Exploring empowerment across learning communities presented by Ebony Gill, David Wild, Shruthi Rao and Sybila Ford.
Ebony GillHi everyone and welcome to today's session on exploring empowerment across learning communities. My name is Ebony Gill and I'm the Clinical Lead for headspace Schools, Be You in South Australia. And I'm joined by three fabulous educators today. We've got one online, so David Wild, but I'll be introducing you to them a bit more formally in a minute.
So before we get started, I would like to Acknowledge the Lands that we're all joining from today, which is the Lands of the Kaurna People. And our team have been learning it in language so, Ngadlu tampinthi ngadlu Kaurna yartangka inparrinthi. And we'd also like to extend that Acknowledgement to all the Lands that you're joining from today, as well, because we understand that we're a service with national reach and we would like to Acknowledge any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People that might be joining us today as well in the online space.
So you may have just joined us from the previous keynote opening speaker, where you would have heard Geri tell you a little bit about the Virtual Conference this year and the theme being empowerment and resilience. So today's session, we will be exploring what empowerment and resilience means for each of us, the barriers and the facilitators to empowerment, and how empowerment impacts mental health and wellbeing.
Tomorrow will be focused on tools and resources and putting theory into action. And good practice examples, facilitating empowerment through learning communities. There's so many great sessions coming up and we're particularly looking forward to the closing Key Note today on 'Connecting and engaging with families to build capacity'.
So in the session, we will be exploring what empowerment looks like, what it feels like and what it sounds like, in practice and also how the members in the learning communities understand empowerment and their perspectives.
So we do have incredible educators with us today, and I've been fortunate to be able to work with them in the lead up to this so I'm really excited to share what each of them has to share today. So we've got people from early learning primary school and also secondary school as well.
So on the panel, we've got Shruthi Rao, the Senior Educator at Goodstart Early Learning. We've got Sybila Ford in the teal chair, who's the Principal at Mount Pleasant Primary School. And online, we've got David Wild, who's the Chief Executive at the Specialised Assistant School for Youth in the Adelaide CBD.
So to get us started, we will each be taking turns in answering the following question. So over to Sybila first. Sybila, what does empowerment look like, feel like and sound like in practice in your setting at Mount Pleasant Primary School?
Sybila FordThanks, Ebony. Empowerment at Mount Pleasant Primary School really centres around creating a really welcoming environment and a common belief in our staff about the wellbeing of all students. It's really connected to developing a positive sense of self, building connections, providing opportunities for children to set goals and also challenge themselves to develop their resilience.
Another key area that we've been looking at is for children to believe in their own potential, and realise their aspirations by actively participating in learning designs and engaging in respectful and inclusive relationships. For staff, this also means, you know, connecting in the Be You Action Team, and so all staff participate in that as a platform for dialogue.
We use the Professional Learning Be You modules. That's really enabled us to work together, focus our collective efforts on areas for improvement. And we use the Mental Health Continuum as a basis for identifying those students that require intervention in terms of mental health support.
We also use those continuums really well, and our data collection systems identify whole-school strategies. The social and emotional learning that are tied to child protection curriculum, and also the personal and social capabilities of the Australian curriculum. And we're also able to identify using those continuums what flourishing schools look like for our students. And this really enhances our ability to engage, enrich and challenge student learning.
Something that we've been also engaging with is the PERMA principles. So that's a really key focus at our school. So we're really looking at positive emotions, building those, engaging in meaningful tasks that are really authentic to students and that they have ownership of. And we actively build those successful relationships and celebrate their accomplishments. One of the ways that we've been doing that is by student action teams. So it's a positive, new initiative that we're using at our school this year. It's been really exciting to see. And it's really developing a greater sense of belonging and peer connectedness across the school. What it does is it replaces an SRC based model or a buddy system that you might see in other schools and all staff and students are involved and represented with our senior students employing their individual character strengths to join those action teams. So we've really established a great model for action teams that we're really proud of there, that connect to community partnerships and promote that student force in learning.
