takes into consideration both the formal and informal learning opportunities within the boarding and wider College community. The framework for this program uses the four characteristics of lifelong learners as its supporting pillars:
Learning to do (acquiring and applying skills, including life skills)
Learning to be (promoting creativity and personal fulfilment)
Learning to know (an approach to learning that is flexible, critical and capable); and
Learning to live together (exercising tolerance, understanding and mutual respect)
The boarding pastoral care program is complemented by a pre-existing pastoral care program delivered by teaching staff once a fortnight during the school day. Formal aspects of the boarding pastoral care program are undertaken in the boarding community at nights and on weekends. They include training and reflective sessions on leadership, life skills, managing emotions, practical life skills and more. Some of these components are also embedded within the comprehensive boarding activity program that ensures boarders are fully occupied with meaningful pursuits. Informal aspects of this program focus attention on the need for all boarding staff and boarders to develop a significant, supportive and intellectual relationship. For boarders to feel truly supported and challenged on their educational journey they must know that the people charged with their well-being are passionate and committed about the ongoing pursuit of learning and their students’ individual needs.
The ongoing maintenance of this holistic vision, and its associated program, has required a strong collaborative and supportive leadership style. It has also required that each staff member feels connected and takes ownership of the shared vision so that they can, as a group, identify with its importance as a guiding set of principles. In this way we have developed an organisational culture in boarding. In practical terms, this has been achieved through ongoing staff training and professional development, challenging staff to strive for personal excellence, and embracing the idea that staff should know each student. It has also involved working closely with the College Executive, Principal, Deputy Principal and academic staff to ensure they also share in the organisational connectedness to, and embracement of the vision. I encourage all boarding and academic staff to use this vision when reflecting on their own best practices at the College, and will offer them support, advice and coaching on how this can best be achieved.
I have also extended this vision into my role as Head of Faculty, ensuring that the reconceptualising of the curriculum takes into account changes in employment and societal conditions. This has been achieved through the provision of expanded educational and vocational pathways, and pedagogies that focus on student-centred learning. This, in turn, allows for greater flexibility in student academic outcomes. As the Technology Faculty at the College moves towards the introduction of the National Curriculum (Technologies) there has been increased use and development of technological and digital production processes and widespread use of e-learning material and assessment methods. This has been done, not only to ensure compliance with the certain National Curriculum scopes and sequences, but to allow students to use their self–taught digital literacy to achieve greater success in their learning environment. Academic staff in the Technology Faculty embrace these new technologies and are encouraged to be effective modellers of lifelong learning by collaborating with students in the areas of digital literacy where they may not share in the same advanced capabilities. Staff then become learners themselves and share in the students educational journey, further developing their professional relationship with the student.
More recently I have proactively employed social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to enhance the staff, parent and student connectedness with the wider boarding and College communities. Through posting status updates and photos of individual boarding or College achievements on a Boarding Facebook page, staff and parents can now share in the educational journey that was once isolated by distance and time. My understanding and use of these social media platforms has enabled me to instruct students on their safe use and ways in which these platforms can be used to enhance their learning environment, not just to merely update their social status. Through instruction on the use of web search engines such as Scoopit students are enabled to collate and manipulate information more effectively and share information through social media platforms.
The digital technology now available to assist students and educators in the learning process is widely diverse. It is still the case, however, that the quality of the teacher in the classroom is the most important factor in facilitating student success. Their passion for education and pedagogy, their ability to teach for understanding and to develop students into self-managed and self motivated lifelong learners, will still underpin a students learning.