local educators share their thoughts. The look of bemusement on my 16-year-old daughter’s face, when she discovered I had to scour the university library to find a book for an assignment rather than a do quick Google search for the information, was priceless. It’s hard to believe so much has changed in just one generation. But apart from the obvious advances in technology, education has come a long way in the past 20 years. These days, students benefit from a much more holistic approach to education, where emotional intelligence, pastoral care and mentorship are just as important as math and English. I recently caught up with a group of high profile educators and business owners who shared how teaching has evolved since their school days and some of the lessons they wish they had learnt. Joining me for a delicious lunch at Kiki Bar and Eatery Maroochydore was Dr Bronwyn Dolling, principal at Pacific Lutheran College; Dr Dirk Wellham, principal at Caloundra City Private School; Bill Hooper, head of curriculum at Matthew Flinders Anglican College; Adam King, P-12 instructional designer at Suncoast Christian College; Jane Petersen, associate centre director of community services, health and sport at Tafe Queensland; Jack Childs, founder of Think Investment Realty and Jimmi Bradbury, executive business coach and consultant.
Profile: What do you wish you had learnt at school?Lee: I was really lucky. I went to a small school of 50 with just two teachers. I was there for my whole primary schooling. The headmaster and his wife and kids were our best friends, the kids’ fathers mowed the lawns for sports and my dad was the swimming coach. I suppose it was an era of kids being seen and not heard – that is how much we have evolved, forget about the technology. All our needs were met, we ran around with no shoes, we had dangerous things like monkey bars. Teaching was about teaching, whereas it is about pastoral care too now, which I think is necessary. It would have been nice to do some work on ourselves in high school. We were very naive when we left Grade 12, now graduates hit the ground running. Bill: I guess I didn’t have the privilege that Lee had. I was educated in Gladstone in the ‘70s and ‘80s. A town like that, at that time, had zero diversity. The world felt like it was 20 kilometres across. Then when you turn up to university in Brisbane, it’s such a ‘Wow’ experience. One of the awesome things about kids these days is that technology connects them. They don’t really have any boundaries. We have students in Chile and Borneo and I took a group to Denmark to see how other cultures operate. Our big focuses at the school are collaboration, seek difference, work with people unlike you. The big difference is pedagogy. Back in my day, we were in rows and the teacher was the boss, there were no challenging opinions or diversity. Dirk: My wife and I both have the same view. We went to state schools in Sydney. What we both felt was that we didn’t have the pastoral care, support and career ideas that students of today have access to. We could see what uni courses were available but we didn’t know necessarily what they meant. There was no one who provided advice or a range of options. We were both very able people and we went into teaching because we knew it. Our kids are in the professions in a totally different world. I think mentorship and the relationship aspect of our schools is so important and so different to when we left school. [caption id="attachment_16924" align="alignnone" width="870"] Pork belly and apple coleslaw[/caption] Jimmi: I went to boarding school in Kildare, Ireland when I was very young and loved every minute of it. Two things I wish I had learnt. One is the importance of a strong mindset. It’s important in those dark days to be able to switch to a growth mindset and find purpose in what you do that can carry you through. For the kids today in that challenging space, where technology is so great but it’s so destructive, they need that kind of awareness more than ever. Strong emotional intelligence is so important, it’s one of the things school didn’t teach me but I hope schools teach today. The other thing I wish I had been told was to get a mentor and coach when I came out of school. If you want to be successful you need to be coached to do that, you need somebody to show you the way. I have two. We have a music academy and a sports academy, why don’t we have an entrepreneurial academy? These kids need to learn how to problem solve. We don’t need information anymore. It’s right there at our fingertips. What we need is knowledge and being able to use creative skills to solve people’s problems. We all have the same information but we need to know how to use it. Jack: I had some really good teachers who brought out the best in me, but I had a few teachers in the early stages who were not as mentally stable as you would like. They had just come back from WW2. We were taught to get out of school as quickly as you could and get a job. Halfway through junior, I was in the workforce. Unless you were going to university that’s the way everyone thought. In fact, you could leave in Grade 8 and a lot of my friends did. They were 12 and 13 years old and getting a job. I have learnt a lot over the years but one of the biggest things they could have taught me was looking after myself and setting goals. I left school and I had a job but I really didn’t have a clue with what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. If I’m honest, I was in my 20s or early 30s before I really started to form any direction. Jane: I was lucky enough to grow up in a very progressive household. I had the blessing of a visionary father who was Danish and a Polish mother. From the get-go I was taught to be a global citizen. To me, education is about teaching resilience, it’s engaging a sense of curiosity in the person so they want to learn. If we don’t understand how we sit in the world, we don’t understand the bigger picture. I wasn’t taught that when I was at school and I was at odds with it and left at 14. I was 23 when I went to TAFE and it was life changing. [caption id="attachment_16921" align="alignnone" width="870"] Beetroot carpaccio, fetta, fennel and grapefruit[/caption] Bronwyn: I was also fortunate to grow up in a small country town, it was a very connected community. It was a school where we had the opportunity to direct our own learning in Grade 8 and 9. I then went to boarding school in Adelaide, where there were similar opportunities to take responsibility for your learning. Through my home and school environment, the great gift I was given was the confidence and skills to be able to do that, which was a great blessing. The great things kids are involved in now is really developing a deep understanding of who they are socially and emotionally and how they connect with other people. In my school days that was very much part of what you learnt at home and at church. The opportunity we now have in faith-based schools is to bring those new understandings of how we tick as people and how we relate as people and integrate that with our Lutheran theology. That blending is something we didn’t have in the home or school context. There is strong pastoral care and a lot of energy in growing kids in that area. Adam: I came from a small country town. There was me and one other boy in Grade 9 and 10 but we were given really good opportunities. Then I went to Dubbo Christian School and there were 30 students in my year, which seemed huge! If I look back there is nothing I would change. I had some exceptional teachers. As a result of that, I saw a career in education as the way to go. There is an old saying that goes, ‘We introduce students to things they love but don’t know yet’, as teachers that is what we have to do. These days, teachers are empowered to let kids become experts. There are some students in senior with amazing levels of expertise. We are running a drone program at the moment and we have a boy in Grade 11 who flies them for a job. So the head of innovation and enterprise at our college met up with him to tap into his expertise, to find out their full potential. This is just one example of how education has changed. I did a teaching degree and then went on to do my masters. I think it gives a message to students that we are not stagnant, we are interested and still learning. I want to do my doctorate at some stage. I would like to look at how God can influence our teaching practice and compare Christian and non-Christian schools.
[caption id="attachment_16923" align="alignnone" width="870"] Kym-Sarah and Aaron Ruttan[/caption]