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School of Education - Occasional Speaker

Sunday, 22 January at 3.00pm

Mr Geoff Metcalf


Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, and guests of Edith Cowan University, families and friends of the graduands, and most importantly graduands.

Please accept my warmest congratulations to you, your families and to those who have helped you along the way towards achieving this success today.

Before I begin my address I too respectfully acknowledge the past and present traditional owners of this land on which we are meeting, the Nyoongar people. It is a privilege to be standing on Nyoongar country.

You know I was thinking about the role of an occasional speaker and – something in my varying roles in education over the past 30 years I have had to do a lot of. I don’t mind the occasional speaking bit, the role of public speaking is one which makes up a great part of the role of a teacher - public speaking is in fact a great fear for some but there is no room for that when you confidently address your class for the first time, or have an in depth discussion in the staffroom about duty areas and how much money you owe for morning tea.

It’s the occasional listening that gets me. I can see that in this esteemed audience that you are all wonderful and active listeners except for a couple of you over there who I really think should sit up straight, put your hands in your lap and stop fiddling with your mortar boards.

I also know that I sometimes do my own version of occasional listening and this can become an issue when you are supposed to be actively engaged in some high level discussions. Anyway I have my eye on you all and can pick an occasional listener from a long distance away.

As was stated in the most flattering introduction about me, I have been very fortunate to be engaged in an education system that challenges us to continually strive to do things better, use the resources around us and engage in research and partnerships to bring about improvements in learning for our students, in our own professional standing and for our communities.

My career has afforded my the most fulfilling opportunities to work in areas of education that have lead to cutting edge opportunity in classroom operations and in the administration of schools and the system.

My current role is that of principal of Roseworth Primary School, a 15 year love affair really with a school and community. This school is constantly reinventing itself to meet the needs of the community, with the most current exploits being that of the first intake of the Independent Public School reform, some very innovative work with Edith Cown University in research, literacy, the Residency Program, from which we have a number of granduands in the room today.

The school has developed some wonderfully supportive partnerships with the Fogarty Foundation, The Smith Family, and most recently with the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art. The school is an example of what can be achieved when embracing the capacity of the wider community to assist in making a real difference for the students and families in our care.

With the high tech Fogarty ECU professional Learning Centre located at the Roseworth the school is looking to the future with anticipation in what is possible with the use if IT in schools. There are so many exciting projects and programs being developed by schools and as beginning teachers, you will have the opportunity to be apart of this ongoing innovation.

There are three pretty basic questions that you can ask yourself when beginning as a teacher, the same questions that I pose to myself each year in the school or in any leadership position.  What do I see here? Why do I see what I am seeing? and What can I do about it?

Take the time to assess the situation without making judgments about why – get the facts first and then the analysis is meaningful. Too often we jump in with an answer before we have worked out what the issue or problem is.

Get to know your students, their families, their world and use good baseline information to plan your next steps. There is irrefutable evidence about the difference good teaching can make to the learning of students and combined with strong school leadership, a strong team can add such great value to student learning

I might take the opportunity now to apologise the those graduands who attended Roseworth last year – I was lifted from the school last year to the role of Acting Executive Director in the Office of early Childhood Development and Learning and in Central Office and I am well aware the that school fell apart as soon as I left – It’s really hard to get good help these days and quite frankly what they got up to in the school was a disgrace last year (the records might show that in fact the school ran far better without me but I will stick with my assessment!)

This opportunity through the Residency program to embed ECU students in the school throughout the year is one which has great benefits for the teaching profession and the work of ECU is developing and supporting this initiative is to be applauded.

The daily operations of a school need to be experienced and the highs and lows of classroom teaching become more real. Schools such as mine cater for children who bring a range of experiences to school and to be able to offer ECU pre-service teachers stronger in school experiences to support these children and their families in and beyond the classroom is invaluable.

As I look at the room full of eager graduands, I reflect on my roles in education which have included Central and Regional Office positions, 10 years in remote and rural schools, Oombulgurri in the Kimberley, foundation principal of Tjukurla Primary School in the Ngaanyatjarra lands, four years as the principal of Norseman District High School, and as a classroom teacher at Wembley Primary School.

Just as my experiences have been so rewarding, your future experiences in schools, nurturing your students, supporting families and that feeling of really making a difference should to be savored along the way. You will get out of teaching what you put into it – teaching is a privileged position and deserves your best always.

When I look back on some of these roles, I also think back to the Graduation Ceremony that I attended back in the early eighties at the Perth Concert Hall. I too was dressed in full regalia, unfortunately I had ridden my motorbike into the ceremony along with a mate of mine and we both had helmets that were not a part of the official dress code.

