Aspire Day – my first face to face in 2 years

Back to school

This week I nervously fronted up for my first face to face experience in over two years. It was a session with approximately 100 Year 11 students who were taking part in what the school called Aspire Day. My task was to inspire them into thinking about where they want to be and what steps they might take to get there. Students have been in lockdown for the best part of two years, dealing with issues at home, with their own sense of wellbeing while also trying to keep up their education via online learning. That meant no practical classes as such, no experiments, except perhaps watching you tube videos, no physical education classes, no team sports and definitely very little time spent in person with their mates or other family members aside from those they live with.

So too did teachers.

Since returning to onsite learning this year, many schools have continued and even bolstered activities to do with wellbeing for both students and teachers. Aspire day at this particular school was one such way to bring students and their homeroom teachers together to celebrate, reflect and plan for the future. 


While I was nervous for the first few minutes, once I got into it, well, it’s like riding a bike as they say. I so enjoyed being with the students, moving around the auditorium (at a distance of course). It almost felt a little unreal. So many faces looking at you directly, at least for the most part. At times some of them would close their eyes, flop down into their chair, become distracted around their mates, but hey, so would I after so long in front of a screen. It didn’t bother me as I had most of them in my sights, lots of nodding and smiling and recognition amongst the 100 strong crowd. Some even giggled at my jokes every now and then and raised their hands to respond to questions I asked. And, just because their eyes were resting, didn’t necessarily mean they were not listening. I’m an optimist after all. Plus, I asked them how they were feeling and they did say they were tired. All good.


Year 11 responses

I also asked them where they see themselves in five years’ time. This is a tough question for many of us, let alone a bunch of very tired 16-17 year olds. Still, it was interesting to read their responses. Among one or two, ‘no idea’ responses we did see some very positive forward thinking: ‘successful’ (whatever that means), ‘builder’, ‘owning my own business’, ‘university’, ‘business marketing’, ‘having a full time job’, ‘rich’ to list a few. My favourite was ‘in New York’! Along with these, there were also a few concerning responses. Not surprising but worth following up by their teachers. I won’t share these here.

That said, I was reassured that after what we have all been through, and will continue to experience, our students are a shining light. They have dreams and hopes. We never gave up on them and all that hard work trying to keep them on track has and will continue to pay off. After all that’s why we teach, yes?

I so enjoyed the session and am looking forward to many more opportunities to visit schools and work with both staff and students. 

Thanks for reading 🙂

A process of becoming…

Last Friday I attended the MERC conference at Monash University. This was a day to celebrate research to share ‘insights thoughts and practices’. The week leading up to the day I spent tossing up whether to attend at all – could I afford the time? Did I want to spend the day listening to how successful others have been in their journey? Did I want to hear again that a PhD is a rewarding and wonderful learning experience? But then the day came and I felt excited to go, so I went.

I’m glad I did.

The MERC team did a great job of organising the conference. I learned a lot. I met some great people and was able to chat to others I’d seen and heard speak in other forums.  I was even inspired.

The day began with the keynote speaker, Associate Professor Lucas Walsh; I used his message as my title for this blog. He spoke about how the process of becoming changes us and that we should enjoy it. Walsh described the journey using a theme park as metaphor.


The main aim of going to a theme park is to have fun. One has a plan for what to do while there; go on this ride, eat this food, play this game, and see that show. We encounter signposts that help lead us in different directions. We try new things and once the day is over we meet up with friends and family to share our adventures and plan the next. Have a plan; remain focused but open to new ideas, said Walsh.

The process of becoming…


This message remained with me all day as I moved from room to room to listen to the presentations by fellow PhD students. Each presenter had 30 mins or so to discuss their research and take questions. I heard from researchers of self-management interventions, spirituality, use of guided questions, teaching practicums, young men’s access to universities, task based language teaching (TBLT), mindfulness intervention, and the last, and most animated of the day for me, on arts based research.

In these sessions the process of becoming was very evident, not just for the presenters but for me personally.


The afternoon panel session featured stories from the field by five academics. I listened with interest as they spoke about their journeys and experiences in becoming… I heard that it’s okay to have doubts. I certainly have many in relation to my PhD journey to date. This was one of the reasons I attended the conference – to see if I was on the right track. I wanted to be able to analyse if what I am doing has purpose. Is what I’m doing important enough to spend such time and effort? I was happy to share my ideas about the research and received some positive feedback. But still there are doubts. Am I good enough and determined enough to pull it off? I’m not one to give up, as many who know me will attest, but I find myself grappling with these thoughts every day.

There was lots of talk about life balance at the conference and at this moment I’m not sure mine is balanced.

Am I spending enough time on my PhD?

Am I giving my consultancy work enough attention?

Am I putting enough into my current leadership position in school?

Am I giving enough to my family and friends?

Do I have enough time for me?

Am I trying to do too much? (Don’t answer that – I know what you’re going to say!)


Can this be measured?

My favourite quote from the conference came from Dr Marc Pruyn who said,

“Do what you want to do, on purpose.”

I think I’ll do exactly that. It is the purpose of becoming…

recite-1m74d0Thanks for reading 🙂


Family home grown learning: waffles, cricket, scattergories & long walks on the beach.


You know when three days go by so quickly

And you think, “Oh dear, where did the time go?”

