Get Out, Visit and Learn

My time in the US is coming to a close after a few days in San Diego. I arrived last Sunday from a beautiful rail trip from Los Angeles that eventually hugged the west coast beaches and reminded me that home was only across the ocean. San Diego is close to the Mexican border with a massive convention centre along the harbour shoreline that hosted the world biggest comic convention (130K people flooding into the city over the past four days.) Thankfully, they the city was a lot more settled after the event.

In contrast, today, I took a cheeky trip down to San Ysidro and crossed the border in 2 minutes through turnstyle into Tijuana, Mexico. It was different to do on this trip and something that I contemplated overnight. I didn’t stay too long in the city as I felt uneasy about the number of police walking around with semi-automatic guns on the streets and seeing lots of people hanging around streets seemingly doing nothing but staring at you and making awkward propositions (need I say more). There wasn’t much at Tijuana that really inspired me so I eventually recrossed the border after queuing for 1 1/2hours in the sun.

One of the lovely aspects of travelling is meeting people. Prior ot my trip to Tijuana, I caught up with Shelley Burgess, the wife and treasure of Dave Burgess over the world’s biggest breakfast. We all know Dave as the author of Teach Like a Pirate. Shelley is a wonderful educators in her own right and had a lot to share about the District that she worked as an Assistant District Superintendent. I also caught up with local tour guide extraordinaire and educator Amy Illingsworth at the same breakfast meeting and exchanged some local insights about the changes in education.

Dave was interstate this morning but my school executives had organised for him to Skype during our last School Development Day for a session, unbeknown to me. It was a wonderful example of how technology could be used for professional learning on a global scale. I thank Dave for taking the time to be part of it.

During my trip, I have ticked off so many items on my bucket list and people have started asking me about my highlights. I would say that studying at Harvard and learning from great minds cannot be described easily in words and the primary reason for the trip. The challenge they presented through their artful and often majestic presentations lead to self reflections about my own leadership and the potential of what’s to come in a constantly changing global education paradigm.

Another key highlight has been the opportunity of meeting face to face people on twitter and sharing stories and laughs but also discussing local and global education issues. I have learnt so much from the people that I’ve met and have admired their resilience and drive for their students. Globally, educators are collaborative by nature and want to share practices with one another to ensure that every students can achieve their potential and life’s ambition.

Sometimes we can be too insular in our schools and not know what our colleagues are doing down the road or in the next suburb (district /county). Visiting educators and schools in all sectors has been a major strategy of our school professional learning over the past couple of years and often a lot less expensive when all the costs are calculated. We’ve been able to learn principles from each other and walked away with some driving questions to answer in our own context.  I note via social media that more and more educators are taking up the opportunity of making connections and visiting each other schools and even doing exchange staff programs. How exciting!

Over the past couple of years, MEPS staff have been fortunate to be in national programs that involved local and interstate travels. It’s through these programs that we’ve been able to visit schools and learn from other educators. At the same time, many of my staff have taken various types of leave to broaden their own general knowledge of the world by travelling overseas. It’s through all these rich lifelong experiences that we become better teachers and school leaders, understand global contexts and gain that experience that there are different processes for the attainment of school and personal goals.

As this is my final US blog post from my travels, I thank the Teachers Mutual Bank, Harvard Club Australia and the Public Education Foundation for their gracious support of my trip through the scholarship, and the Department of Education and Communities for my approval of my leave. It was quite generous and kind of them to do so and speaks immensely about their ongoing support for public education. I like to thank all the people that I’ve crowdsourced on twitter for your advice about places to visit. Without you, I would have been a lonely global traveller but you’ve made the trip such and enjoyable learning experience. Last of all, I need to thank my Assistant Principals and my staff for their distributive leadership in my absence.

In a final note before jumping on a plane back to Sydney, I need to warn my colleagues that I will be encouraging them to apply for the Public Education Scholarships early next year (and nominate their students now). We have so many amazing leaders in our Public Education system that we sometimes undersell ourselves. Each day, I see on twitter the amazing work of our educators and the diversity of programs that we offer for our students. Each day, I see the hopes and aspirations of our students being fulfilled due to the creativity of our teachers. It’s fitting then that my last post be written at the end of a fabulous week long celebration of NSW Public Education.