Tim Bullard: [00:00:02]
Welcome to the Teach, Learn, Live podcast. I’m your host, Tim Bullard, Secretary of the Department of Education in Tasmania.
Tim Bullard: [00:00:10]
In this podcast we’re going to shed some light on how we connecting students and young people to succeed. Every day in our classrooms we’ve got teachers working hard to inspire our learners. And I see great school leaders making a real difference in many people’s lives. Join me as we get to know more great teachers, curious learners and inspiring families and communities who teach, learn and live in Tasmania.
Tim Bullard: [00:00:43]
Welcome to the Teach, Learn, Live podcast. Today, my guests are Harry and Angela, two year 12 students studying at Elizabeth College. We’re going to talk about Harry and Angela’s journey through public education in Tasmania, as well as learn a little bit about their time at Elizabeth College and their goals for the future. So welcome, Harry and Angela to the Teach, Learn, Live podcast.
Thank you for having us.
Tim Bullard: [00:01:06]
Angela, do you want to just tell me a little bit about yourself? You’re obviously in Year 12 at Elizabeth College.
Yeah, that’s it. I am very lucky and privileged to have experienced public education through my entire life. I am currently 17. I went to Moonah Primary School from Kinder to Year Six and then Ogilvie High School seven to 10. And now, like you said, I am at Elizabeth College
Tim Bullard: [00:01:28]
Hello, my name’s Harry. I am also in year 12 at Elizabeth College. I am 18. I have been in the Tasmanian public system since I moved here from New South Wales in grade three. I went to Newtown Primary School from grades 3 to 6, Newtown High School from grade seven to 10. And then Elizabeth College from grades 11 and 12.
Tim Bullard: [00:01:48]
So some people may not be aware that we have eight colleges in Tasmania and they are providing senior secondary education in years eleven and twelve. I went to college and I’ve got some really great memories about my time at Launceston College. But what do you like about going to college?
I really love about college the diversity of what you get to pick and what you get to do. High school was a really amazing experience that having a lot of support and being focused on very specific things and building our core abilities but college is really amazing for kind of having some independence. Going down your own path doing the subjects that you want to do. What you’re really interested in. Meeting like minded people, understanding what’s coming next with university. Pursuing kind of connections in the community. I think it’s really just that college is so focused on kind of turning a person into a young adult and helping a person get into the world. That’s what makes me love it
Yeah, I agree with Harry. I think for me at least, it really helps solidify what I wanted to do in the future and really set me up appropriately so that next year I’m equipped with the skills needed to succeed. And you don’t have to wear a uniform.
Tim Bullard: [00:02:59]
I do remember that. Now, obviously, we’re just coming out of COVID-19 and people will know that we couldn’t send children and young people to school sites for a considerable amount of time. Being in year 12, I’m really interested in what you saw as the challenges of having to learn at home, but also some of the opportunities.
I think, for most students and for me myself, I think it was the uncertainty that kind of made a lot of students anxious. Not only the fact that we weren’t going to school, so we weren’t seeing us teachers and our friends every day. It was that we were uncertain as to whether we were going to get an ATAR. As to whether we were even going to sit exams. So I think it was that uncertainty going from this year means so much, to this year being a matter of, okay, am I doing my exams at the end of the year?
I think for me it helped, kind of, it made me really grateful for what I have at school. So my friends, my teachers and I think that constant connection, even if it was online, was really helpful.
Yeah, I think I’d agree with that. And I’d also say the challenge of being very self directed and learning at your own pace at home because you’d have classes with your teacher online, or you might have someone who’s updating resources for you on something for you just to read. But ultimately, there’s no real way a teacher can look at you and see, hey, maybe you should be doing this. So it’s all up to you at the end of the day. And that’s a challenge. And I think some people did struggle with it because it’s a skill that has to be developed. And I think it’s definitely something that should be focused on now that we’re all back. But it was it was really good being able to do it was a really amazing thing for learning a skill that I’m sure it’s going to have to be used a lot in the future.
Tim Bullard: [00:04:43]
Did it provide you with a better understanding of the skill of teachers?
Definitely. I think for me, it really consolidated this idea that my teachers are always there to constantly support me. And not only academically, but also emotionally and mentally as well. Because obviously being at home is completely different to being situated in a school environment. And I think the teachers really understood that. And I think they kept checking in on us. And it was really quite comforting to know that there was always someone there to support us academically and emotionally.