What we didn’t realize when we got into the concert hall was that after receiving our certificates, we did not return to our original seats so it took a bit of lateral thinking to retrieve our helmets from beneath the feet of some unsuspecting colleague. It was a great feeling however leaving the ceremony on the bike, gown flowing in the breeze and mortar board precariously atop the helmet.

This brings me of course to the various categories under which students graduate. I have been most impressed with the caliber of graduands to date and recognise the achievements of those who have gained Phds, Masters Degrees, Graduate Diplomas and Certificates and to the special award winners in the room.

I graduated with what was called a ‘wedgie’, which was the award given to those most likely to be wedgied off the property. I’m not sure if any of you here in the room tonight who will be joining me in this less than prestigious graduation category, but I think secretly you might all ready know that you have achieved this distinction.

I graduated from what used to be called Churchlands College of Advanced Entertainment, and I know that many of the Education faculty staff joined together to ensure that the wedgie that I was given on the way out was one to remember. Some of those staff are in the room at present and I offer you my apologies for this time as a student for being an occasional listener, an occasional contributor and on one of more occasions a disruption to the learning program.

I do have the list of names here actually who will be added to the Wedgie Honour Roll, your names have a ‘W’ next to them on the running sheet. As you will be aware there is a Graduation Toast function after this ceremony so watch out for Kerry Cox and Christine Ure during this function because should they approach you and place a hand on your should and reach for your jocks, then there is another honour coming your way.

The community perception of teaching and the value of education varies from community to community and regardless of school setting. The Director General of the Department of Education, Sharyn O’Neill with whom I had the great pleasure working closely with on Corporate Executive last year articulates clearly in her Classroom’s First strategy three key commitments - every student a successful student, every teacher an effective teacher, and every school a good school - and to this end there is a challenge for us all to ensure that we develop schools to meet these commitments.

I know I keen I was to impress and model these ideals when I took on my first leadership role when I opened Tjururla Primary school in the Ngaanyatjarra lands in 1989. My wife is an early childhood teacher (if you are going to marry a teacher, make sure that they are a better teacher that you, otherwise you have to teach them as well – it’s better to learn, I think) and so keen were we to get this school up, and running that we arrived in the community early.

This school is 1200kms from Kalgoorlie so with a personnel carrier, 180 litres of diesel, four spare tyres mounted on the roof, a two year old and a four year old, we did the drive and started to set up the school during the school holidays.

One of the early events in this community was the delivery of clothes from a Church group keen to assist the people of Tjukurla to replenish their clothing supplies and there was a great ceremony of the ‘handing out of the clothes’. The deal was that you walked to the point where clothes were distributed, dropped your gear, changed into the clothes provided you and head off on your way, parading your newly acquired outfit.

Women, men , kids, etc - mine was a pair of shorts and a singlet. Now I can see that you are already imagining the rippling muscles that I have under this suit, so the look was good and I was pretty happy with my singlet and shorts, the singlet had a motive of some sort that I couldn’t read upside down.

It was then that the plane from Alice Springs arrived and having the only working vehicle, I drove out to the strip to meet the plane. From the twin engine Cessna stepped a bloke that I immediately recognised as the then Premier, Mr Peter Dowding, who had come for a Lands Council Meeting. I introduced myself as the principal of the school and welcomed him to Tjukurla. He immediately pointed to my singlet and together we read the text – “I like Casual Sex”.

Needless to say I had to do a bit of occasional speaking to and during the drive back to the community, I also had to explain the pretty ordinary moustache that I had grown which had struggled to develop any depth and character, so the whole ensemble was less than encouraging!

So to be offered the position of Executive Director in Early Childhood last year after this inauspicious start finally put this disaster to rest so there is hope for all of you I think. I urge you to make a strong impression in your school and classroom – not necessary the same way that I did but in your own style of course.

We are in a most exciting time in Education and with the caliber of the ECU School of Education staff, program delivery and status in the Education system, our schools are in for some exciting times ahead.

I have a great respect for the work being done at ECU and feel honoured and privileged to be able to work so closely with ECU in many projects and to be afforded the opportunity to address you this afternoon.

I am also very thankful for the opportunities that my career to date in teaching and administration has offered me.

Teaching is a great career and with the commencement of the 2012 school year about to kick off for me tomorrow, I am just as excited as I first was when after extracting myself from the well orchestrated wedgie after my graduation, I headed off to my first school to begin my career.

There is great value to be added in schools and I look forward to the contributions that you will make to the children and families of Western Australia.

I wish you well for the future and once again congratulations for the recognition that you are receiving this afternoon.

Thank you.
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