Community Culture team at our school has a real focus on building community connections, inclusivity and cultural awareness and we have a Healthy Lifestyles team with a focus on wellbeing initiatives, self and social awareness and the development of healthy lifestyle choices for our children. We have a Creativity and Communication team, and we're looking at promoting positive learning environments and representation of our community values. And then finally an Environmental Awareness team where we're really looking at connecting to Country, sustainability and also positive learning environments. And these teams are really tied closely with Wellbeing for Learning and Life framework. So what we're trying to do is have a very much linked. S visible leadership at the principal, staff and student level in an integrated way. We're looking at inclusion and celebrating diversity. And then we're also looking at authentic student voice and support.
Ebony GillThank you. It sounds like you're looking at the whole school from a really holistic point of view and you've talked about what it feels like, so I guess it feels like inclusion. You've implemented PERMA, you're looking at student voice and you're thinking about what the leadership looks like and how involved the leadership are and their visibility within the school as well. And yeah just really trying to foster that sense of belonging and inclusion and building meaningful relationships as well and representation from all groups within the school. Thank you.
So Shruthi, over to you. So, what does empowerment look like, feel like and sound like in your early learning service?
Shruthi RaoSo at the start, we looked at empowerment on three different levels, where educators come together to empower children and their families that's impacting the community in a positive and healthy relationships. This fosters ripple effect is created by inspiring educators, coming together every single day to make a difference in each and every child's development cycle.
Our empowerment pedagogy aims at providing learning platforms for the children by listening to their voices, supporting their rights, and enhancing their participation by looking at things through their lens.
We try and involve the families using a common communication platform called the Storypark, which enables families to interact, be involved, voice their opinions and requests, that giving them, the family, the power to be included in the child's development cycle and the development of each and every single child.
We aim at reaching out to the communities through our 'Show and Tell' programs, such as the ambulance, police and firefighter visits coming into the centre to tell us about the community involvement and the people that are there for the children and the families.
Also, we reach out to the communities through our excursion programs, such as visiting the aged care centres. We are also very proud of being active members at the North Brighton Community Garden. Our little children, especially the babies, love visiting the gardens time and time again.
This is our aim that we achieve empowerment among children and families by giving them responsibilities, celebrating their achievements, involving them in the classroom decisions, supporting them and guiding them through their journey.
Ebony GillGreat, thank you. So I think what I took from that was, it sounds like all the staff at your early learning setting really do have a shared intention and a shared purpose. And that you're all being the voice for children, because sometimes they might not be able to have their own voice or, and it sounds like you're doing a lot in terms of advocacy and connecting with people from the whole community, not just the people that are immediately connected to your learning setting. And across the life span as well, looking at, the children at your site, but also going to aged care settings as well.
And looking at how you involve the environment as well, and taking care of the land and stuff too, which is cool. Thanks.
Over to Dave, who's joining us online. So, Dave, what does empowerment look like, feel like, and sound like at SASY?
David WildYeah. Thank you, Ebony. So firstly, SASY is quite a different high school. So it's interesting being a high school representative on this panel. We're a flexible learning school in Adelaide CBD. That essentially doesn't have classrooms, doesn't have a set timetable or schedule, has individual learning plans for all the young people and has a very flexible learning approach in terms of the way in which we teach and coordinate projects.
So empowerment is a topic that's really central to the work that we do. But before I talk about what it looks like at SASY, I wanted to highlight a couple of things that both the previous presenters had actually mentioned. One was around empowerment, oh, sorry, it was involvement. So the first person on the panel spoke heavily about involvement. Second one, coming together, was a term and phrase that was used a lot. And I'm going to speak really similarly about coming together, involvement and the way in which we do that.