That’s the skill of the teachers, because I think they do an amazing job in person. But I think it was also really demonstrated how quickly they adapted to completely new style of teaching, publishing new resources. Adapting the way that they marked assignments that like had to be filled in by hand. It was a really quick transition I found too. Something that ended up actually not disrupting, like my pace through this school year’s content. So, I think the talent of teachers does need to be acknowledged
I think eased anxiety as well. Definitely kind of eased a lot of that uncertainty that we’re feeling this year as Year 12s.
Tim Bullard: [00:05:48]
You’ve both had outstanding careers in public education. You’ve both told me that you’ve been to different public schools. What do you think the opportunities are that public education has provided you?
For me. I think just generally, before I get into the specifics. I think it has really helped me be situated with a whole range of different people. Not only teachers, but students as well. I found myself making friends with people from different cultures, different backgrounds, and I think that’s really beneficial because it often is reflective of not only our society, but also the workforce as well, which is the next step after year 12. And I think for me, specifically in year 10 and year 11 and 12, I think it’s helped solidify what I want to do, which is Law/Arts, hopefully. And I think that’s through opportunities like performing arts. I was involved in the musical last year, which really helped me gain quite a lot of confidence in my ability academically and socially. And I think opportunities like Tournament of Minds. I went to Darwin in year 10 after winning states, and I think that was really important because it introduced me to a whole other group of people from different states around the nation. And that really helped me gain confidence in myself.
I think on a similar track to Ang around the idea of diversity I think. I’ve been involved in a lot of leadership roles throughout public education. And I think being involved in leadership in a system like this means that you have to work with a lot of different people and you have empathy for what other people are going through and you understand what’s happening and what they’re affected by. And I think that’s something inherent in itself that’s really valuable just to be able to connect with the people around you, whoever they might be. And I think that public education has also had some really, really amazing opportunities to me. In grade 10 I went to Poland to attend the climate conference, the international negotiations following Paris on climate change. And that was facilitated through two public schools. All the fundraising was done through the community or through a grants process. And it just kind of showed that public schools isn’t just a system at the end of the day. It’s also people who are willing to support it and a whole community surrounding it. So I think that’s really what kind of embodies public schools to make the community in the way she can interact and learn from others.
Tim Bullard: [00:08:11]
We’ve all had teachers that inspire us. So thinking about those teachers, what is it that’s been really inspiring in the way that they’ve interacted with you and supported you?
Yeah, Harry and I were talking about this on the way down, actually, and we were discussing significant teachers in our life and our schooling. And we were even getting down to the primary school years because I think it’s so evident when a teacher is so passionate and you can see it and it’s so visual and so prominent. And I think for me, it’s when the teacher obviously cares about your academic ability, but they also go that step further and they recognise, okay, this person is a student, but this person is also a person with feelings and emotions. And I think when they start to consider. Okay, well, all my teachers do this, but when they start to consider, okay, this person is a person with emotions, with feelings, and they take that extra step further and constantly check up on you. And I think when a teacher truly cares that and you can say that is quite visible.
Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. And I think some teachers are just so dedicated to what they’re doing beyond the job that they’re hired for. But in educating and bringing another generation into the world. And like my teachers, I probably had an incredibly significant teacher at every stage of the public school system. And it’s probably put me on more of a stem path because but also in combination with humanities, because a teacher I had when I was in grade five talked to me very much about things like civics and citizenship and also investigative skills and science. And these were things that just really captured my attention. And she put me in competitions and helped me kind of excel and do extra things that weren’t necessarily just a part of the school curriculum, but were things I could do on top of that, things that would further my own passions. And I think teachers all on the way have done that and helped me grow not just my marks on paper, but who I was as a person.
Tim Bullard: [00:10:15]
So certainly a theme of understanding you as a person, not just as a student and being able to use some of that intrinsic motivation and interest to compel and support you to learn.
Tim Bullard: [00:10:29]
So both in year twelve. Big transition point as you move to the end of this year and think about what next? What is next for each of you?
So I’m quite passionate about the environment and protecting it and being involved in things like negotiations around it and policy. I’m not really sure what kind of path I want to go down. So that’s why I like the idea of doing a dual Law/Science degree, focusing on environmental issues so I can have some flexibility anywhere from politics to like law itself to even pure science and research. That’s I think that’s really where I want to make a difference in the world. And I want to pursue that. Maybe that’ll be UTAS, maybe that’ll be a mainland uni. There’s still a little bit of uncertainty with what some units are offering at the moment. But I think that’s definitely been fostered by the experiences I’ve had in the public school system.
