Why this school wants its teachers to leave its classrooms

by Brett Henebery18 Nov 2016

In 2016 Melbourne Girls Grammar (MGGS) upturned the notion of professional development and learning by introducing a range of opportunities for its staff that includes targeted projects, partnerships beyond the education sector and teacher ‘externships’.

MGGS is the first school to offer teachers this innovative opportunity, which complements the school’s new Senior Years curriculum being launched in 2017.
 
Through the school’s Centre for Educational Enterprise (CEE), teachers will have the opportunity to take up to two weeks out of the classroom to work in industry with the aim of discovering first-hand what industry expects of its youngest employees, the skills required and in building ongoing partnerships.
 
The school’s deputy principal, Christopher McNamara, told The Educator that an important agenda for the CEE was the development of its teachers.

“For example, the centre encourages the school’s Science and Mathematics teachers to work in labs and engineering firms, helping them reshape their curriculum and the nature of the classroom experience,” he said.

”This development can’t just focus on content knowledge and practice, but must help our teachers understand the world of work and enterprise we are educating our girls for.”

McNamara – who is also the director of the CEE – added that the initiative also helps teachers make the connection between what they doing in the classroom and the girls’ professional futures.

In terms of what he sees as the biggest opportunities in the CEE for improved teaching and learning, he pointed to an enhanced school experience for both students and staff.

“We continue to strive to be a destination workplace. This means we need to not only attract the best possible people, but continue to invest in their development and give them opportunities to expand their sense of who they are as professionals, and how they can help grow and improve the school,” he said.
 

Making a difference to the broader community

McNamara said the future of school-to-industry partnerships was “incredibly exciting and imperative” for both schools and the broader economy.

“The challenge of course is the authenticity of these partnerships. We see schools as innovation hubs with enormous talent and creativity,” he said.

“We would love for Melbourne Girls Grammar to be a place where our industry partners bring their real world problems.”

He added that this would give MGGS students the opportunity to work collaboratively with industry professionals and be engaged in processes that make a difference to the broader community.

“It would also be an opportunity for our girls to gain experiences that they would traditionally not get until they entered the workforce. That’s the type of partnership that delivers a benefit for both schools and industry,” he said.

In September, Becky Glenton, a Year 4 teacher, was the first person to raise her hand to work for Avanade, a global digital technology firm. Over two weeks she was spent time in the firm’s Sydney and Melbourne offices.
 
Becky discovered there were similarities between the education and corporate environments, particularly around the digital environment. Both spheres have a focus on utilising an array of digital technology to enhance collaboration both internally and externally, to ensure best outcomes and to reduce costs.
 
“This has been one of the most beneficial experiences I have had. I have sat in on challenging meetings observing difficult conversations and have watched in awe,” she said.
 
Glenton added that she visited Microsoft and Google for meetings and discovered that employees were not interested in the ATAR, but rather in the skills and range of experiences her students will have whilst at school.
 
“I now feel well equipped to talk to students about the opportunities that exist beyond our walls,” she said.
 

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