Dorothy Hoddinott — an example to us all

Ignore those paranoid “patriots”, the dwindling supporters of Pauline H, the moaners about consideration for others — sorry, “political correctness” — gone mad. The best way to go has been before our eyes for years now, and one shining example has been just retired school principal Dorothy Hoddinott. What a positive influence she has been on so many lives, and for harmony in our country! As a former teacher myself I am humbled by what she has achieved, with her colleagues. The best thing is realising the ripple effect of her example.

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Dorothy Hoddinott in 2014: see my previous posts Refugee success stories, Islam and so on… and Iraq, Downer, Rudd, and a really positive story to end on.

In that last post:

Dorothy I met through ESL circles.  There is a great story on her in today’s Herald.

One morning earlier this month, Dorothy Hoddinott left Wollongong at the crack of dawn to drive back to Sydney. The Holroyd High School principal had been attending a conference but was determined to make it back in time to see one of her former students graduate from university.

Zainab Kaabi finished high school 11 years ago. But her personal accomplishment was also an exceptionally proud and significant moment for her mentor and former principal.

Not only did Hoddinott once willingly add $9000 to her personal credit cards to secure her student a place at university. But the young asylum seeker inspired her to set up a trust fund in her name, which has since expanded to support refugee students studying in public high schools and universities across the state.

The Friends of Zainab trust fund was established when, in her final year of high school, Zainab Kaabi told Hoddinott she would have to drop out because, as she was now an adult, she would no longer be eligible for her welfare payments under the conditions of her temporary protection visa.

Hoddinott recalls telling her ”I’m not going to let you leave school, you’re too good. Sorry but you’re a scholarly girl.”

She contacted everyone she knew for donations and set up the trust fund, allowing her to remain at school.

The donations continued to support her through a bachelor of medical sciences at Macquarie University and a bachelor of pharmacy at Sydney University…

So I was very pleased to see 7.30 during this week:

GEOFF THOMPSON: After years of travelling and teaching in Australia and in Europe, Dorothy arrived at Holroyd High in 1995, where about half of the students have a refugee background and almost 90 per cent speak English as a second language.
DOROTHY HODDINOTT: There was an educational Apartheid in the school. There was a ‘them’ and the ‘us.’ And so one of the first things I had to do was to actually extend all of the facilities of the school.
There were lots and lots of rules and a lot of the rules were overlapping each other and they weren’t common sense.
(Shots of kids at Holroyd High)
So what I did was I threw out all of those rules and we operated on common sense for a year, while we negotiated a new
way of doing things, and we came up with respect. And so we had to make that sort of suitable for kids: respect for myself, respect for others, respect for the school and community.
GEOFF THOMPSON: It worked. Just ask Bashir Yousufi, whom 7.30 first met in 2012 when he came to Holroyd High as a 15 year old… He had just fled Afghanistan after his parents were killed by the Taliban.
BASHIR YOUSUFI, FORMER HOLROYD HIGH STUDENT: I didn’t go to school so I didn’t think I would ever have this opportunity that I have at the moment.
GEOFF THOMPSON: This week Bashir travelled to Sydney to thank the person that he now calls his mum.
BASHIR YOUSUFI: She is more than principal to me and she is my mum and she adopted me, which is a great thing and I love her and I really, I respect her.
GEOFF THOMPSON: Bashir is now in the final year of a business degree at ANU.
BASHIR YOUSUFI: How are you?
DOROTHY HODDINOTT: Oh, how wonderful to see you!
GEOFF THOMPSON: Dorothy helped Bashir through school and into university with her Friends of Zainab Scholarship Program, named after the first student she helped to get to uni using her own credit card.
BASHIR YOUSUFI: Without your help, it would be – I wouldn’t be studying at ANU right now.
DOROTHY HODDINOTT: You decided to learn English while you were in detention. You decided to learn 15 English words each day.
(LAUGHS)
That wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t had the motivation. It was a happy combination of your motivation, the school supporting you and so on.
BASHIR YOUSUFI: Yes. Holroyd High became my favourite place and you will be my favourite place for the rest of my life.

Says it all, doesn’t it?

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Sir Joseph Banks High School: inspiring

Last night on SBS we met this young man, among others.

