VIC Branch News

Member Profile, Jane Wilkinson


1. What was your career pathway into Professorship at Monash University?

Like many of us, I began working life as a teacher in a small secondary school, Goroke Consolidated. I was a city girl and it was a small rural school and I learned a lot! It was a very good thing to do although a tough initiation as someone who had had no rural experience. After teaching and then being a curriculum consultant, I became a DP. I loved it but wanted some more intellectual nourishment. I began a PhD by distance and then did a range of short term, casual work in Charles Sturt University in southern NSW. I gained tenure a few years later and that began my academic path.

2. What do you believe is a key challenge for educational leaders in schools today?

Issues of social justice and equity. It is so hard for schools to balance the myriad needs of children and families who are struggling with issues of family violence, poverty, mental illness and other social issues. Many schools and educators have become the back up for struggling families as governments of all persuasions withdraw support. Let us hope Covid 19 and the inadequacies of our welfare net will be the 'wake up' call governments need.

3. Where do you believe Australia could make some improvements in addressing the needs of refugee students in schools?

Clearly tie funding of TESOL students to TESOL support. Provide extra support for schools with refugee students in addition to TESOL and other support, in recognition of the complex issues these students bring to their studies. Recognise the extraordinary strengths and resilience these students bring - don't assume because they have had interrupted or no schooling that they are 'lacking' or deficit. We interviewed one student who was not literate in his first language but spoke 18 different languages/dialects. Work with this rich diversity.

4. How has your research in the areas of social justice, informed change in education?

That's a hard one! I do a lot of long term research with schools so one way is by working with teachers, executive staff and children through action research and by getting the children's voices into the research conversation. Our child-written and produced video of Ali and the Long Journey to Australia had enormous impact on schools and educators. We received lots of emails and poignant messages from schools across Australia and internationally. Watch it - it's the powerful thing I've ever participated in research-wise.

5. If you were starting a school in 2022, what would be the three key aspects of a future focused education that you would want to see in this school?

Love - relationships matter in education and if you don't feel as a school that you have pedagogical love at the heart of all that you do, then forget it.
Equity - how can we ensure all kids get the best possible chance to succeed, academically, socially and emotionally?
Critical thinking - we can't prepare children for everything in the future but we can educate them to ask questions and think deeply

6. What advice would you have for aspiring female leaders seeking to lead schools at a Principal level?

Don't try to 'behave like a man' (terrible advice I was given by a mentor). Believe in yourself - you got there on your merits and ability. Play to your strengths and what you bring to the table.

7. What piece of advice would you pass on to your 16 year old self?

Believe in yourself and trust in your abilities. You don't have to sacrifice everything to have a wonderful family and career. It can be tough but it is worth it

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