In 2002, I was introduced to the thinking of Rexford Brown by Dr Sue Wilks, my Master of Education Lecturer at The University of Melbourne. She asked me to complete a book review for our tutorial group and I selected Brown‘s (1991) Schools of Thought: How the Politics of Literacy Shape Thinking in the Classroom. In his book, Brown explores the notion of different types of literacy (cultural, civic, computer, media, information, scientific) posing that a higher type of literacy exists in the skills of problem solving and thinking. Brown advocates that a contemporary world requires a contemporary literacy.
Years ago in this country, people were considered literate if they could sign their name …It now includes capacities once demanded only of a college bound elite: to think critically and creatively, solve problems, exercise judgement, and learn new skills and knowledge throughout a lifetime. What at the beginning of the twentieth century was a high standard for a few has apparently become, in the minds of a good many powerful people, a desideratum for all. (Brown, 1991, p.7)
Brown‘s ideas were a professional turning point for me and I could not help but draw parallels with the introduction of a thinking oriented curriculum as a priority goal for Australian and Victorian curriculums. Curriculum in schools can move slower than the fast paced world that we are preparing our youth for, and the importance of the contemporary literacy of ‘thinking’ (being able to cast a critical lens and be apt at problem solving) has also been slow to weave its way into the classroom. So, it is in this light, 17 years later, that I am very pleased to see that a focus on critical and creative thinking is part of what we do as a natural part of Early, Junior, Middle and Senior Years learning. At MGGS we want to be ahead of the curve and our Heads of Departments and teachers are currently working hard at developing and refining curriculum and pedagogical approaches for the commencement of 2020; a key part of this preparation is the embedding of critical and creative thinking into every subject and every classroom.
Just as we prioritise innovation, wellbeing, STEM and digital literacy at MGGS, so too we need to be agile as an organisation to be thinking of the next priority as we prepare for the 2040 graduate. Greenfield (2008) debates the impact of technology and innovation on the way young people might think and learn differently from preceding generations, stating that “we live in a world and at the beginning of an era where nothing, other than huge changes, can be taken for granted” (2008, p.1). The students at MGGS will be subject to rapid change within their lives and the skills, knowledge and attributes that they learn and develop in their schooling years will either facilitate or hinder their future successes. Friedman (2006) refers to this changing globalising future as ‘flattening’, claiming that the world is going to be qualitatively different from the great changes of previous eras given the speed and the breadth with which it is taking hold. (Friedman, 2006, p.49) Yet we are reminded by Treadwell of the tolerance shown by our students in their learning:
What is more, our young people are already living in the new education paradigm and they are impatiently waiting for us, their educators, to join them and assist them in making the most of it. (Treadwell, 2008, p. 10)
In sum, teachers need to link substantive, real world issues to curriculum content and aims. The intent of a rigorous and scholarly curriculum is to support teachers to develop within their students, deep knowledge and understanding and to foster higher order thinking using creativity, metacognition, reasoning, processing, investigation and reflection. And so, one of my roles as Principal is ultimately to assist teachers in making the classroom learning experience for all Grammarians, an authentic one that empowers them as learners.
This week we released the video filmed on country in Arnhem Land of our Year 8 Grammarians with the Yolngu people. We are proud to work in partnership with Culture College, as they are committed to educating Australia’s youth with the knowledge and respect for the oldest living culture on earth. Culture College are also dedicated to providing sustainable economic activities for the Yolngu homelands through job creation and ensuring longevity and provision for the preservation of culture. The video was created in shared consultation with Culture College and they will use it to promote their programs to other schools. In the video, Yolngu elder, Djawa (Timmy) Burarrwanga referenced the ‘bush university’ and education as integral to change and the commitment of this community to the education of young people in Australia. They know that for transformation to occur, it will be done through relationships and learning on a deep level. In the words of elder, Marcus Mungul Lacey, “Learning is forever. To be able to engage with young Australians, we look forward. The future is bright.” Year 8 student, Madeline Burns spoke eloquently about the power of learning ‘with our hearts’, and that for real change in perceptions to occur we need to feel deeply and emotionally. The Year 8 students prepared for this experience before going by learning about the history, conflict, and impact on indigenous culture in their classroom curriculum. They returned to Melbourne knowing the privilege of being custodians of the knowledge shared. That is why we are committed to sending our whole Year 8 cohort to this remote part of Australia – it is authentic and experiential learning; our Grammarians return changed and, in a constructivist sense their lens altered – they themselves become educators. Elder, Djapirri Mununggirritj sums it up well with, “We cherish that moment when they come and experience Yolngu culture here. There is a hope and a brighter future for these young people.”
On behalf of the MGGS community, I attended The University of Melbourne’s Vice Chancellor’s Dinner for Principals at University House on 28 August. On this evening we listened to the new Vice Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell’s vision for the University as one with the student at the heart. Vice Chancellor Maskell spoke of the hallmarks of a great university and the importance of diversity, inclusion and learning organisations being global and future focused. There was much discussion on the evening of preparing learners with the dispositions, skills and knowledge for a rapidly changing world; as educators this is a shared pursuit!
MGGS is very proud to have a strong partnership with the Stella Prize – a major literary award celebrating, recognising and championing Australian women writers. I was delighted that we were able to host a wonderful Stella event on 29 August in the Artemis Centre. Author, Chloe Hooper spoke engagingly of her 2018 text, The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire which was on the longlist for the Stella Prize 2019. It was well attended, and our students asked the very best questions! Thank you to the MGGS Stella Team and Mr Christophe Taylor for their fine leadership of this initiative.
Term 3 has been very, very busy. I know that everyone – staff, students and parents have contributed positively, and it has been a very vibrant term! Deepest gratitude to our parents, grandparents and alumnae who have supported our Grammarians in so many ways – ever present in the sports, arts, and in community events. A very big thank you to our hard-working staff who have set and assessed thousands of pieces of work, have engaged in high level conversation and feedback with our students. My thoughts at this time are especially with our Year 12 students who are at the pointy end of their study, ‘polishing the stone’, and who will be using the upcoming holiday period to prepare for their final VCE exams.
I am absolutely delighted to announce that we have finalised the 2020 Student Executive Council (SEC). This year, there was an exceptional calibre of candidates who put themselves forward for a variety of positions. I have been thoroughly impressed by how the Year 11s have conducted themselves throughout the process. We received an incredibly high number of applications this year, which speaks to the quality of the year level. I look forward to sharing the 2020 SEC with you in the next Messenger.
Hope to see you at the 2019 Navy Blue Lunch!