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They are the captains of Sir Joseph Banks High School in S-W Sydney. He is also dux. The school not only encompasses just about everything Pauline Hanson would be scared of, head-scarves for example, it also brings to life just why she is tragically wrong-headed. Not to mention all those Hanson think-alikes (male or female) out there.

At Sir Joseph Banks High School we are proudly inclusive. We welcome students to our school wholeheartedly, and celebrate the fact that they come from a wide range of cultural and language backgrounds. Within the school, we have fostered an environment where students care for each other and for those less fortunate than themselves. Our growing reputation within the East Hills and Bankstown areas is based on the success of our students who are thriving in this environment and who are able to take advantage of the huge range of opportunities we provide for them.

This explains How Sir Joseph Banks High School turned its fortunes around.

Just a few years ago, student numbers at Sir Joseph Banks High were dwindling; it was far from the first choice of school for many and its reputation meant neighbouring high schools attracted the best and the brightest.

But within three years, the dedicated team of teachers, led by principal Murray Kitteringham, have turned the school around and for two years in a row, every student from the Revesby school who has applied for a university place has been accepted….

[The Principal] said the school had a reputation of being a “rough school” and the local Arabic population favoured single-sex schools over Sir Joseph Banks.

But while the school is still dominated by boys, the number of girls is rising and there has been an overall growth in enrolments of 10 per cent in 18 months. It is also the top school in its area for student growth – the most important measure in education.

The school has used some of its federal Gonski funding to employ a youth worker for years 7 to 10 students as well as a senior studies coordinator, Amaney Khazma Roumieh, who develops a personalised learning plan for every senior student….

Do yourself a favour if you can and watch that episode of Insight, linked at the top of this post, and also on the school’s website.

This extremely powerful episode will touch your emotions and make you feel very proud that you are part of our Joeys’ family. Where else do people care so much for each other that they go above and beyond to provide the support needed for students to succeed? Thank you to the many students who bravely shared their stories. We applaud you!

As a former teacher I am just in awe at what this school has done!

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Year 7 students from Sir Joseph Banks HS being inspired by a visit to Sydney University

Employable Me on ABC last night

I have been following this outstanding series for the past three weeks. Last night was the final episode.

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I share the enthusiasm of the people on this thread.

Employable Me follows people with neuro diverse conditions such as autism and Tourette Syndrome as they search for meaningful employment.

This uplifting, warm and insightful series draws on experts to uncover people’s hidden skills and to match job seekers to roles that can harness their strengths.

We all deserve a role in society. That’s what this show is about: striving to belong and play your part. The series looks beyond first impressions to reveal there’s always more than meets the eye.

Anybody else catch this last night?

Wonderfully crafted into an entertaining, yet thought provoking piece, by the producers who I assume are the same ones behind the “You Can’t Ask That?” series. A refreshing break from the other mindless ‘reality’ TV drivel that is awash on commercial television.

It would be hard to call yourself a human if not one little bit of empathy is drawn from you after watching this…

One of the three featured last night was the amazingly talented Cain Noble-Davies.

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See Fighting to fit in: Growing up with autism.

Cain Noble-Davies, 22, was just seven years old when he was diagnosed with autism, but he remembers it like it was yesterday.

“The immediate question that came into my head was, ‘what’s wrong with me?’

“Being told right there that there is something that objectively makes you different from most other people is pretty hard for a kid,” he says on this week’s episode of Insight.

While many look back at primary school with a feeling of nostalgia, for Cain, socialising never came easily and he recalls his school days as some of the worst of his life.

“It would have been what I’d call socialising at gun point.

“All the students had to get along with each other because fighting doesn’t make for the best schools and it is genuinely difficult for me to socialise even at the best of times because I am not that good when it comes to reading social cues.”

Cain’s behaviour and difficulties interacting with other children that would contribute to his depression, anxiety and the dramatic circumstances of his eventual diagnosis of autism.

Cain’s mother, Gretchen Broer, says that she had never heard of autism before Cain’s diagnosis in the 90s, when there was not as much awareness about it as there is now.

Cain was initially diagnosed with Semantic Pragmatic Disorder instead.
Autism was never mentioned when Gretchen took him to doctors as a child, concerned about his slow development, difficulty with speech and aggression.

“The word autism never came up… I didn’t know what that even meant, semantic pragmatic disorder.

