Books I’m Reading

I used to read one book at a time and when finished start another one. Nowdays I can have a number on the go at one time and not even finish some of them if I lose interest.

I am also in a men’s bookclub which will have me reading all manner of books.

My reading list at the moment includes:

Over the last few months I have been very interested in reading autobiographies, biographies and memoirs. Especially in relation to what the person’s childhood was like and how this moulded who they become. In particular I noted their experiences in school.

For example the esteemed TV Interviewer with his own show, Michael Parkinson, made this comment about his time at school… “When I returned from the first day of formal education and was asked what I thought, I replied, ‘It was alright but I don’t think I will bother any more’…’I can believe my assessment of school was to prove both sensible and perceptive’…he ended up leaving school at 16.

Our one size fits all factory model of schooling with its cells and bells approach didn’t suit Parky. Let’s provide a wider range of learning models that can accommodate the kids our current schools spit out…those that won’t or can’t conform.


Student initiative a delight

The last couple of weeks has been wonderful with this new class. Each day I have a simple plan and structure that involves:

* Advisory – whole group together with discussion and reflection on what we have done or going to do and maybe teaching on a certain area that the whole group needs
* Pick me up – fun activity with the whole group
* Challenge – activity that involves problem solving, team work, initiative or perseverance etc
* A few timetabled lessons for whole group on specific areas
* Then the rest of the day is individual or group project work

After this time the students usually work on their own individual or group project and are responsible for how they manage their own time. I usually allow them the opportunity to come up with their own ideas and initiatives and it is great to see this happen.

All these kids had been fed up with mainstream school and the cells and bells approach that forced them to toe the line and march to the beat of the drum. This was not working for these kids.

Give them some freedom to do what they like or feel like doing at the time while respecting others gives opportunity for learning and work to flow freely. As a teacher (director) of the students to now become their advisor is taking time and starting to bear fruit. I need to learn to trust my students to find what they like doing and learning about. Not to worry about times things get messy or noisy or disruptive. As I hang in there and not to worry too much the kids usually come through.

This year they have shown interest and initiative to do the following:

  • Sean wants to do a mural
  • Aaron doing his L Plates tests online (see photo above)
  • Britt wants to plan a St Paddy’s Day and trip to the Queensland theme parks
  • Bonnie wants to do a Scrapbooking Book of the class photos and activities
  • The group wants to go yabbying and cook them up for lunch
  • Brad wants to learn Linux and programming
  • They want to use the Big Red Bus to go on a couple fo road trips
  • Bonnie is writing a book with a couple of the lads to illustrate
  • The group is setting up their own outdoor area near the Big Red Bus
  • And much more…

What a joy it is to be with kids who show initiative and want to learn not because they are told to but because they want to. Gone are the days when I have to spend most of my day managing behaviour and having one or two students who don’t want to be there wreck it for the rest.

The class wreckers need a learning venue where they can learn to learn, doing what they enjoy.

Day 2: Down on the farm

Our second day involved a 45min drive to Benalla to go to Edspace‘s campus at the CAL Farm.

A wonderfully equipped portable classroom at a community facility on 40+acres (I think) which also has a shed for woodturners, bike shed, arts/woodwork shed, hot house for horticulture and a dam we hope to use to go yabbying.

This was another orientation day to have a look around and meet some more Edspace staff. Students had an opportunity to explore the iMacs and check out the shops in the main drag.

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Day 1 – Cutting Edge Orientation

Our first day was an orientation at the Uniting Care Cutting Edge building in Maude St Shepparton. We had 5 out of the 6 students arrive, who were in my Big Picture PreCal class last year.
We used the lounge room for our Advisory session which involve a welcome and overview of how this year was going to work. The kids weren’t too talkative. Some of the Cutting Edge staff joined us, gave their own introduction and then we were given a look around the whole facility.
It looks very promising as there was a hall with a stage, music room, large kitchen, cosy meeting room with carpet and couches and a building turned into a large workshop with heaps of tools.
After our advisory session we then worked in the Big Red Bus which is decked out with 14 seats, tables, fridge, microwave and computer connections. We hope to get some laptops and internet access in a couple of weeks.

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Big Picture continues in Shepparton

I had been yearning for this day for the past 3 years after I found the Big Picture approach to learning at a workshop in Tasmania.

I knew from that day that this was the philosophy to learning that I would embrace and my hope was to one day lead a Big Picture initiative in Shepparton.

My opportunity to use Big Picture principles in a new initiative kicked off today with a new (old) class of students with humble beginnings but big aspirations.

My class is being auspiced by a small independent specialist school in Benalla (55km away), called Edspace,  to enable us to offer a flexible learning approach for disengaged teenagers. A great fit my program which is for students (about 15-16) disengaged from mainstream schooling.


The first class is made up of students I taught last year who wanted to continue with me using the BP approach. It will be a small class of 6-7 students so we can best manage travel, learning spaces, equipment and costs. Further classes may be added after 3 months if there is a need and a way to accomodate.

Each place/space will allow us to offer a wider variety of opportunities for each student and and will suit our approach which is personalised and based on student interests/passion.

This year’s first class of students and their interests/passion:
Aaron – plumbing, cricket and xBox
Sean – bicycles and sports (hockey, cricket)
Brittany – panelbeating, drug/alcohol counselling and event management
Thaniel – farming and sound/lighting for events
Brad – xBox, gaming and card tricks
Bonnie – photography and childcare
Daryl – cars, UFC martial arts and gaming

The students’ interests/passion drives their desire to learn and is the best way to foster engagement.

I am very excited about the year ahead and really appreciative of the support we have from Edspace and Cutting Edge Youth Services to make the Shepparton program a reality.

Passion driven learning

Further confirmation that a student’s passion will fuel his/her learning so let’s get away from a curriculum driven approach and one size fits all.

This wonderful post is from @pammoran. Here are a couple of comments that stood out to me.

“If I could gift every school with the opportunity to dream big, I would start with restoration of passion.”

“When teachers create, adopt, and adapt their work, they function similarly to artists. They share and learn from each other. Like artists, they fuel themselves with their own passion and, in doing so, create a contagion of creativity (borrowed from @irasocol) that fuels learning passion among the young people they serve. They’re not cookie-cutter teachers and they look for every opportunity to design away from cookie cutter learning work.  It’s routine for their children to ask questions, pursue interests, wonder and search, make meaning, create original responses, and amplify knowledge into deep understanding and growth as a learner. Together, educators and young people alike dream learning that’s writ large through passion, not writ small through standardization.” @pammoran