But before going into that, I want to acknowledge that we're in the third year of the COVID environment at the moment. Nationally with floods and bushfires and a range of other things that have occurred over the last couple of years as well. I would probably say that involvement and the notion of coming together, we would all have, we would all have highs, well positive examples of that over the last little while, but we'd also probably be a bit depleted of some of that as well. And that, I guess what you could call your social capital, like how strong or how full up is your battery of social capital and social connection as well, during this time? Now there might be some communities nationally that are on the back of bushfires and floods and actually feeling like their social capital is really, really strong and really, really well-built. Or there may be other communities around Australia at the moment that have been discouraging staff mingling, that have been hit pretty hard by COVID, that have been wrestling with COVID vacancies or COVID absences, that have actually depleted some of that level of coming together and involvement.
And SASY on that, the school that I work at, is a bit depleted at the moment. Our social capital is a bit low. Because we've been discouraging staff mingling, we've had a huge amount of COVID vacancies and COVID challenges associated with that as well. And I think that's part of the picture. Right? So we're looking at at the moment, in terms of empowerment about going, how can empowerment respond to that? Which is interesting. So look, that was just my current thoughts and reflections based on the first couple of panel members. And I wanted to go into a few things about what empowerment then looks like, smells like, and sounds like at SASY.
When I was reflecting on what to share, I kept on coming around the topic of empowerment looks like and smells like leadership not coming up with the answers. So not having predetermined outcomes, not getting in love with the solution, but instead, falling in love with an issue or a topic or an agenda or a priority, and then facilitating a collaborative approach to address that. And that's why the notions of involvement and coming together really resonated with me from the previous speakers.
So it's not coming up with the answers. So then, how do you then create a culture or have a workplace that doesn't necessarily come up with the answer straight away and instead facilitates a process for collaborative problem solving? Which is then in turn empowering.
So I would say that that's culture. So that's culture and I think culture begins with leadership. And here on a panel you've got three leaders that obviously strongly believe in empowerment and strongly believe in empowering the people around them.
So leadership, what does that look like that empowers those around you? And I think personally, when I would share about what setting up a culture of empowerment looks like, sometimes it can actually feel quite vulnerable. And sometimes it can look like you're unknowledgeable, that you don't know the answers. But instead you're facilitating an environment where other people can co-contribute to the answers and the solutions that are in the greater good of the community around you.
So I think empowerment does look like and smell like and sound like at SASY, a distributed model of leadership. That then filters down throughout the staff being able to have opportunities to participate in committees, participate in work groups, come up with their own solutions, raise ideas, be creative, be innovative. And then hopefully that then trickles down into the student population where we're facilitating an environment where young people can thrive in that same manner. Where we can put projects and assignments and tasks and times and schedules in front of them but ultimately the answer isn't there. The answer isn't derived yet and people have the opportunity to be on the journey. So it's more about the process than the outcome.
And as a leader, I think that looks like biting your tongue, not swooping in. And I don't know if there's any French speakers in this group or on the panel. But the French word for frame. Well, sorry, the French word for management is derived from the word frame. And it's, I'm going to say it in a very non-French accent. It's 'encadrement' something like that. So, those of you that can speak French are probably turning in their grave right now. But I find that that's a really amazing analogy in terms of empowering those around you, because when you think about management, sometimes old hierarchical models from the last couple of generations, have a very sort of controlling or a dominating type model. But the origins of the French word for management is actually about the frame. So facilitating the frame around the outside. Then the picture that evolves within that frame is empowered. Is not yet determined. Is determined by the elements within that frame. And for me, and for the way that we operate at SASY, that is a priority. And sometimes that is tricky. It means that you need to be vulnerable. It means you need a bite your tongue. It means that you need to not predetermine the outcomes. But I think that that then over time creates a culture where ideas are celebrated and that we get to be able to listen to understand first, rather than listen to be understood.
So I know in some of this, it might sound like SASY has got it perfect and we absolutely don't. And it might sound like our leadership group have got a good approach and we're still learning. But these are some of the things that we're drawing on and the culture that we're trying to create with an empowered staff group that then can in turn empower the young people that they're working with, in a flexible learning environment. We see that as a really powerful.
So I guess that's what empowerment looks like, sounds like, feels like at SASY at the moment. And it's a work in progress.
