From Little Things, Big Things Grow.

I want to pick up on the theme of the song “From Little Things Big Things Grow” by Paul Kelly & Kev Carmody on bringing about a lasting change. It is a theme which I want to bring to the classroom through the engaging practices of teachers’ and students’ journal writing. Based on the story of the Gurindji strike (Wave Hill walk-off) and Vincent Lingiari the song’s message of the Indigenous people’s struggle for land rights and reconciliation casts a giant shadow over any of my puny attempts to communicate to my students the foundational importance of story in their learning how to learn.

The story behind the story.

Nonetheless, the song draws me to its poignant meaning to be an activist. I want to ask colleagues whether they have ever walked outside classrooms and heard the direct and implied threats we make as teachers in trying to convince students that they should work because it’s part of their formal assessment? Have they noticed how, over time, students turn the tables on us and never begin a task without asking whether or not it counts for their final report? By contrast, have they ever experienced when students are compelled to continue working of their own volition? Have they ever come close to feeling unnecessary as students are driven by the momentum of their own questions and solutions?

In the middle of these two extremes, there is the advice by gurus like John Hattie and Michael Fullan, whose research is captured in systemic educational advice on high-impact teaching strategies (HITS).

Interestingly, while these are a treasure house of great practices, they never seem to touch the sides over the onerous job of relating to any one student’s learning needs. It is the fine balance of explicitly teaching them and imagining them as independent learners that never ceases to worry me.

Reading the curriculum as a story

I read a unit of work in English as if I was reading a narrative plot. I even set it out that way for my students to share with me, plotting the unit learning intentions and success criteria. Here’s a presentation of what I mean illustrated through the Year 7 English units I teach.