“He just said, ‘that’s what it is, that’s explaining the delays and off you go’ and there was no further discussion about it.”

But when Cain’s aggressive behaviour continued in the playground, Gretchen was confronted by parents at school and things got worse.

“I had a woman dive in front of my car when I was pulling out of the school car park to abuse me that Cain had ripped one of her children’s hats.”

“Parents would confront him as a small child, reprimanding him… I felt isolated and Cain was totally isolated at school… it was a nightmare.”

It all came to a head one morning when Gretchen received a phone call from Cain’s school.

“I got the call from the school saying I had to go up there very quickly, there was an emergency.

“I got there to find out that Cain, at seven, had written a suicide note and jumped off the second storey building at school.”….

Do read that whole story! And in Cain’s own words: Autism and job interviews: what it’s like trying to find work when you have ASD. Now Cain writes film reviews on his own blog and for FilmInk, for example Goodbye Christopher Robin .

See also this very thoughtful analysis of the show and the issues: Employable Me has struck a chord but will it change employers’ attitudes to disability?

I was particularly interested in Employable Me because from 2000 to 2005 one of my duties at Sydney Boys High had been mentoring some students on the Autism Spectrum. Back at the turn of the century I was like many of us unaware of Aspergers, so my own learning curve was steep indeed. Of the five I mentored I had a degree of success with maybe three! (One is still a Facebook friend.) I was not working alone of course. There were experts visiting the school, and our two counsellors were great. So I should add was one of the parents, a tireless stirrer and advocate on behalf of her son and “Aspies” generally. Looking back too, with hindsight strengthened by Employable Me, there are some of my past students who fell between the gaps. It was all very new to us back then.

# Do visit Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia.

Looking back at 2017 — 10

Been doing a lot of reading lately. More on that some other time. Meanwhile, continuing the 2017 series with October.

Reading SBHS: proud

Among the many things I have been reading lately has been the 2016 edition of The Record, the magazine of Sydney Boys High, where I was a pupil 1955-1959 and a teacher variously between 1985 and 2005. See posts tagged Sydney High.

The latest Record really impresses me, capturing as it does the transformation — much for the better, in my opinion — of the school in recent years. I really recommend you have a look for yourself on the link at the beginning of this post.

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And how about this!

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Proud of the old school! Let me quote brilliant ex-student Raymond Roca:

I would like to begin by saying how privileged I feel to be able to talk to you on this occasion of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. It was less than ten years ago (2007) that I was sitting on the other side of this podium, just like you, and it never would have crossed my mind that I would be back here at a school assembly so soon after graduation, and particularly at an assembly on the issue of homophobia and transphobia. This inaugural event is an indication not only to how far things have come socially in relation to LGBTI equality in this country in the past decade, but also a testament to the leadership position that Sydney Boys High School has held on issues of social justice and more broadly. There are still so many schools out there where an event like this would simply not be possible. So the fact that we are all here today is a testament to you and to this school, which has always been a beacon for leadership and for a progressive, well-rounded public education accessible and inclusive for all.

I would like to talk to you today about the importance of a positive recognition of diversity…

The greatest lesson that I learnt at this school was not in the classroom – great as those lessons were – but rather in the unique and fantastic exposure to difference that I received here. An exposure to and understanding of diversity that will better prepare you to be the leaders of the future that this school is so well regarded for. Thank you.

The Record 2016 page 83 

More reading SBHS

From the previous post you could — correctly — get the idea that SBHS in 2017 is a pretty progressive place. I spoke of the school being “transformed” in recent years. And it has been, not least because of the vision and leadership skills of the Principal, Dr Jaggar. He’s had his share of challenges too. Early on in his being in the job I was involved in one of them.

What strikes me though, having thoroughly read the 2016 Record and browsed back as far as 2010, is how tradition has been preserved, indeed augmented, while embracing change.

Let’s go back sixty years: and yes, I was there. See my post 1957 or MCMLVII.

