Time for Review

Louise Wallace-Richards - Assistant Principal, Teaching and Learning

Louise Wallace-Richards - Assistant Principal, Teaching and Learning

By Louise Wallace-Richards, Assistant Principal Teaching and Learning

The year 2020 has been dubbed “unprecedented”, Kafkaesque and surreal. As a teacher of literature and lover of art, these latter two descriptions certainly ring true.

Franz Kafka image from The Atlantic Magazine, Jul/Aug 2013

It has been a nightmare for many of our fellow human beings, and all of us have been touched by the pandemic in some way.  Many members of our Radford community have been unable to see family members in need, and unable in person to show their respect for loved ones at funerals, or celebrate family events such as weddings, christenings and significant birthdays. I know of one member of our teaching staff who had to wait months to be able to see her new granddaughter in South Australia. We all know of many stories just like this, and are looking forward to the return to “normal”, whatever that might be. 

Luckier than most, those of us who live in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have been able to teach in our schools and assist students to have some normality in their education in 2020. At Radford, this was able to happen from Week 3 of Term 2. Amazingly, after the year of so much change, our Year 11 and 12 BSSS students will start their exams in a week, and our Year 12 IB DP students have been completing exams for the past couple of weeks. They have one more week to go. Our Year 7 – 10 students will have completed all assessment pieces in only a week or two also! 

Quality teaching and learningOur teachers have had the chance to continue to work with ACT educators to develop new senior BSSS courses in Semester 2, including Modern Languages, Global Studies and Food Science, completed online courses, or attended webinar-like professional learning experiences including those focusing on the IB DP courses of Chemistry, Physics, Music, Mathematics and Economics 

We have also maintained our schedule of seeking feedback from our students about our teaching practice in Terms 2 and 3, helping teachers to triangulate the data collected throughout the academic year about the quality of our teaching and learning practice. Community of Practice groups have continued to operate throughout this semester, with teachers observing each other’s practice in classrooms, and Heads of Departments have also worked with their teams to help them realise their 2020 appraisal goals. All of these “appraisal” experiences have provided data for Radford teachers when reflecting with their supervisors, or better-known as coaches and mentors, on this past year and the differences they have made in the lives of their students.

Time for ReviewExams, assessment tasks and final grades for students, and appraisal review conversations for staff in any organisation, can make us feel nervous and focus on what we could or should have done to achieve our goals [image source.] A few years ago, I discovered a TEDx Talk presented by Latvian economist, financier and teacher Andris Strazds entitled Don’t Bury the Annual Performance Review. In his presentation he delivered the idea that “negative [read “constructive” for us at Radford College] feedback should arrive throughout the year as an ambulance.” When the end of year “Review” day comes, report arrival time for students and appraisal meeting time for our Radford teachers, he argues that this should be: 

The one day of the year to make employees [and students] feel like celebrities…make them feel like they have a fan base…stick to the positive. 

Or as Americans songwriters Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, in their 1944 song at the time of a significant turning point in World War Two penned: 

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mr. In Between 

The song was nominated for the "Academy Award for Best Original Song" at the 18th Academy Awards in 1945.  Arlen had also composed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for the musical The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Clearly, he had a talent for writing songs that have hope at their heart and optimism. So, as the year wraps up for us all, and we look to family celebrations at Christmas, let’s think about what we have accomplished in the face of such change and upheaval. Accentuate your accomplishments and celebrate what you have achieved. Then plan goals for 2021, hopefully a better year for all.

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