Yeah, I think like Harry, I’m still kind of looking for a degree that offers me some flexibility so that I have more and more choices. I don’t have to make anything specific at the moment, but I think for me at the moment, I’m really passionate about human rights and equality, specifically for gender equality. And I think I’m looking into going into Law/Arts, specifically into gender studies and international relations. So like I said, like Harry said, he discussed policymaking in politics. I’m looking into that kind of stuff as well, that I have nothing really set in stone. And I think, like Harry said, my public school education has really helped me foster a love for making a difference and a love for looking at diversity and thinking, where are the inequalities and how can we fix that?
Tim Bullard: [00:12:11]
So you’ve both identified issues that you’re passionate about. If you’re my age, which is significantly more than yours, what things do you think you’ll still be wanting to learn about and know about as lifelong learners?
Look, I think with movements that are incredibly topical at the moment, things like Black Lives Matter it’s shown that a lot of social issues require kind of a learning continuously throughout your life. And I think I don’t think that’s ever going to be a point where I’m not going to want to or need to learn more about what’s kind of happening in the world and how people being disadvantaged and how I personally can help. I think there’s also things I’d love to pursue as interests. I do things this year which I don’t know if I’ll continue in, like maybe the first degree I do it uni, but I love things like physics, I love things around like astronomy and space. So I think I’m always going to have a little bit of a hobby and a casual reading of those things alongside very topical world issues.
Yeah, I agree with Harry. I think those inequalities that we’re talking about are always going to exist, unfortunately. And I think while we can diminish them and we can make them smaller. I think it is a matter of learning more and more so that we can be educated to fight against them and make those problems smaller. But while they exist, it is a matter of learning and staying educated. And I think we can all do that as a society, regardless of whether we’re 18 or my mother’s age or forty five.
Tim Bullard: [00:13:42]
Still younger than me.
Tim Bullard: [00:13:45]
Obviously, we are going through a time of great uncertainty and it’s easy to feel that life is really complex. But what excites you about the future?
Yeah. Really good question. I think what I’m witnessing as a young person is that there’s such a big movement happening at the moment in terms of yes, environmental stuff, gender stuff but just in general people are looking towards a very progressive society. And that really excites me that people want a little bit of change. And I think that will happen in our generation.
I always think that advances in science and research and finding just more stuff about space is very cool. And I love that we’re on the brink of space exploration. I think that’s it’s that that makes me very excited. But I definitely think that the thing that definitely excites me the most about the future is just being in a room with a lot of passionate young people who go to the public system. Maybe not. But you exist in a space with them and you could just feel the energy and the want to make things better and to truly care and have empathy for others around them. And that kind of passion is what just really makes me excited to see what happens in the future. And it gives me hope that the complexities of the current world can be dealt with.
Tim Bullard: [00:15:05]
I think my next question is almost redundant because I think we’ve almost answered it by, they’ve been lucky enough to listen to both of you and your views. But why do you think it’s important that as a Department of Education, but also as a state government, we listen to the voices of young people?
I think youth represent the up and coming leaders of not only Australia but the world. And I think our views are often reflective of what we want to see in the future. And I think by listening to that, you have the power in this situation. I’m yet to vote, I know Harry can, which is exciting, but I think you have the power to reflect what we want as individuals to say in our society in the future. And I think because you have that power, listening to us will help better the society and make sure that it’s reflective of not only what we want, but what will be beneficial for society in the future.
I definitely think there’s an aspect of young people are going to be one of the biggest stakeholders to consider in issues that are going to impact the future, whether any aspects of inequality, whether it’s something like climate change. And so I think that considering that they’re one of the groups that’s going to be the most affected is one of the reasons that they should be listened to, because it’s ultimately their futures that are being decided. But I also do think that young people should be listened to because a lot of young people really do want to engage and are passionate about politics. And I know it’s a little bit of a running joke about wanting to vote sometimes how exciting it is. But I genuinely do look forward to when I can cast a ballot and have a bit more of a say in society and connecting with politicians and stuff. So, yeah. I think that young people definitely want to open a two way street of discourse.
Tim Bullard: [00:16:53]
Yes. And I’ll just add to that. I think that by understanding your vision for the future, it also then provides us with really good guidance about the skills and capabilities that we need to foster in young people in public education so that you can deliver that future, which I think is is a great opportunity. So both being at school, you now coming to the end. So you the perfect punter’s to answer this question. Looking all the way back over your years of schooling, what’s one thing that you’d change about school?
