In 2003 I participated in a whole school Multiliteracies project with Drs Michele Anstey and Geoff Bull at Fairview Heights State School. Throughout a teaching career of 15 years it was the most significant teacher inservice experience that I had participated in up to that date - not only for me at a personal level but for our entire school teaching staff.
At the commencement of this project the teachers within my school had little idea as to what went on in other classrooms and throughout other year levels. As a music teacher I had often felt isolated from the remainder of the staff, as lunch time music commitments and being in a block at a distance from other teachers had meant close collegial collaboration was difficult. This project opened previously untapped means of communication and conversations directly around pedagogy, metalanguage and practice became common in the staffroom on a daily basis.
The learning gains were not without their measure of pain. A number of activities were challenging on a personal teaching level (the demand that all work be presented digitally for example) and the extra time that was required to complete tasks (such as transcribing a recorded lesson and analyzing it) was difficult to find at times. However Geoff and Michele were accessible by phone or email and always quick to reply to a plea for help or clarification.
As facilitators their encouragement and understanding of the constraints and difficulties in day-to-day teaching meant that their approach to guiding staff was flexible and although occasional frustrations arose they remained supportive while still challenging staff to move out of their comfort zone.
Although the focus was within this project was ‘literacy’ – it was not literacy in a narrow sense (i.e. English) but instead the literacy skills involved in code breaking and meaning making across all KLA areas. The resulting learning on display at the presentation day was a highlight for all staff and our Principal Mr. Mark Bolitho still says that seeing the growth in collegial and personal pedagogy amongst his staff is one of his most rewarding experiences as a Principal. For teachers, Geoff and Michele’s sense of humour and their praise for the work achieved was very rewarding and there was a real sense of personal accomplishment at completing a worthwhile task well.
Music Specialist - Fairview Heights State School