Ebony GillGreat, thanks Dave. I always love hearing you speak. So I think what I took from that was you're really focusing on giving people self-determination, listening to voice giving people a sense of agency. But, you know, making it real. It's not just something that you talk about, it's something that you really do practice. And I love that you said, and it's about the process, it's about facilitating the process and people co-contributing. It is about leadership, I guess, taking a step back sometimes but also trying to provide that structure. And something that you always used to say when we worked together was around engendering buy-in and I think that that's part of that process as well. So, thank you, for also highlighting that this work does take a lot of vulnerability as well. And I think that that can be hard to wrestle with sometimes. But once we nail that, I think we do start seeing empowering learning communities.
Alright. So now we're going to spend 15 minutes on the next question. So we'll start with Sybila again. So we're going to be reflecting on a young person's experience of empowerment.
Your question is, consider what facilitates empowering learning environments. So can you talk us through how teachers are facilitating student empowerment at your school?
Sybila FordSure, thanks Ebony. Along with the action teams that we talked about previously, we've really focused a lot on creating that empowerment by looking at trauma informed practice. So that's been really pivotable in empowering staff at our school.
To understand the development needs of vulnerable students and developing strategies that are not only responsive to the individual, but really good for all students in our classes. We've done a lot of work on creating positive learning environments and creating spaces where students are co-designing those learning areas, where they can feel safe and apply co-regulation and self-regulation techniques and build their resilience.
Having a really amazing outdoor learning space at Mount Pleasant is really fantastic. We're really fortunate to have that. And it makes some of these previous areas about positive learning environments very achievable. We've got fantastic nature play areas. We've got a vegetable garden. We've got opportunities for children to engage with animal therapy by going into our native animal enclosure. And just learning to sort of co-regulate in those spaces, which is great. It creates a really empowering yet calm atmosphere, explicitly teaching those social and emotional skills and personalising these to the individual is really important at our site. It really creates empowerment for students.
We've been using wellbeing literacy as a focus for that and also looking at creating frameworks, where we're using the one to five scales, which some schools have been using traditionally, about what self-regulation looks like for individuals. It helps them map strategies against what it looks like, sounds like and feels like for them. And it helps them deescalate when they might feel heightened.
They are also really able, at our site, to articulate their feelings and emotions and that's come through really explicit teaching of social skills programs. And entering into a restorative practices approach with social and emotional awareness.
These communication strategies have been really great and applied in our action teams. And that's modelled by some of the older students to the younger students. And that enables them to develop their ideas further for social action and also for community outreach programs.
Ebony GillThank you. So it sounds like you've got some different types of leadership there as well, like giving the older students that ability to lead for the little students as well. But your school sounds really fun, with your veggie garden and the animals. And I think if I could go back to school, maybe I would go to yours.
But no, thank you. It sounds like you're also really getting to know your students through looking at it through a trauma-informed lens. And I guess what we know is that's a strategy that's good for all, having that predictability and routine and things like that. Thank you.
So, over to Shruthi. Your question is, how do we listen, hear and respond to children's voices? And how do we advocate for children's voices in daily practice?
Shruthi RaoThanks, Ebony. At Goodstart, we carefully are looking into our routines and converting them into our rituals of care moments, where educators put in their time in being the secure base and safe haven for the moment of care for children to support their exploration and wellbeing.
Educators understand that we should always be bigger, stronger, wiser, and kinder, whenever possible we follow the child's lead and whenever necessary is when we take charge. It is important that we maintain the balance of being stronger and wiser for the children and educate them to understand that they need the moment to take the lead and educators understand that being too kind leads to being weak, whereas being too strong, also leads to a very, very mean approach. So we have to be the balance for the children to support their wellbeing.
We at Goodstart embrace the cultural diversity and educators capture the child's language and bring it into practice by observing certain cultural importance, through the artwork and displays, also using their language for greetings through group times or using it for greeting through the mornings and evenings, counting numbers and listening to music of their cultural importance.
