Christmas and the new year - Margery Evans, Chief Executive Officer of AITSL, 23 December 2013.
Christmas and the New Year are a time for a well earned break, family, friends, reflection on the year that was, planning the year to come and tradition.
My extended family has a tradition of spending time over the Christmas/New Year week on the coast, relaxing and enjoying each other's company.
This traditional family Christmas has evolved over the years and, while to an external observer, things might look the same year on year, there are subtle and sometimes seismic shifts in our arrangements and interactions. Relationships change and grow, some dissolve and others form. Children grow up and forge ahead with their own lives, leading to absences and additions to our crew. The cast of characters changes each year, sometimes temporarily and, occasionally, family members pass into memory, or family folklore.
The framework of the family always remains, though. It is a constant throughout the inevitability of change.
There are parallels between the microcosm of my own extended family and the other ‘family’ to which I have a long term commitment - the community of educators. Those in this community who know me well won't be surprised when I acknowledge that I spend more than just a few moments contemplating the year ahead over the Christmas break. If there is one persistent truth about teachers, it is the dedication that leads us to live and breathe our profession. It is part of each one of us, embedded in and expressed through our personal values and world views, a constant focus of our attention.
The membership of our community is ever changing as new graduates enter the profession and experienced educators retire. We evolve as new research about teaching and learning informs our practices and the understanding of what it takes to be an excellent teacher grows. We create and re-create our profession constantly, but some qualities endure, foremost of which is our focus on providing the best possible education for all students and the very personal way in which we exercise our professional responsibilities.
The core medium of the teaching process is and always will be the individual human being.
This is what makes the act of teaching so very personal, complex and enduringly difficult to capture in theory and policy documents. Our diversity as teachers is what makes our profession strong, but it also poses challenges. Over the last few years, AITSL has been working with the profession to develop frameworks that provide a constant among the inevitability of change. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers take the best insights that research and state jurisdictions have to offer on what it means to be an excellent teacher and distill them into a framework that is now shaping the focus and quality of our profession, and will continue to do so for many years to come. Likewise, the Australian Professional Standard for Principals frames what it means to be a quality leader in our schools.
We all understand that the quality of teaching is a key factor in determining educational outcomes for students, and that school leaders set the tone and tempo that enable excellent teaching to flourish. That is why AITSL's work in articulating what it takes to achieve excellence in our profession and then providing the policies and tools to support professional growth is so vital.
In reflecting on AITSL's work as I approach this Christmas break, it strikes me that what we are doing is establishing the traditions that will help our profession to endure and remain focused on excellence, as it constantly changes and evolves. We are creating the frameworks that bind the family of educators together and help us to recognise, share and develop the professional qualities that we value in ourselves and each other.
To do this AITSL works broadly with the profession. We cannot be successful without the support and collaboration of our colleagues in schools. As you enjoy your well earned break this Christmas, please take our thanks with you alongside the satisfaction of a job well done. As I know you won't be able to resist thinking about the year to come, could I commend to you the work of AITSL in framing what it takes to grow, develop and be successful in our profession, and ask that you consider how our work might help you in your professional life next year?
Thank you. I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year and I, and my colleagues at AITSL, look forward to working with you all again in 2014.