I spent the first week of the NSW school holidays at the ACEL national conference in Sydney. I was amazed that many teachers had travelled from as far away as Western Australia to attend. It was great to see such strong commitment to professional learning and networking but the irony is that most return to the industrial processes and structures that constrain innovation, dampens enthusiasm and limits autonomy. I think it was Fullan who said never send a changed individual into an unchanged environment.
While I don’t underestimate the value of educational conferences, I am always left wondering at how far we are turning the transformation dial, if at all. I think we often show up in the hope that someone will finally reveal the blueprint for transforming learning. As I said at the conference, the tendency for schools is to look outward but the seeds of change must be sown from within.
If we walk to talk about ‘voice and vision’, let’s look to the insiders – our students. We need to be placing greater trust in our students to help shape the educational agenda. We have nothing to lose at this point and it’s where we will find a coalition of the willing. Unless we give greater agency to young people, I believe schools will continue down the path of irrelevancy. Young people need to know we see them as co-contributors in the process that they are an integral part of.
We absolutely have to listen to our students and it will take a lot to convince me that school isn’t still designed for adults. However, I’ll be more hopeful if the next educational conference I attend has students as our co-presenters and co-participants.