Then we support their social and wellbeing development by observing play with minimising adult intervention. Supporting children to explore their abilities to navigate through their situations. We pay emphasis to develop their independence and sense of belonging by organising their sense of agency. It is identified that it is important that part of the strong sense of identity is that we lay the foundation for the learning and development.
For example, how it looks like in practice is when children play their role in setting up a table, going into the kitchen with the educators to bring out the food, laying out the table and serving, and also cleaning up after to look after their environment and being part of their development, making sure they look after themselves and the place they learn and develop in. Thank you.
Ebony GillThank you. So I think what I took from that is, it sounds like you're really strength based sort of early learning setting. And you're really trying to get everyone represented, everyone's involvement.
Everyone probably feels like they have a sense of belonging, where you work, and you're really bringing that into practice.
And I think from what I heard from that, it sounds like you probably have a really bright learning environment but also that everything and everyone is celebrated. And that you do see the importance and the value in speaking people's own language, culture is represented visually in the physical space as well. And I think you, when we were speaking earlier, you mentioned that having a sense of agency is one of the most important things for children at your setting. And being able to make their own decisions and having adults role model to students as well. And I think that's really important. Thanks. Over to Dave.
So, Dave, let's hear about the SASY perspective. And so SASY's vision is to engage with vulnerable and disengaged students who have complex needs to reignite their interest in education through holistic learning practices, focussing on wellbeing. How does SASY promote empowerment for young people who go there?
David WildYeah, so look it's a good question. And I guess I'll build on what I said before in terms of SASY being a pretty unique and different space. We have got four separate buildings in the Adelaide CBD. We've got 200 students and 50 staff. We get around about 110 students through the door each day and the young people that we're getting through the door are vulnerable, have not been going to school for a number of years, have a whole range of social, emotional, or mental health related challenges, and complex lives. But we've got an amazing window of opportunity, the fact that they arrive. And in actual fact, we pulled the data on April, which I know is a bit old now because we're in June. But the data on April is that every single student on our books attended school at least once in April.
Now I know for many schools on this, you'd be thinking, 'Oh my gosh, what? That's nothing', but for us, the young people that we're talking about, that is a huge success for a number of them. Now on that, so what do we do in terms of empowering young people? We need to tailor all our work, all our programs, all our lessons, everything, to meet the young people's needs. So what we've done is we've split the school into four different areas and we call them hubs. So we don't have classrooms and we don't have year levels, but how the heck do we coordinate 200 students? We coordinate it through our hubs.
Now the hubs, young people are then based in those hubs based on their psychosocial needs. So we have the ability then to tailor, so there's around about 50 students per hub, based on there's two that are middle school, one with higher social emotional needs, one with lower and then same in senior school. So we don't have a huge mix of ages, but we do have some mixes of ages.
And then the staff. So then there's a senior youth worker and a senior teacher and a team leader, teachers and youth workers that work together in that hub, that then can coordinate the programs that best meet the young people's needs.
Now, part of that is around the sort of strategic design that meets young people's needs. So that's around having intent and observations as a professional working in this space to be able to meet the needs of the young people. And in that that space, you're hoping that the staff are empowered to be able to co-create some of those solutions.
But then with the students what we do is we have an opportunity for the young people to co-create their own projects. So we do project based learning at our school. So we have a, I wish I had the list in front of me, but we have a whole range of interesting projects that have been born out of student ideas. And some of the more classic ones are BMX club, skateboarding club and a range of other things like that, where young people can do science, maths, English, photography, PE, all in BMX club. So that's, that's amazing.
But then we also have projects, the one that's quite interesting that comes to mind is soup dispenser. And that's around the visual arts and printing and design on soup cans. Now they've just moved into coffee cups because the soup can design wasn't quite hitting the mark in the external sector. But soup dispenser was a really popular project that we ran and people were able to incorporate science, maths and art in that.
