July 31, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

This week I was honoured to be invited as a panellist at the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL Vic) ‘Future Possibilities Forum’, with educational thought leader, Adriano di Prato, Director of Digital Learning, Lauren Sayer and Principal, Nathan Chisholm.

We all spoke on different aspects of future possibilities around education as we progress out of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a Q&A session as a webinar. I was invited to speak about the most valuable resource that we have in schools – our staff.  My topic was to talk about future possibilities from a lens of school leadership that empowers and operates from a deep position of trust and permission, tapping into the talent from within. I would like to share with you some of my insights.

As an educator, I have always believed that we are educating young people for their future. Through a lens of the development of the whole person, teachers must have a deep understanding of subject disciplines and ways of teaching (pedagogies), key principles of pastoral care and wellbeing, and an understanding of the landscape ahead.  For example, as we educate our Foundation students today, we also think about the world in which they will be graduating from school in the 2030s.

As an educational leader, I believe that it is my responsibility to ensure that our staff (both teachers and professional services staff) have every opportunity for growth and development too, by allowing them to imagine, design, co-create and lead innovation in education. When I interview new staff, one of the questions that I ask them is “what do you need to be the best that you can be professionally?”  Their answers are usually around things that they value such as:

> Being part of a supportive team

> Feeling safe to contribute ideas and try new things

> Having someone to go to for help

> Working in an environment where they feel trusted

The importance of collegiality, support, kindness, permission, courage and trust also resonates very strongly with me. I would also add enjoyment – enjoying working with others and bringing joy into the workplace.

COVID-19 tipped everything upside down, and it did it really fast. It tested us to see if we really did ‘walk the talk’, highlighted our strengths and exposed our weaknesses. At CGGS our response showed our strength, agility and ability to innovate. Not everything has been perfect (it never is), but we have been intentional and responsive in the design and delivery of our programs and work. The key factors in our success have undoubtedly been our staff and the culture of our school.

At CGGS the staff are well practised at working in teams – where they demonstrate respect for their colleagues, understand the importance of relevance and rigour in education, and are given permission to have courage to innovate by their Principal. This is greatly enhanced by a culture that is based on valuing the individual, inclusion, integrity and continuous improvement. Our big ideas don’t come from one person or just the leadership team (including me), but from diverse groups of staff who practise co-designing solutions.

As Principal, I believe it is important to role model expectations and ways of working. I believe very strongly in

> the importance of knowing and respecting each individual

> valuing collaborative work

> seeking honest and reliable feedback and sharing it to improve practice

> being purposeful in all that we design and implement, not allowing a fear of making mistakes to deter us from improving educational outcomes

> laughing with colleagues, getting to know them and showing them that I care for them and their professional development

If I do this with my staff, then it is highly likely that they will care for and nurture their students in such a way too.

It is a very challenging time for us all now. The concerns about health, work and education are more deeply felt than a few months ago. I hope that you all feel the support of the CGGS community and know that we are here to help where we can.

Even with these challenges we have a number of teams who, in addition to their daily work, are looking at the new initiatives we should retain beyond this remote mode, that improve practice. This is by exploring how we can design new possibilities, that continue to honour rigourous learning and wellbeing, citizenship and service, and ensure relevance in changing times.

In again borrowing the words of Vivien Greene, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”, we seek to strive for better education. Our world continues to change and by accepting and understanding this change we learn to dance differently, and in doing so, we focus more clearly on preparing our students for their future.

As I mentioned in last week’s editorial, we will continue to offer you the opportunity to give feedback on either learning at school or remote learning during these restrictions. Please click onto the button below to enter your feedback.

To end, I am excited to let you know that CGGS has joined a new social media platform, we are now on Instagram. We are thrilled to be able to show you an inside look on life at CGGS through this interactive platform. Please feel free to follow us on Instagram, our username is @camberwellgirls


With best wishes,

Debbie Dunwoody