In a successful school environment, every moment must be seen as a learning moment, every person as both a learner and a teacher, and every system component as valuable and integral. To ensure every moment, person and component contribute to collective growth, leaders must model an approach to life that is filled with curiosity, wonder and a smidgen of critique. In my ideal school, there would be a palpable passion for learning which is celebrated by all. Educators, students and parents would share the responsibility of providing every learner with equitable access to an enjoyable, engaging, safe and purposeful environment which helps them realize their full potential. Administrative decisions would revolve around relationships: always putting people first. Curriculum decisions would promote positive wellbeing, be driven by community values and reflect teacher professional knowledge. Student outcomes would transcend subject areas and connect to the real world, contributing to global questions and collective knowledge. The school’s culture would applaud risk-taking and encourage resilience leading to growth.
As an educator, it is my duty (and my joy) to make every learner feel confident, supported and valued. I must understand my students and colleagues so that I can match their drives, needs, and goals. I believe in the principles of full inclusion, differentiation, and adaptation, so I strive to provide programmes targeted to meet each student’s areas of challenge and strength. Furthermore, I believe that learners need opportunities to balance responsibilities with rights. My classroom embraces cooperative learning and develops collaborative skills and strategies. Learners gain self-belief and independence through effective contribution, self-determination, and choice.
It is important that learners are joint authors of their experiences and that they understand their role in the learning process. Students need to be given positive ways to exercise control over and responsibility for their environment. I have a particular interest in both teacher and student understanding of thinking processes and metacognition. Teachers have a vital role in modelling and articulating metacognitive strategies that lead to growth. A culture of thinking must go beyond curriculum and infiltrate all modes of school life. Teachers should feel safe to share their wonderings and discuss them with students as thinking partners.
I am a natural learner at heart, and I love to share my joy of inquiry with students and colleagues. All humans constantly learn, consciously and subconsciously, but thinking requires direction and reflection if it is to lead to positive growth. To ensure thinking leads to learning, students need opportunities to question, to develop self-awareness, and to be expressive, creative and analytical researchers of their own worlds.
As 21st century educators, we are privileged to teach and learn in a time of tremendous opportunity. The best schools leverage technological innovation and access to global networks. They also reflect upon the ‘tried and true’, drawing on evidence-based research and multiple forms of data to drive teaching performance and student achievement. Schools must learn from the masters of the past whilst leading innovation through future-focused thinking, delving simultaneously into active, ongoing research and the foundational historical philosophies it reflects with equal enthusiasm.