One of the things that I wanted to highlight that is a real flagship program for SASY started out as being called, 'Make it, sell it'. So it was an opportunity for young people to make small products and the aim was then to be selling them at market stalls around the city. Now in that we did business planning, we did financial planning, we did the art, the design, and then we did the written descriptions of them, which was in English. And then we went out and sold it as well. And in that, it was an incredibly empowering program to be able to facilitate. Because not only was it student led and student born and an opportunity for students to really drive that project. But it was overarching enough that students could make a pretty wide range of different products based on their interests as well. So we had t-shirts, we had tote bags, we had earrings, key rings, a whole range of other things associated with that as well. And then we did the logo for the brand.
So that's just one example of what's happening at SASY and the way in which we do empowering work. And another example that I really wanted to highlight is that there's another conference coming up in a couple of months that we're involved in. And they approached us about a potential keynote. And what we've done is instead of rolling out a staff member to deliver that keynote, what we're doing is we're working with the young people to be able to present the keynote at this conference, to be able to talk about the benefits that they are getting out of school, and the way in which school can best help, vulnerable and disengaged young people.
So I guess, what I want, in answer to your question, Ebony, it sits across everything. It sits across the project design that we're doing in terms of project based learning. It sits across requests that we get from conferences. It's even in the project design of our camps and a whole range of other elements as well. So I know that's a bit of a broad stroke and a bit all over the place. But hopefully that gives some food for thought.
Ebony GillSounds like it's a real whole school approach.
David WildYeah, absolutely. And I think in that, when we do PD and I know most schools probably do this as well. Sometimes the question is, oh trauma informed practice, maybe that should just be for our teachers and youth workers. But we always train all our admin staff as well, so that it is a whole school approach. Everything is a whole school approach. Be it PD, planning, reflection, everything. So, yeah, absolutely.
Ebony GillSo, I guess wellbeing is everyone's role at your school kind of thing.
David WildYeah. Yeah. And to the point where we're actually trying to reduce the way that the amount that we talk about wellbeing and learning. We found that talking about wellbeing and learning accidentally created a bit of a, what would you call, it like a polarity. That then that polarity needed to be managed. And there's a lot of theory on and around polarity management. But actually what we wanted to do is continually highlight that learning is wellbeing and wellbeing is learning. And actually the two co-exist with each other. And there's some really, we did some training around polarity management as a whole staff, and I think it's really good to spot those things from a bit far out and say, 'Hey, that's starting to evolve as a polarity. Let's bring that back in,' because it's an 'and with' rather than an 'and or'.
Ebony GillGreat. Thank you. So I think what I took from that was, it sounds like the young people probably really enjoy going to SASY. They get to be creative, they get to be, they get to really show who they are in the work that they do. But also out in the community as well, in terms of being able to sell their product and that kind of thing. But I think as a young person at your school, it sounds like they probably know that if they speak, that you're going to listen and they're going to be heard and that they're going to be understood. And that whatever suggestions they put forward or whatever they want to do, you really will take it seriously and empower them to be able to do that. So I think that's really cool what you're doing at SASY. Thanks, Dave.
David WildThank you.
Ebony GillAlright. So I guess just to summarise, an empowering environment is one where everyone benefits.
It needs to include everyone, so including children, educators, families and the broader community, as well, as we've mentioned. We're getting towards the end of the session as well. But I'd also like to take a moment to discuss, staff empowerment at your school. So. We'll start with Sybila.
Sybila FordYeah. Great.
Ebony GillSo, over to you.
Sybila FordYeah, I really liked what David said about the whole school being involved, because that's something that we're really doing at Mount Pleasant Primary School, as well, is including all staff and all support staff and teachers in professional learning. So we are using that as a real key lever for improvement at our site. So we'll really been looking at using the Be You platform, the Mental Health Continuum, looking at the BETLS tool, which is available on the website as well, and the behaviour toolkit to engage in those professional discussions with staff. And that, enables our staff to connect with external agencies when necessary, and those resources really provide a really good platform to have those professional conversations with parents. So I find that that whole sort of team approach has been really, really useful for us. It also creates a common dialogue amongst all our staff too. So that's been really great.
