This week I was lucky enough to go to a Rural and Remote Conference in Bathurst (NSW)— strangely enough most of the state is classed as rural and or remote– the three big metro areas are Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong;
In rural areas teachers often feel isolated in regard to their teaching practices and only have their colleagues for feedback or criticism of the way we do things; Or it is only when we see the way other teachers do things, that you have a lightbulb moment and think, “I could do that, or I could use that idea, or why haven’t I thought of that way of doing something”. Not only did this conference have a host of workshops that sparked my interest, but just the mere meeting of rural teachers in the one spot from a very diverse range of locations is just pure gold.
A lot of people often criticise the cost of teachers going to professional development activities— the fact that I spent two days in a car driving to and from Bathurst, and two days at the conference puts a huge drain on my own schools budget– in the past I have paid for and taken leave to attend professional development activities that I have counted as important for my OWN development. This is only the second conference that I have attended in over fifteen years of teaching. It really helps when you have a supportive boss who is willing to take a chance and allow you to attend such events. Usually it is mainly executive staff who attend events like this, so again I felt doubly special to be able to attend such an event.
The conference was the first of its kind and overall I would say it was a great success and the organisers should be congratulated for their organisational skills; It was held on the legendary Mount Panorama in the Pit area, which is where all the press and corporate boxes are for the big race held in September (I think)– not being a huge fan of motor racing, but the race is iconic in Australia and everyone has heard of it not matter if you are a fan or not. When the races are not on the track is actually a normal road and anyone visiting Bathurst is always tempted to go for a lap just to say they have done it.
There were a couple of standouts for me during the conference;
1/ Two ladies from southern cross distance education presented a workshop on “engaging the disengaged”— it didn’t offer any magic bullets and it actually leads on from what I have been doing in the last couple of years; These ladies teach distance education to high school students all over the state, they send out packages that the students work through and they have contact with them over a video link; They have taken the Project based learning approach, where there is an over arching question and students work through sections and come up with a final model or item that along the path has enabled them to discover the content associated with over arching questions– it is a hands on approach that is favoured by boys especially and allows them to drive their own learning and pick out the direction that would like to take while. Considering that a lot of the students taking distance education have missed huge chunks of schooling these ladies are doing a brilliant job at attracting disengaged students. link to their presentation is here; https://goo.gl/ZNd3bb or their Powerpoint presentation is here;engaging the disengaged
Another comment they made was “Don’t confuse compliance with engagement” which I thought was a very astute for all educators.
twitter quote rnrc16– expectations of parents in rural and metro areas
2/ Dan Haesler is an absolute legend, I wasn’t sure at the start of his keynote speech what to make of him, but he is very engaging and has a lot of wisdom to share. He spoke a lot about mindset (Carol Dweck) which is the basis for a lot of research out of Stanford University in the USA. Dan spoke at length about FIXED or GROWTH mindset and how teachers comments or feedback could be causing the reluctance of learners to attempt or do better in certain tasks
Dan spoke about what students can achieve when praised the right way and how our comments can affect the way students see themselves. Like they can’t run a marathon… ……… YET ! they can’t fly a plane YET ! they can’t write a poem about shakespeare YET ! This is not only true for students, but also a lot of adults—- everyone gets to a certain point in their lives where they think…. I’ll never be able to …… fly a plane, run a marathon, become a guitar player etc etc……. the important part is YET ! Dan’s website has lots more info about the things he talks about… see link above
I’ll add more in the next update !! CM