Up to 250 parents participated in Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta’s third Chatterbox Live event. The popular Q&A session provided parents and carers with a direct line to Executive Director Greg Whitby.
Participants welcomed the transparent conversation about topics including Greg’s vision for Catholic Education, learning in an agile space, how parents can be more engaged with their schools and what support is available for teachers and students.
This Chatterbox Live event was held in the evening at St Andrews College in Marayong and was also live streamed through Facebook, allowing parents to be a part of the conversation or to look back on the event and view it at a time convenient for them.
Master of Ceremonies was 2012 Teacher of the Year, Emmaus Catholic College English teacher and parent at St Andrews College, Mark O’Connor.
Greg began by responding to a question about his vision for Catholic Education. “The reality is, it is not my vision. Things have changed in our world and the tools at our disposal really allow us to do something different,” he said.
“Why should education be the only thing that doesn’t change? My job is to challenge the way we teach and to ask schools to respond to that challenge. In answer to the vision question, it lies in each and every one of our school communities.
“However, I have to ensure we respond to the changing nature of the world we live in, so we can equip our children to be agents of change, saints for the world and to contribute to a world that is no longer mine.”
Another question was about the benefits for children learning in agile spaces and how do teachers prevent students being distracted especially if they have additional learning needs?
“The answer to that question lies in good teaching and good teaching practices. The agile spaces are simply a response to the theory and practice. We do know what the theory and practice says about contemporary learning. We do know that personal learning starts with where the child is at and basing their educational experience around the child and teachers being able to work collaboratively together,” Greg said.
Another good question was around whether there would be a Diocese wide mobile phone policy?
“No. It is a school based decision. It is wrong for me to make arbitrary decisions to say this is the practice and they shall do this. The last thing a mobile phone is these days is a phone. You don’t blame the tool, you teach the user the best way to use it. If children are being distracted in their learning, it is the teacher’s role to make sure they are not distracted,” Greg said.
Greg was also asked what the future for schools look like. He acknowledged the issue is how CEDP positions itself to be responsive to the changes going on with education today and in the future.
MC Mark O’Connor highlighted one program which has been initiated this year, Virtual School. “I teach at Emmaus during the day and when I go home, I put on some funky headphones and switch in a microphone and teach two kids at St Pauls Greystanes and a kid at St Clare’s and I have met these kids twice. All my teaching is done online.
“I am running my course through video conferencing. I can share my work with them. They can see my screen and I can teach them through that. It is early days and we are only two terms into the project. It just shows the responsive nature of our Diocese to try new things. In terms of education it is pretty revolutionary!’’ Mark said.
A great question about the need for more sensitivity in supporting step-families was addressed. Mr Whitby highlighted the fact that all schools have a student welfare team to meet the needs of the many different families that make up the CEDP community.
One of the last questions addressed during the event was: Where do we see parent engagement? How can we do it better and where do we go from here?
“This to me is the burning issue. It is about being genuine in what we say. It follows on from ‘what we say is what we do’. Trying to get to the parent more genuinely. Too often schools design barriers around parent engagement. Through the survey ‘Tell Them From Me’ we are genuinely trying to hear the voice of the parents. I think the next step is deeper engagement in the learning. Schools have to change the way they operate to match the society in which we live, not force parents to operate in the way schools operate.’’
MC Mark O’Connor finished off by stating education is really complex. “There are no simple answers and it’s going to take lots of work. Discussions are a big part of that process.”
Mr Whitby capped it off by thanking the parent audience for being “very gentle’’ and “very constructive’’. “We will look back on this and the questions and follow-up on them.”
Plans are already in the works for the next Chatterbox Live event. So keep an eye on this space.
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.