I’ve made a change in my professional life. From next term, I will be the Assistant Principal in ICT & Admin at Woodville Gardens School here in Adelaide, moving on from my position as the Teaching and Learning Technologies Coordinator at Lockleys North Primary School. It’s an upward step and a significant change from what the last eight and a half years have been like. People who know me well know that I’m not an impulsive person and I usually err on the side of caution in most aspects of my life. So, many of my colleagues were surprised to find out that I had applied and won this particular job for the remainder of 2011. After all, Lockleys North is an excellent school with nice kids, parents committed to their children’s learning and many great programs. I’m not being a sycophant by pointing out that the school has one of the best principals going around and I’m not being a braggart in stating that I have been a fairly big influence in the school’s forward movement in the use of technology. But the time seemed right for a new challenge and this opportunity appealed to my restrained sense of ambition and sense of social justice. I’m a proud advocate for public education, and it will be good for me to put the expertise and experience that I have put under my belt to improve the outcomes for a population of students here in suburban Adelaide who in general don’t have life as easy as the kids I’ve been working with.
Back in 2003, I was given an opportunity as a green-behind-the-ears young classroom teacher to become the ICT Coordinator at LNPS. I had an abundance of enthusiasm, some ideas around how technology could make a difference to student learning and a whole lot to learn about being on the first rung of leadership. Being a coordinator in South Australian schools means still being responsible for a classroom as well as the leadership and management aspects of the wider role, and that is a much harder juggling role than being full time in the classroom. I also went from a school where I had access to a well equipped computer room whenever I wished, pursuing digital projects with my class without worrying too much about the whole school direction. I started off in my new role with one computer room with twenty computers and one solitary PC in the back of each classroom for a school of over 400 students. It was always going to be a long term job but I was not following in an incumbent’s footsteps and had the freedom to build up overall ICT focus of the school gradually. In 2005, we started introducing interactive whiteboards well before they became mainstream items in this state and in 2007, I got our wireless laptop program up and running. In 2008 – 2010, we were one of only four DECS schools involved in a lengthy Learning Technologies research project right before the State Government wound up that arm of the department. Late last year, I wrote the application that got our school into the 2011 Microsoft Innovative Schools program. Ironically, the final two Forums of that program are something that I am giving up to move to this new position!
So, I feel that I have achieved a lot in my time. I never did my job so well as to become redundant, but stretched between classroom commitments and other constraints, I feel that what I have contributed will continue and branch off in new ways without my input. I’ve mentioned some of the outstanding colleagues I have been lucky to work with – the rock stars who have embraced digital planning, real “just in time” use of technology and tasks that have pushed student learning into new places. These same colleagues encouraged me to apply for this new position when I wasn’t sure if I was the right person or if it was the right opportunity, and were the first to congratulate me when I got the news of my appointment.
So, why this new job? Well, Woodville Gardens is one of the sites dubbed as a “super school” by the South Australian media, formed by the amalgamation of three smaller schools. The school is brand new (well, six months old) and the notion of being part of building a new school culture is very appealing. The school is also a Category One with the greatest level of social disadvantage, so knowing that I will be working towards improving these students’ future means I have the potential to really make a difference. I also get to apply all of the experience and knowledge from my own time at Lockleys North into a new site and open myself up to new experiences to continually make myself into a better educator. The role also has more time built into working with staff, and influencing practice on a bigger scale is important too, especially if the mantra of “21st Century Learning” is to have any meaning at all. This new school is about re-defining the schooling experience for our less privileged students and it will be humbling and exciting to be in on the ground floor. I’ve seen how schools like Dallas Brooks Community, St Albans Meadows and Silverton (all in Melbourne) have become learning centres of excellence and hotbeds of exceptional practice – so I’m hoping that my new role can help lead out in a similar direction.
So, I’ve been lucky to be part of one of the best schools in this state. It’s time to see where this new opportunity goes. Wish me luck.