I was explaining to my kids the other day that when I was in primary school, we only had one TV. It was set up on one of the walls in the juniour block corridor, and when our teachers wanted us to watch something like an educational program on the ABC, or a video about Stranger Danger (did we call it that, then?) we’d all shuffle out there and sit on the floor and watch. Luckily for you and I, for most schools in Australia those days are gone and we have all manner ways of integrating multimedia and videos into our lessons. In fact, sometimes the problem is not finding how, but what to show our students, which is where being able to make your own videos can come in handy.

Part of teaching is assessing. It’s not the best part – that is special morning tea day in the staffroom – but it’s an important part because without assessment neither you, nor your students, know where and how they’re improving. And for me the humble rubric is the champion of assessment tools. Let me tell you why (come on, you knew this was coming).

It’s fair to say that I am a big fan of digital learning, but parent and teacher concerns around screen time (and an excess there-of) are real and reasonable. There’s ample evidence that too much screen time can have negative impacts on young people. But, we also know that technology can have a huge benefit in and out of the classroom – especially in this time of repeated lockdowns. So how do you balance the good and the bad in your classroom?

Have you ever read the Australian Constitution? I know that sound ridiculous, and of course very few of us have, but it’s not actually as onerous as it’s contents page would lead you to believe. That said, I only really read it once I became a teacher, and I daresay that unless you teach Humanities (or good ol’ SOSE), or you’re in the Law profession, you probably don’t feel particularly drawn to reading the Constitution. BUT, if you do then you may find it even more interesting as you watch our particular brand of federalism playout against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

I am, at the moment, doing research into the 1967 referendum to change the Australian constitution, in order to make some civics and citizenship learning resources. I was lucky enough, through my local library website, to find a interview with Faith Bandler. Mrs. Bandler campaigned both for the ‘yes’ vote for the referendum, and for the civil rights of First Nations Australians, Torres Strait Islander Australians, and South Sea Islander people. It is a fascinating insight, not just into her life and actions, but into the racial and political divides of that time in history, the legacies of which we live with today.

I’ve been looking a lot into ‘learner agency’ recently. Well on it’s way to being something of an education buzz-word, properly understood learner agency means that students are active drivers in their education. It goes beyond ‘student-centred learning’, and shifts the power from teachers to learners. We’ve talked about self-efficacy before too, but again learner agency goes further.

When I was in my final year of uni (in 2006, if you must know) the Indonesian language program was cancelled at my campus. I was attending Monash University, Churchill, a country campus in Victoria an hour from my little country town. Years later, Asian Studies in Australian universities are still under threat, and I would argue that this is a problem not just for Indonesian language and culture teachers like me, but all of us.

Nigerian School Kidnappings

As a parent, I can only imagine the pain and fear of hearing that your child and their classmates have been kidnapped from their school. As an educator, I can only imagine the uncertainly and fear associated with knowing that you, your colleagues, and students can’t ever feel truly safe. That this is a recurring problem only deepens the tragedy.

So often it is only an accident of birth – that we are born in certain countries, or into certain families – that determines whether we have to live a life of fear, or a life of safety. So often, despite our best efforts, life spins out of our control.

My heart goes out to those families in Kaduna, and so many other Nigerian families who have been in this position over the past six months, who are grappling with the unthinkable. I hope you join me in holding these families in your hearts, and wishing a speedy and happy outcome for them.

Who’s enjoying the school holidays?

If you’re spending your school holidays in lockdown, then I do empathise. Living in Victoria, I’ve definitely been there. I know it’s a challenge. For us plenty of arts and craft, a healthy dose of MineCraft, a few movies, and a daily walk made a huge difference. I’m sure you’ll find your own way of navigating your way through.

Luckily for us, we’re not in lockdown in Victoria (at the moment) and we’re making the most of it. I love the school holidays as much now as I did when I was teaching (almost as much as when I was a kid). I love getting the time with B1 and B2, and avoiding the morning rush.

Where ever you are, and whatever you’re doing, I hope you enjoy the rest of your school holidays. Take the time to recharge your batteries before Term Three, get into the fresh air and, if you have your own little people at home, enjoy the quality time with them.

What have you been up to these holidays?

As our Northern Hemisphere colleagues turn their faces to the sun for the first time in months, we in the Southern Hemisphere slide deeper into Winter. I’ve been down and out with a bug for well over a week (not THE bug, so that’s something to be grateful for), submitting to the obligatory throat and nose swab, and telling anyone who glances in my direction that, ‘it’s just a cough’.