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Edgar Bembrick was the legendary Latin teacher of us mob in 3B. I was 14. He, I suspected, personally knew Julius Caesar, in fact probably taught him. In fact it appears he was born in 1890. In 2007 I wrote, referring to 1959:

Edgar Bembrick, my Latin teacher in my last year in high school — his last year too as he died before that year was over — was in some ways as boring a person as you could hope to meet, and with a face remarkably like a prune. However, there was a twinkle in the eye and an awesome reputation in his subject area: “Don’t use that crib, son; I wrote it.” He would also come into the lesson without a text book and tell us what page to turn to and would then proceed to his exposition without recourse to anything other than his memory. He once claimed to be able to complete any line of Latin or Greek verse we could throw at him. We never caught him out.

The French teacher was truly ancient, speaking a strange kind of French he apparently honed among the poppy fields of Picardy. He was quite awful, actually, so I will pass over his name.

Now English with Mr Harrison was a delight.

In 1958 I and some classmates — one Lionel Laurie among them I recall — went to Sydney University to participate in a Latin Reading Competition. My effort was no great shakes, but it was the first time I ever visited that magic quadrangle.  I was to return: Random Friday memory 18 – Latin at Sydney 1960.

Now speaking as I was of tradition. Look at this from The Record 2016. And look at the names.

On Friday June 3, Years Ten and Eleven participated in the Latin Reading Competition, held annually at Sydney University and organised by the Classical Association of New South Wales. Entrants had to recite a passage from the works of Virgil and Ovid. Students were judged by leading academics in Classics.

This year, Sydney Boys High achieved excellent results. Two students, Roy Wu of Year Ten and Sanishka Balasooriya of Year Eleven, have been selected for the final of this prestigious competition. In addition, Edward Heaney’s presentation impressed the judges and has been awarded a Highly Commended. Edward was presented with his Certificate on the night of the final in the Law Building, University of Sydney, on 1 August. Year Ten Latin presented a choral piece on the night, as normally happens when a Year Ten student reaches the final.

After their recitations, the students visited the Nicholson Museum, which currently has an exhibition on Pompeii, and then attended a lecture on the Greek and Roman Oracle, a prophetess who presented “the future” (albeit ambiguously) to those who sought her guidance.

Mrs D Matsos, Latin

But here is something 2016 offered which 1957 could not!

March 28 was a day filled with triumph. As a student who has participated in the National Chinese Eisteddfod (poetry recital) every year since 2013, I can say without a doubt that this year was the most exhilarating and competitive of them all. From the lunchtime rehearsals to the last minute alterations, every single High contestant was able to demonstrate the focus and hard-working ethic, which provided Sydney High with outstanding results.

The National Chinese Eisteddfod comprises of an individual and a group based competition. In terms of the results from the individual category, I would like to congratulate Vitaly Kovalevskiy (Year 7) who came third in the eight to twelve years age group for non-native speakers, Yeong Meng Li (Year 8) who came second in the ten to twelve years age group for Cantonese speakers, Royce Xiao who came third in the thirteen to fifteen years age group and Justin Liu who came second in the thirteen to fifteen years age group for Mandarin speakers…

Took this when I revisited the school in 2012:

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Reading/literacy roundabout

There was a good news story on ABC yesterday, and I did welcome it, even if I also had a total deja vu moment!

There is a national focus on engaging girls in maths and science, but the underperformance of boys in literacy attracts little attention. Now, teachers are calling for a national campaign to counter boys’ mass rejection of the English curriculum….

One boys school in Sydney’s inner west is trying to turn things around and has taken up the challenge to foster a love of literature.

It starts first thing in the morning. Canterbury Boys High begins every school day with 20 minutes of reading time. There’s no screens in sight as boys devour a wide variety of books from the classics to graphic literature.

English teacher Nathan McKinley said the initiative had helped create an ingrained focus on literacy that permeates all subject areas.

“It’s a whole-school focus now,” Mr McKinley said. “We’ve been able to move away from the idea that literacy is the English teacher’s job.”…

That’s great! However I witnessed exactly this practice as long ago as 1993, and it wasn’t exactly new then! See also my Grad Cert TESOL essay from 1998 on Literacy.

The practice is known as Sustained Silent Reading or Drop Everything and Read . I saw it happening in 1993 at South Sydney High School.

Back when I was doing that TESOL course Canadian Stephen Krashen was a big name. It is still worth reading his 2003 article False Claims About Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Skills vs. Whole Language, and Recreational Reading, especially given both major parties here in Oz have tended to go all reactionary on this.