I think for me, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve recognised the discrepancies between what the school tend to idolise so like marks and that kind of stuff. And a lot of students, specifically from lowest socio economic backgrounds their means to achieve it. And I think looking towards the future as the Education Department, what might be a focus is looking at ways we can close the gap between privileged and underprivileged kids. Because I think that’s still very evident in the schooling system, especially in regards to the COVID-19 situation. I think the disparities between privileged kids and underprivileged kids was quite visible. But unfortunately, those discrepancies existed prior to COVID-19. And I think they still exist now. And how do we close that gap? I don’t know. But I think that’s something that needs to be focused on into the future. And I think that’s something I’ve started to recognise as I’ve gotten older. But I’ve also recognised that they existed when I was in primary school, when I was in high school. But perhaps because I’ve been quite sheltered in my environment, it makes it quite difficult to recognise those discrepancies. But they definitely exist and they’re needed need to be focused on into the future.
And I think we both have come from like quite a position of privilege within the public school system of our ability to kind of have had like a very separate study about space during COVID-19 to do our work and to exist without our family bothering us or without having a responsibility to do something. Not having any capability to do so. I think perhaps for me, the thing I’d like to bring up is maybe more around mental health. And I think schools have. Public schools have done really great steps in implementing guidance counsellors and school psychologists into the school environment. And I know people have access them and really been benefited from them. I think that the problem in a lot of cases isn’t actually the fact that those resources aren’t there, but that people don’t perceive them as accessible. I think that some schools could go to greater efforts to kind of educate their students on those that are available for them when they should access them so they don’t feel like they’re being a hypochondriac for wanting to talk about their stigma.
Which will also reduce stigma and I think that’s a major problem as well, that people often stigmatize wanting to get help or gaining help. And I think by, like Harry said, increasing education around mental health, you will diminish those problems and the stigma surrounding them, which will not only benefit the people that are being troubled by those things and struggling with mental illness, but it will also benefit the greater community as well.
Particularly when you look at the way that a lot of students have to deal with mental health concerns at the moment, where they often end up going to their friends for support because they’re the people they feel like they can open up to the most about things. And it’s definitely good that they talk to someone. But the problem is that the friend can’t really pass them along to someone that could help them even more. And so the friend kind of has to end up being a psychologist without any training and kind of causing harms for both parties. So, yeah, I think it’s less that those things don’t exist and more just the accessibility and perceived ability to get those things.
And also recognising that everyone struggles at some point. I think we of we often find ourselves idolising certain people and not recognising that they are actually struggling with the stuff behind the scenes as well. I think it’s by increasing that education, you’ll like I said, be able to destigmatise that stuff, but you also be able to recognise that people struggle and people aren’t perfect.
Tim Bullard: [00:21:11]
I think that both of your reflections are absolutely on the money. We’ve got a strategic plan and the two things. Two of the four goals. One is well-being. And recognising that we need to support each and every learners well-being to learn, and that we come from different starting places. But the other one is access and participation. And certainly I agree with you that through COVID that was laid bare that children and young people have very different starting points for being able to learn whether it’s digital devices, whether it’s having a safe and secure learning space, whether it’s having enough food on the table. And that meeting to look at how we level that playing field, I think is an absolute priority that we need to pursue.
Tim Bullard: [00:21:56]
So we’re coming to a close, but I’m going to give you an opportunity to ask me a question. It has to be a two way conversation. And you’ve been fantastic guests.
Yeah. I was wondering is this is probably quite a quick question, but it kind of just to sum up what we’ve been talking about here today. Is there a message you’d like to tell students in Tasmania after COVID-19 at the moment? Maybe you 12 students, maybe something we could tell, like our friends. Is there a message you’d like to convey to the student body?
Tim Bullard: [00:22:25]
Absolutely. And one thing I’ll say is you both talked about having anxiety around the end of the year. And my message to you is it’s not your problem to sort out. So there are a lot of good minds putting a lot of energy into working out what end of year assessment will look like and how you will be treated fairly. And by fairly I mean, you will be treated in a way that allows the loss of learning, or the barriers to learning to be taken into account in your individual assessment. So if I had to say one thing, that’s what I’d say. Young people in year 12, it’s actually not your problem to sort this out. We’re working on it.
Tim Bullard [00:23:01]
So thanks, Harry and Angela, for joining me today. I’ve been really inspired by your journey in public education. And in particular, I’ve really loved your reflections on the opportunities that it’s provided to you to meet broad group of people, understand how the world works, and also access a really great range of subjects. And I feel really fortunate that we’ve got young people like you who are going to be the next generation of people that are leading Tasmania.
[00:23:33] So thanks for your time.
[00:23:35] Thank you very much.
Tim Bullard [00:23:46]
I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast to hear more about those people who teach, learn and live in Tasmania. Join us at www.education.tas.gov.au/podcast or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Why not subscribe so that you can keep up to date with what we’re doing? Or if you have a story about an inspiring teacher or student. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.