VIC Branch News

President's message, Coralee Pratt


Yes, 2021 has indeed been challenging for educational leaders in Victoria, however high attendance at ACEL Victoria events this year has validated that our leaders still crave for engagement in enlightened discourse and connection with like minded people.

The year started with the prestigious ACEL Awards evening held over form 2020. We congratulated 11 new Fellows, and heard from our Awardees Chris Wardlaw (Hedley Beare Educator of the Year), Amanda Heffernan (Brian Caldwell Research Award) and Virginia Trioli (Media Award).

In their recently published CSE Paper Tony Mackay and Valerie Hannon proposed that it’s time to reflect on the nature of the leadership that is required at this most pivotal time in human history, and then continued to expand upon the notion of ‘new order’ educational leadership and what this looks like throughout the Paper. I believe that the suite of learning opportunities provided by ACEL Victoria this year have helped to progress this concept and stimulated conversations both at the event and in work environments about the skills and attributes that ‘new order’ leaders require to thrive in their role.

During the year the popular Q & A Forums explored the ambiguous definitions of ‘bold and beautiful’ leadership, what this meant from the unique perspective of the panellists and the crucial role that relationships play in leadership: and then we narrowed the focus to the role of the principal and explored principals’ ability to sustain the role due to increased demands and complexities, and how we can tackle the this.

The 2021 President’s Research Seminar focused on the #Metoo movement and the implications for schools and leaders, and in the 2021 Patron’s Oration Yong Zhao shared his thoughts about how this current time of disruption provides educators with an opportunity to re-imagine and invent new learning opportunities. He encouraged the audience to resist the urge to return to ‘normal’, mostly because it doesn’t exist anymore.

Thank you to everyone who supported ACEL Victoria in 2021 and everyone who attended our amazing virtual National Leadership Conference. Sadly, it wasn’t held in Melbourne as planned but Sydney 2022 is looking good!

With a new year fast approaching the Branch Executive are planning local events for 2022 and want to hear from our members, at all stages of their career, about what current topics interest them and what ACEL Victoria can do to support their educational leadership journey. Your voice matters and is highly valued so please take a couple of minutes to complete the Survey Monkey using this link. This will be greatly appreciated!

I sincerely thank the amazing Branch Executives: Melissa Etherton, Karen Money, Fiona Hutton, David Gurr, Simon Kent, Gail Major, Lauren Cook, Lawrie Drysdale, Jane Wilkinson, Toni Meath, Sue Buckley and Louisa Rennie. I feel very privileged to work with and learn from, such a talented and knowledgeable group.

Wishing all members, a happy and safe holiday season and look forward to further connection and learning together in 2022!

Member Profile, Coralee Pratt

Who or what inspired you to become a leader in education?

I was inspired to be influential in leading teaching and learning practice beyond the classroom and make a difference to lives of all children within my sphere of influence whether that was at school or system level. I realised quite early that to achieve this I would need to be in a leadership role. Firstly, I built my credibility as a practitioner as people follow the lead of other people that they know and trust, especially if you are expecting them to change. Then I invested heavily in developing my leadership skills accessing formal programs, completing post graduate study, joining ACEL and having a range of mentors to support me. Mentors that were honest, believes in me to reach that next stage and upon whom I could rely to “poke me with a sharp stick called truth” when needed.

What are you curious about in regards to the future of education?

I am curious about what blended learning will look like in the future in schools. We just can’t ignore the evidence that a significant number of previously disengaged students responded well to remote learning. Educators need to use digital technology to personalise learning, both supporting and challenging students, preparing them for their futures.

I am also curious to see how health and wellbeing will be prioritised in the future. At my first school as principal, our motto was “all students must feel safe and happy to reach their full potential”. That was 21 years ago and is still so true!

How do you encourage creativity, innovation and risk taking among the principals in the region you are leading?

Having a strong sense of curiosity and self-reflection are critical to leadership and I encourage people with whom I work to be aware of how they model and encourage these daily. Whilst most of use work within a framework of accountability following policy and processes, there is still significant ability to be innovative, particularly when addressing contextual needs. Sometimes this requires a degree of calculated risk taking, mixed with the desire to be innovative and stirred thoroughly with dashes of creativity. I have witnessed this a lot over the past two years.

What is the best professional learning you received?

In 2007 I was privileged to participate in a three-week residential program at Harvard University in USA with two colleagues. Being totally immersed in ‘how to lead large scale improvement’, working directly with Richard Elmore, Ron Heifetz, Michael Fullan and numerous other leading educationalists, as well as connecting with leaders from across 14 countries, was inspiring and the effect enduring. It was a project-based program and our work in teacher collaborative learning was the foundation for work in creating a professional learning community.

What do you believe are the key learnings from the past two years of educating through a pandemic?

I have learned that a crisis brings out the best and worst in human beings. I have encouraged myself and others to replace “why is this happening to me!” with “what is this trying to teach me?”. I never cease to be inspired by the resilience, generosity and commitment of educators, especially principals. They are working long hours in an atmosphere of uncertainty and heighted anxiety, yet they remain controlled, positive and available for all members of their community. They too are heroes of this pandemic and should be recognised.

What have you learned from your role as Victorian Branch President of ACEL?

Being President is the culmination of many years of commitment to ACEL. I joined as a member in the early stages of my leadership career and the benefits that I have received from my membership have been immense. It is important to note though, ‘you get as much as you give’. Membership needs to be a reciprocal endeavour to truly maximise the benefits.

As President I have been privileged to work with a range of branch executives from all sectors and learned so much from them. Their generosity and collegiality are a source of inspiration to me daily.

I am also grateful for being part of the ACEL National Board team. I am constantly humbled by the talent which resides within the Board. Learning to be an effective Board Director has been an amazing experience and provided me with a new set of very useful skills.

I am very fortunate indeed!

Which three words would you use to describe yourself as a graduate teacher?

Excited, Naive, Committed

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