For Educators / School Leaders

iOnTheFuture6 Conference – Review

“If you drive all day looking in your rear vision mirror, you’ll crash.”

Young Rusty, came up with this profound analogy while sitting in the truck on another road trip. A routine trip that would have seemed so far from reality without Backtrack Boys. Rusty openly admitted that he would probably be dead without this amazing program that focuses on its core principles on the Circle of courage – belonging, independence (own your own s**t), generosity and mastery. Bernie Shakeshaft, Rusty and James Knight sat on stage to cap off an inspiring day of high-quality professional development.

Mr Lee with Mother Lee at iOnTheFuture6 Conference, 2019. Lindfield Learning Village

Despite it being a Saturday and an exhausting start to the term, I immediately felt invigorated as I stepped onto the turf of my old stomping ground, where I started my journey as Mr Lee! Now known as Lindfield Learning Village, it was formerly UTS, Ku-ring-gai, when I studied there for four years. This new future-focused school was the perfect venue for iOnTheFuture6.

Ron Berger and Scott Hartl from EL Education

The day started off with keynote addresses from Ron Berger (Austin’s Butterfly) and Scott Hartl from EL Education. They spoke about EL Educations Three-Dimensions of student achievement:

  • Mastery of Knowledge and Skills
  • Character
  • High-Quality Student Work

It’s not the test scores that we judge our students by, but rather what sort of people they become. Ron Berger gave the personal story of how having taught in a small town for over 25 years, literally, the barman was an ex-student, the postman was an ex-student and the fireman was an ex-student. Then, when his wife had an accident, who were the first people on the scene? You guessed it, his ex-students! Are we developing young people into the sort of people that we want to have look after us in these sorts of situations?

EL Education has had a profound impact on education around America and now the world with projects like Models of Excellence (a collection of high-quality Pre-K-12 student work samples) and the Better World Day (encouraging students to participate in projects that make our world a better place).

I loved the focus of the day being “More in us than we know,” and it was certainly the backbone of many of Ron and Scott’s messages. I will certainly be looking to implement the expectation of high-quality student work and ensuring that my students understand what that looks like and how they can develop it.   

Mark Scott from the NSW Department of Education

NSW Department of Education Secretary, Mark Scott spoke next and one of the main things I really enjoyed seeing from him was how he displayed that he was aware of the various challenges that teachers were currently facing and how he and who he was representing had also been part of the problem! He was funny, engaging, appreciative and compassionate and spoke about his high hopes for the future. It was refreshing to listen to Mark acknowledge the challenges that teachers and schools face and how “innovation loves constraints!”

Liv Pennie from Become.Me

Liv Pennie a Co-Founder of BECOME.ME (one of the sponsors of the day) spoke next about how we set our students up for failure like Married at First Sight. We don’t give them an opportunity to see what a subject’s like, we give them a narrowed world of possibilities. They can’t be what they can’t see! Less than 10% of students have discussed their aspirations with their teacher. How can we say that every student matters and that we truly know our students, if we don’t even know what their aspirations are?

John Larmer and Suzie Boss from PBL Works

I was really interested to hear from John Larmer and Suzie Boss from PBL Works. One of the main things that sparked my transition into primary school teaching was having a greater scope to incorporate Project-Based Learning (PBL) tasks. It fits into my C.O.A.T philosophy of learning and when done properly can allow our young people to feel like “real” citizens. John and Suzie went about debunking many myths about PBL’s and how they shouldn’t be treated like “dessert” projects that are only thrown in at the end of the “main meal”.

Laina Cox from Capital City Public Charter School

Now, the worst thing about the day was that you could only attend one Masterclass workshop! With so many amazing workshops on offer and great presenters, I found it difficult figuring out which one to attend! I ended up going with, Not your average portfolio, led by Laina Cox a Middle School Principal at Capital City Public Charter School, Washington USA.

I had been interested in implementing portfolios as a form of assessment for a while and attending this workshop gave me a lot of food for thought on just how effective its use can be. Laina described the various ways that portfolios can be structured from assessing an average, showing growth or displaying the student’s “best” work. It can be used as a form of summative assessment or as a way to showcase student work.    

EL Education’s Portfolio Process

After over 10 years’ of trial and practice, Capital City Public Charter School portfolio process includes:

Example of ensuring students understand what they need to do.
Artefact example for the students.
  • Following EL Educations Three-Dimensions of student achievement  
  • A rolling portfolio that is built upon and passed on from year to year, helps with the transition phase
  • Rubrics and checklists for everything! This ensures consistency and that the students have a clear understanding of what is required of them.
  • Portfolio’s need to be completed by every student every year with artefacts collected monthly out of their “working” portfolio.
  • Passage Presentations: performed in 8th, 10th & 12th grade at EL Education schools, where the students have to present to a panel that includes community members to show high school readiness. Their final Passage Presentation includes a Final Word, a chance to say who they are, what they are about, where they have been and where they are now.
  • Crew members that include peers and a leading teacher, not necessarily their classroom teacher, but someone that teaches their year group
  • The portfolio must include at least one work sample from every key learning area (subject) and be spread out amongst the Three-Dimensions of student achievement. 
  • Student reflections are required 
  • Their portfolio grade is separate to their assessment of learning grade.
  • The portfolios are also used to guide student-led conferences

Bernie Shakeshaft and Rusty from Backtrack with James Knight

“Children are the most honest parameter of how we are going as a society”

To close the iOnTheFuture6 Conference, Bernie Shakeshaft highlighted the fact that we’re still not doing enough. He spoke about how there are over 200 people on the waiting lists for Backtrack and 2,800 country kids that are homeless. When asked what makes their program so successful, he spoke about how they have a policy where you can’t get kicked out. These kids that have been kicked out of school, kicked out of home (if they ever had one) and without anything that remotely feels like support, finally feel like they are a part of a family.

When things go pear-shaped, what were the persons good intentions? What are the good intentions behind their bad behaviour? The difference is in the tiny things you do each day – look for the gold!

Bernie Shakeshaft, Backtrack


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Learning = Superpower

July 22, 2019

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