Another key area for us as educators, and that I think David touched upon as well, is having that strategic design, but also the intent and the observations. And we're doing that through Mental Health Continuum and those tools that we just talked about.
I think another really important thing to us is about looking at teacher self care. So David mentioned that there are some really challenging times at the moment in terms of supporting some of our community through natural disasters, such as the bushfires that went through a couple of years ago, COVID isolation for our students and families that might be experiencing periods of illness. And then also looking at that more complex trauma informed practice.
And so something that's really important for us is to look at teacher self care. I think that's fundamentally important. So generating those empowering collegial networks I think is a really key thing. Building strong family partnerships and providing those connections for staff to debrief. And making supportive connections such as we're doing here today with trusted colleagues, I think is a really important thing at our school for maintaining positive mental health for staff.
Ebony GillThank you. So, Be You is a framework that does talk about young people, birth to 18, having shared language and shared understanding about how to seek help and all that kind of thing. And it sounds like you're really embedding that into practice in terms of everyone having, you said common dialogue, but I guess, like shared language around this space in terms of being able to name how they're feeling. And also, you're teaching people about self regulation as well and you're using the Mental Health Continuum so everyone's using that language as well.
We did have a question that came through about connecting with parents and carers, I don't know if you want to talk a little bit more about how you do that?
Sybila FordYeah. We connect with parents and carers really regularly. So we have our parent teacher conferences, they occur several times a year. We also have regular meetings and we also encourage our parents to actively be involved in our school community groups.
The student action teams that we've started, they're actually expanding so that parents are able to come in on more of a casual basis and connecting with some of those four action teams that we talked about previously. And we find that's a really flexible way of them creating a sense of belonging and connecting with the school.
Ebony GillThanks. And Dave, I'm not sure if this is throwing you under the bus or not, but do you want to talk about how that might look different at SASY in terms of connecting with parents and carers, or you can say skip.
David WildYeah, look, it's definitely a growth area at SASY. A number of our young people don't have positive relationships with their parents or carers and that's- part of our work is around looking for opportunities to be able to help connect them in that space. And that's tricky across all youth services around for vulnerable young people.
In terms of ongoing engagement with parents and carers that are readily available and quite keen to engage with the school, we have a semi-regular parent nights to be able to come in around a number of different themes. And the last one that we had was focused around parent burnout. I don't know what the next one's called. But what we've found is that by offering something helpful, like something quite tangible, like a takeaway for parents and carers to be able to come in and go, “yeah, I'll come in and I'll learn something that is actually quite relevant to me.” We find that is a really good opportunity to build that relationship with the parents and carers. So that then that relationship is then ongoing. So if we need to communicate with them anything in particular around the young person, the young person's need, it's able to be built in easier. So yeah, it's probably a multi-pronged approach around individual needs and then those collective events and yeah.
Ebony GillAnd just while I've got you someone's just enquired about the conference where your students are speaking at, are you able to share that information?
David WildYeah, it's called the Doing School Differently Conference.
Ebony GillCool. Thank you.
Over to Shruthi. What does empowering staff look like where you work?
Shruthi RaoAt Goodstart we definitely pay emphasis on developing the resource, that staffing resource with, they have access to a large pool of resources and courses that are available on the internet that educators gain access to, along with they have a four hour professional development program that include the mandatory trainings that help them to upskill and update themselves with.
Also Goodstart has an in-house inclusion support officer who runs training sessions to educate us to develop their skills on designing programs that have inclusion towards all the children. And educators constantly make use of the tools, such as the behaviour management kit, Circle of Security, into their practice to understand the child's need and support them around their specific needs and their wellbeing.
We also have already innovative funding support from the centre, where educators can access these funds to support programs for a specific requirement targeting children with needs. We also have educators who are currently working on programs where it is Reconciliation community of practice in partnerships with Narragunnawali.
Currently we're also working with learning partners on people and performance. They are supporting us in creating a vision of our educators on the canvas, helping us to narrow down our team expectations, ideas and views so we can share it among the coming new members of our team representing our team culture.
