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What did you learn in school today?

Why don’t we value our teachers, tutors, educators, coaches, trainers and instructors more?

Sep 21, 2018

Words: Tim Leeson

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I wasn’t the biggest fan of school. Nothing permanently scarring happened. In fact, the vast majority of my time outside of the classroom was freakin’ awesome! Especially in primary school, where one summer we managed to spend some lunchtimes sitting up the back oval, eating the occasional carrot, dipping our feet in a nearby dam to cool off. It was a chest-swelling highlight of my young life then, and remains so now, even as the odd grey hair states its wiry claim to my head.

The situation that traditional schooling establishes, that you’re being fed information in a stale box by an authoritative figure, didn’t really jive with me. More often than not, they didn’t sell the value of this information. I wasn’t convinced I needed it, so why would I spend so much of my energy trying to remember it? Worse still, we received the information in silos (as described in Mim Cook’s feature) that, at best, didn’t integrate with other subjects or more frustratingly, the world around us.

I wanted to leave school at 16. If society seemingly perceives ‘success’ as owning fancy cars and super-sized homes, spending more time memorising regurgitated information to scratch pencil onto a multiple-choice test (so it can be graded by a computer, no less) isn’t the pathway to that goal.

Yet, ironically, many years since graduating from high school, I’m still enrolling to study further.

This edition of Gippslandia hasn’t been created to address my hang-ups with education. Far out, we’ll spare you from that! The forming of this instalment really demonstrated how passionate so many Gippslandians are about education — the stories came in thick and fast. It felt that at least some of this passion was driven by pride: Gippsland has educational resources that our community is proud of, and they should be celebrated. We have providers such as Buchan Bush Kindergarten, the VRI, Noweyung and our libraries, as well as great primary and secondary schools, community college, TAFE campuses and a university.

Armed with these stories, I hope that this issue of Gippslandia challenges some of your preconceptions on education.

Our first pertinent question was posed by Mary Featherston, a renowned designer of education spaces, who challenged us, “Where were you when you had your best learning experiences?”.

If not the classroom, then given the pervasiveness of technology today, surely the digital realm would be the medium facilitating better learning experiences? Informed that Associate Professor Nicola F. Johnson had recently co-authored Everyday Schooling in the Digital Age: High School, High Tech?, we headed to Federation University, Churchill, to learn more.

Nicola suggested that technology has failed to revolutionise education, but that it can enhance teaching if championed by a passionate teacher who understands tech themselves. Instead of teaching being dependent on technology, teaching is about relationships and interactions between humans.

Seems obvious when you read it, right? At its essence, education is the communication of an idea or skill from someone that possesses that knowledge to a person who is yet to possess it (or realise that they already possess it). It’s people that are key to education.

Returning to Mary’s question, I’m sure that if you think of your best learning experience, the person who was present, teaching you, vibrantly appears in your memory too.

So why don’t we value our teachers, tutors, educators, coaches, trainers and instructors more?

I was reluctant to reach this conclusion ‘cause my Dad’s a teacher. In my life he’s taught in TAFE and public and private high schools, tutored, co-written a textbook, lectured at university and educated overseas. I think he’s a bloody champ and I’ve heard staffroom stories my whole life, so I’m really conscious of any bias that may have given me. But, as I mentioned, I didn’t much care for school, until I was given more agency in my own learning.

We need to provide our people in educational roles with the resources, facilities, equipment, spaces and community support they need so they can best educate others. We Gippslandians are already pretty chuffed about the education we have in our region, but we also have ideas on how we can improve it.
For me, gains will come if we give all our fine educators the kudos and support they deserve. That’s why we asked you on the Gippslandia Facebook account to tell us the teachers that had a positive influence on you. Thank you for contributing, their names are displayed across this page as our small gesture of gratitude.

To all of Gippsland’s sterling educators— this one’s for you.

Inspirational teachers to high-five: Anna Panayiotou, Rosemary Knox, Paul Crutchley, Angelica Pahina, Megan Francess, Brittany Lee, Prathu Khairnar, Lynn Tu, Sarah Cookopoulos, Lisa French, Ed Trumino, Hardy, Jerry Lonagan, Steve Klemke, Liz Hall, Della Jones, Steve Jones, Kate McCulley Watson, Matthew Henry, Mrs Jennings, Brigitte Williams, Lindel Lay, Jenny Smethurst, Rachel Lyon, Madison Judy Kivisalu, Helen Thomaisdis, Josephine Wade, Corissa Rieschick, Mr Ryan, Les Ponton, Mr Black, Ms Boyd, Gerard English, Tony Calabro, Annie VanBerlo, Prue Vermay, John Snell, Elke Frank, Claire Roberts, Chris Anders, Jacqui Mules, David Mules, Clayton Cupples, Lyn McDonald, John Bickerdike, Sheryl Tangi, Sharon O’Donnell, Mr Christensen, Michael Eastham, Kylie Andrews, Jenny Micallef, Cleo Aristotelous, Mr Portman, Mr Tait, Kirsten Enders, Holly Campbell, Eri Shinagawa, Hamed Sabawi, Ms C Marrazzato and Maggie Morrison

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