My time in LA has come to a close and now I’m off to Harvard for the main reason for this trip – that is to undertake the Leadership: An Evolving Vision Course.
As I leave LA, competing thoughts come to my mind. The lavish lifestyles of the so called ‘fame’ is quite obvious in a town like Hollywood. Most of the actors live on Mullholland Drive in the surrounding mountains with a few still hanging around. Beverly Hills. The expensive mansions with landscaped gardens and gated communities means that many of those actors are living in surreal environments. Other places like Disneyland, Universal Studios and Warners Bros Studios often create a world that we like to live in, where happy endings and fun times are often the norm in the various motion picture or sitcoms genres.
At the other end of town, I saw a vast array of homelessness in Hollywood (not sure about other areas of LA) with people begging and sleeping on the streets each night, rummaging through the bins by day and trying to do start ups anyway they can. It was sad to see children in this predicament with their mothers or father begging on the street in the morning and at the same place late at night. It’s the later that drives any educator in the importance of education in alleviating the potential of poverty for our young students in our classroom each day. Until you truly experience poverty or see the effects on a daily basis, you never really quite understand what people go through each day and night.
To raise the plight of homelessness, I was recently delighted to hear that DEC Secretary Dr Michele Bruniges participating in the Vinnies CEO sleep out. This is a worthwhile fundraising activity that we should all support. In 2015, I am hopeful that we could do a local sleep out with some of the MEPS staff.
Returning back to what I saw, the dual societyin LA is something I don’t want to emulate for our Australian society. It is important that our Federal Government, regardless of parties, support the 5th and 6 year of Gonski and ensure that those that are most vulnerable are given opportunity to succeed in life. I don’t want to look back in 10 years time and see the increase in homelessness on our street or the increase in mental health issues associated from poverty.
As I leave LA, the importance of providing a relevant, stimulating and personalised education for our students is more important to me than ever. Yesterday, I had the good fortune to finish my LA stint of my travels with a tour of Universal Studios. My tour guide named Blair (and she nows that I was going to write about her) had the most remarkable knowledge about films and sitcoms, and she was barely in her early 20’s. She could tell where various scenes in movies or television shows were set and name the actors. At the end of the tour, I asked her about her schooling and where she built up her interests and knowledge. I received the reply that none of it came from school but rather a passion and interests in the film industry. She indicated that as a young child, she spent all her time watching movies and learning about the different actors and their lives.
The lesson here is that sometimes we can easily create a mismatch in what we teach and what students want to learn – maybe this is the first sign of disengagement for students. Instead, we need to be more relevant for those that are having the most difficulties engaging in school by tailoring the curriculum in a more personalised and relevant manner by taking into account the interests and passions. I know this is not easy to do but I’m seeing on social media twitter that many of my colleagues are doing that each day now.
There is a sense of urgency in education to make a substantial change. Rather than wait, we need to have a real ‘crack’ at making change that takes into account how students learn with the proliferation of technology use, where students learn, and how we go about teaching presently and into the future. Without the fundamental changes, we may end up with more disengage students and ultimately more homelessness.
Over the next week, my excitement is building as I move closer to Harvard and my course. The Harvard Club Australia, Teachers Mutual Bank and the Public Education Forum are giving me the chance to see a global world and now the urgency is more evident as I can see the sadness in the alternative.
(Note: this blog was written at 4am in the morning at NYC Penn St Station after doing an all nighter.)