Ebony GillGreat, thanks. I think, just quickly, I think focusing on professional development, and you're doing that as well, is, the more knowledge people have, the more empowered they feel because knowledge and confidence is power.
Shruthi RaoYeah, it has to be an ongoing learning.
Ebony GillYeah. Yeah. Great, thanks.
And Dave, what does empowering staff at SASY look like?
David WildYeah, so I spoke about this a bit in the first bit of what I shared as well, anyway. I'll just add to it by saying that in what we try and do is we try and set up a consistent framework across SASY that then has the flexibilities, and being really clear around that is quite empowering. So clear around what is the consistent expectations and what's required. And that takes really clear communication and quite a bit of planning. But then, you know, in terms of what's flexible and what's creative and what staff can actually be empowered to co-create in terms of their own programs, their own strategies, their own engagements and their own classroom setups and the like. And I think the clarity around sort of what the non-negotiables are actually make the negotiables a lot more creative. And that goes to the analogy before around the French word for management, is that with a clear frame, the artists can actually be quite creative on the inside. So that is very much the approach.
The one thing that I'd add that I didn't mention before is that it is actually a little bit difficult when you have an approach that is so empowering and looking for collective buy-in and collective co-creation of solutions. Because some people across all workplaces I've ever worked at, some people actually genuinely want to rock up at work and just be told, like in a bit more clear terms around what to do. But then other people sit much more on the side of the fence around really wanting to actively participate. So I think when you set whole school and whole staff strategies for co-design, there's always going to be varying levels of engagement. And there's always going to be varying levels of, of, of buy-in. And I think that that's just okay. I think that that's just the way it is. And I think that I've spent times and periods of my career really questioning why isn't this person more invested? Or how can we get this happening? And I think that there's stuff that we can do as leaders to help encourage and facilitate that. But I think that there is just a different approach that people have sometimes and people have got their own things going on in their own lives as well. So I think there's, you can set all the best intentions and absolutely throw ourselves into deconstructed models of co-design, but then there is just personalities as well and different people have different objectives and the way in which they want to engage in workplaces.
Ebony GillAnd I might just open this up to anyone, but we just had a question come through, just very quickly, how do you promote mental health support for children outside of school as well? Who would like to take this one? Dave, would you like to?
David WildYeah, look so, that is a great question and it cuts to the core of Be You really. Is around, and both the panel members talked about a common dialogue and common tools. So first around increasing mental health literacy or the knowledge and the awareness of mental health amongst your student population and the teacher population. And then from that, then we can notice or look out for when things might need some support and then based on a really strong relationship, then you can prompt people to seek help when required.
But I think that that's only part of the picture. The other part of the picture is around promoting help seeking pathways all the time. Not just when things are bad, or not just when things need extra support. So you would all be probably aware of who your EAP providers are. If a leader from within your school only promotes your EAP provider when you're having a bad day, you know, is that a good thing? It's probably a good thing, but it's probably not the best thing. The best thing is that help-seeking is promoted all the time. So that young and staff, it's normalised. The idea of having an increased mental health literacy and being promoted and helped to be able to seek help when required. So we do that through like text messages to students, following up with students, visual displays, relationships and whole range of other elements.
Ebony GillThank you. I don't have time for anyone else to contribute to that, sorry. There was another question that we won't get time for either. But thank you all for presenting. Dave as well for being flexible in the online space, and thank you all for joining us online from wherever you're joining us from.
Take away reflections for you to go back and think about is, how do the members of your learning community understand empowerment? And how can your learning community promote empowerment for all people? So, with that in mind, feel free to stay online and join us for the next session, if you'd like to on 'Unpacking the power in empowerment', where we'll have a critical look at the distribution of power in early learning services and schools, and explore some of the theories and approaches that underpin genuine and inclusive empowerment.
You can view that by going back to your portal landing page, where you'll be able to access the next session, which starts in 10 minutes. Thank you and thanks for tuning in. See you.
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Exploring empowerment across learning communities
Last updated: July, 2022