You spent the whole time feeling happy and free and without stress

And when you think about it

You actually did so many different things that you felt empowered as a human being.

And you did it with nature and other human beings, not wifi! Of course there is a time and place for wifi but it doesn’t have to run your life all of the time.

Our long weekend consisted, amongst other things of

Family home grown learning: waffles, cricket, scattergories & long walks on the beach.

It was wonderful to see and hear our children, two families, five kids ranging in age from 10-22, play games, not of the electronic variety, but ‘real’ games where there was much interaction and conversation, and laughter and fun!

Yes, lots of fun, in fact at times they would not even bother to pack up the games at meal times, content to just keep playing as they chewed through their homemade pizza and sausages.

And when they weren’t playing ‘real’ games they were outside painting their nails, sitting and lying on towels in the backyard, talking and giggling their time away (even Master Ten was willing to have his nails done). And don’t think it was frivolous talk. In fact they were discussing novels they had read and comparing them to the corresponding films!


Then came the cricket games, not your conventional type but just bowling and batting and fielding and catching, one would call it, the freelance variety, that took place anywhere and everywhere, where skill didn’t matter, it was all about the fun!


Long walks to the beach and then along it up and down, feet wading in the ocean, or almost gliding across the water logged sand dodging the tide as it came chasing you, threatening to ruin your brand new nikes but secretly not really caring ’cause, “Hey, who cares when you’re having this much fun!”


Then there was the making of rudimentary dams near the water’s edge, digging out the heavy wet sand with your cricket bat and watching the water roll on in and promptly glide away.


Saturday morning began with a list of adventures. Not like climbing Mt Everest but just the casual list of things we wanted to do on a lazy day near the beach.

First we picked strawberries, laughing and discussing our finds, “Mum, mum, take a photo of this! I found the perfect strawberry!”


Next on the list was the wine for our picnic lunch.

Yes, we actually stopped off at a winery, tasted the wines before choosing a lovely Juliet Pinot Noir to go with our luncheon.


Third adventure: A-Mazing!

Personally, I don’t really like mazes but with the promise of a lolly I couldn’t disappoint Master Ten, so I tried the first one – but after that no more – they went ahead…and emerged triumphant!


Me? I used the hedge gate and found myself in beautiful tranquil gardens.


And then it was picnic time, mind you very late in the day by now. Couldn’t get it out fast enough.

We were starving!!

And what did they do after that? They played another ‘real’ game of course- this time it was cards!


Sunday morning found us making waffles – well one person made them – we just ate them – with the strawberries we picked ourselves, ice-cream and real maple syrup!


This was  followed by more long walks on the beach, cricket, and playing ‘real’ games!

What did we learn from this adventurous long weekend?

Personally I found it very satisfying to see our children, no matter what age conversing and collaborating, holding discussions that were more that just idle gossip. They didn’t spend their time posing for ‘selfies’ to post on social media sites. Instead they played together, they built ginger bread houses, they helped each other, they cleaned up their mess and they took time out to be silent and read. They didn’t complain about being bored, they just moved from one activity to another continually checking to see that all were okay with the decision.

We discussed books, travel, memories, experiences, and even their hopes and dreams for the future. I caught them collaborating when playing their games and guiding the youngest so he did not feel neglected. Every activity was inclusive and negotiated. They all had an opportunity to contribute and simultaneously feel empowered to make decisions and display leadership…seems odd but I tell you it was all there.

Young and old it didn’t really matter.

These are real life skills. This is how the real world works, developing relationships, collaborating, empowering, using our talents to make the world a better place for our being there.


There was no wifi … AND … we didn’t miss it!

Sunday night…Now, where’s my laptop quick, #aussieED chat starting NOW.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Decisions, decisions – subject selection time!

As Year 10 students begin the process of choosing their subjects for Year 11 and 12, I thought it might be prudent to list here some tips and ideas for making these decisions.

1. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do after secondary school. The best advice I can give you is to leave your options open by choosing a variety of subjects – at least as much variety as 5 or 6 subjects can offer.

2. Choose subjects that interest you, not those that are marked up. You will not achieve as high a result in the latter if you do not enjoy them. They will be a burden to you.

3. Ensure you have checked any prerequisites for courses you are interested in studying after Year 12. Universities will not accept you if you do not meet these prerequisites no matter your ATAR score.

4. If you are studying a language and enjoy it, don’t give it up yet! You’ve come so far – why not take it all the way?

5. Do not think you can study more that 3 folio based subject areas – there are not enough hours in the day!

6. Make sure you ask lots of questions of many people including your teachers, the careers advisor, your parents (yes we know a few things too!) and other students, – especially those studying the subjects that interest you.

7. Attend university open days and ask more questions.

8. Don’t dismiss the VET options, these might be just what you need.

9. Doing VCAL doesn’t actually mean you cannot go to uni – it’s just another way round after you complete their requirements which will include TAFE options.

10. (a) Remember that your final ATAR score is not the ‘be all and end all’. In fact it is only relevant for a very short period of time – that is until you get your first offer – after’s up to you.

(b) Remember also that your choices are not final at this point. You can change your mind, in fact you have until February next year before they need to be finalised without penalty.

I wish you all the very best, remember we are all here to help you. I encourage you to ask plenty of questions so as to make informed choices.

Got a question now? Ask it in the reply box below.