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DG's View

16 June 2010

A trip back to my education roots

State Education Week is surely one of the jewels in the crown of the department's calendar, with its focus on schools from so many different positive angles.

My Favourite Teacher gives students the chance to offer their teachers some well-deserved recognition, and for the teachers it surely provides a welcome boost.

The Showcase Awards for Excellence in Schools regional finals put the focus on a bigger stage, highlighting some of the outstanding achievements of our schools both among their students and in their communities, and their regional focus ensures State Education Week is truly a statewide event.

Also in the regions, Fanfare festivals provide the entertainment while judges select the 11 top state school bands and orchestras for the state finals in August, while rehearsals for the Creative Generation - State Schools on Stage extravaganza are in full swing.

One of my favourite State Education Week activities has to be Principal for a Day, not just because for two years running it has brought memories flooding back for me personally.

In 2009 I had the pleasure of travelling out to Goondiwindi, where I spent my childhood, and I was pleased to see so many familiar and friendly faces. This year my trip was geographically a much shorter one, but it again took me down memory lane to Beenleigh State High School, my first teaching post and a school which was to be my professional home for some five years.

A little good-natured ribbing from the students (who wears blue to a rugby league-loving Queensland school on the day of State of Origin I? a sartorial oversight on my part I assure you), some familiar faces around the office and the staff room and I was transported back in time.

In reality, of course, Principal for a Day provides far more value than a memory reviver for nostalgic Directors-General.

It establishes a tangible bridge between our schools and their communities. For some students, the treat is to have a sporting hero or reality television celebrity in their midst. For others the presence of a community leader can provide a first-hand insight into how business or government works.

For our school staff, inviting the world from outside the school gates in, so to speak, can have many benefits, not least lending a fresh perspective to school priorities and challenges.

But I suspect the greatest benefit arising from this program is the impression it leaves on our esteemed Principals for a Day. Many comment on how they had never realised how much goes into the running of a school. It's fair to say the operation, from the smallest country school to some of the virtual mini-cities that our largest Prep-Year 12 establishments have become, has daunted some of the hardest heads in business, sport and politics.

To a person, though, these Principals for a Day leave better informed and full of respect for the jobs you do. And that has to be a good thing for education in Queensland.

I hope the program continues as long as there are state schools in Queensland. I personally have plenty left to visit.