Authentic Thoughts on Leadership Deeper Learning Principalship

“Education is about human agency for all” Jelmer Evers

When teachers and school leaders, believe that what we do influences change, and together we can change the trajectory of each and every student this is powerful. (I mean every student, no matter their background, ability, heritage, socio-economic, educational disadvantage or gender, no excuses). This is pivotal to our success as an education state and nation. Speech 4/52 .. of 52 weeks of principals speeches.

Speech 4/52 .. of 52 weeks of principals speeches. As I meander through that voice, the attention on culture keeps surfacing in the nuances of principal work.

Following is the Occasional Speech I delivered for the UTS Graduating Ceremony for Education and Communications student on Tuesday 7th May.

I would also like to acknowledge the “Deputy Chancellor, Provost,  Dean of the Faculty, Presiding Director, Chair of Academic Board, members of the University executive, staff, family, friends and graduates.”

I too would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land which the UTS campus stands the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. A strong and resilient nation.

Firstly, I am grateful for the opportunity to join you on this auspicious occasion. To the graduating students in front of us today. You are the future leaders of our schools, our organisations and our governments.

You will make a difference. You are joining an incredible Alumni, who have made an impact in our world.

Teachers and School Leaders indeed shape the future, the hearts and minds of our tomorrow.

Denise Lofts

In preparing for today, I begun to reflect on the incredible current educational thinkers such as Sir Ken Robinson challenging us all to think differently about schools and education, Prof. Yong Zhao who encapsulates the entrepreneurial spirit in learning, Prof. John Hattie making learning visible, Prof. Pasi Sahlberg from Finland whose voice on educational equity resonates. The many incredible colleagues and progressive universities like UTS who shape tomorrow.

“Education is about human agency for all”

Jelmer Evers

School Leadership and student Agency: equals= Strong heart… Clear mind.

This week I received a quick email from my school Captain,

“Hi Miss, thank you so much for your support.  Jade, Lachlan and I really appreciate it”.

This was the end of an email chain from my School Captain (an incredible young Aboriginal woman), telling me that I could listen to her speech given to council about the rescission motion for ‘climate change’ letters to be sent from council to parliament house, Canberra. And how she was representing the Youth of the Shoalhaven, along with 2 other students from Ulladulla High School.

This speech was on the back of a ‘Change the conversation on Climate Change Rally” at UHS on 15th March at school during Lunchtime.  When other students were missing school, our students clearly articulated their stand, not by missing school, rather to ensure the focus was clearly on the issues, not the point of ‘missing school’.

This clear, succinct, mindful and deliberate protest by the students could not be ignored. This is only the surface of what Takesa, and the student environment council have done, from removing plastic bottles, introduced composting across the school, established a community twilight market in the school grounds that sells locally produced produce with a focus on sustainable processes. Along with advocating for fish tackle bins to be located at our local harbour by the council to protect our ocean sea life. 

This type of agency is mirrored across many young people and schools.  Student Agency, I believe will continue to influence the way in which we do business in our schools and beyond. How do you see student agency in your school, classroom?

We unite culture across our schools, and understand our influential collective efficacy.

Denise Lofts

If you have ever looked at the event calendar of a school, albeit primary or high school it is mosaic of events.  My own school is no exception. On a closer look, these events reflect the culture in our schools, workplace and organisations.  We influence how students and colleagues think about themselves, their learning, their world and their work. 

When teachers and school leaders, believe that what we do influences change, and together we can change the trajectory of each and every student this is powerful. (I mean every student, no matter their background, ability, heritage, socio-economic, educational disadvantage or gender, no excuses). This is pivotal to our success as an education state and nation.

Ensuring that my teacher, parents, community understand that they are influential, despite any other factors is central to my role. I call it, deep authentic actioned high expectations.

As graduating students, do you have that belief? You must believe that you can influence positively every young persons future who is in your care.

Technology and the human spirit.

What impact is technology having on our society and particularly on our young people?

I am the leader of a school that embraced the Bring Your Own Device program, we have almost a 98% take up of a device for learning. Equity is transparent,  those who forget theirs, can borrow a device from our library, we have 200 permanently on loan to students. My school is 1256 students with 11 special education classes. They (the devices) are merely learning tools, we endeavour to normalise the digital. 

Teachers approach online learning as just an aspect of the learning experience, supporting co-teaching, collaborative, flexible learning environments, digital portfolios and collaboration online. We endeavour to teach self-regulation explicitly. Despite this, what is going on with our young people in terms of the digital world is certainly raising alarm, amongst parents and educators across the world.  Wellbeing is in question.

Richard Glover, social commentator, alluded that when the motor car was first introduced (what a great invention) it had no seatbelts, people were being killed, we quickly responded with seatbelts and legislation that enforced this.

The Alberta Teaching Association in Canada led by Phil McCrea has been conducting research “Growing up Digital”, that is revealing some alarming statistics, today more things are connected to the internet than there are people on the planet.

Our current Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott, in his book titled ‘ON US’, a fly over of innovation and technology as he reflects on his role at the ABC and the DoE. The notion of “shiney and New” needs rethinking. This is a brave move, providing leadership and thinking to consider where we might be heading in this conundrum.  Your thoughts?

Finally, in my finishing remarks, yesterday I asked, Pasi Sahlberg an educational thought leader from Finland, who has recently moved to Australia to continue his work on equity.

“What advice would you give a graduating education student”.

Question to Pasi Sahlberg

He said, “ Believe in your own knowledge and skills, particularly when you have feelings of inexperience from the community, parents and colleagues. You know more than you think, feel confidence in your own professional judgement and your own skills as a teacher”.

When I asked Pasi’s wife the same question. Interestingly, she said,

‘turn on the light of ALL your students, and…

…. remember to turn off the lights when you leave the classroom, for our planet’. Said with a beautiful finnish accent.

What a clever succinct idea.

I thank you all today for listening and leave you with this thought. What are you going to do to influence and support your students in their learning journey through Student Agency, Technology and Culture for tomorrows world?

And… remember to turn off the light when you leave your classroom.

Thank you..….acknowledging the Chancellor with a slight nod of the head.


Graduation FACTs..

  • Faculty breakdown of student numbers graduating at your ceremony:
    1. Total number of graduates attending: 189

2. Undergraduate (UG) and Postgraduate (PG) Split:

– UG: 55%

– PG: 45%

Principal of a fantastic secondary public school where our young people enliven their dreams through a growth mindset to fulfil their potential. Focussed on leadership that makes a difference in my school.

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