Jihad Dib on school transformation (TEDx talk)

This TEDx talk by Jihad Dib, the Principal at Punchbowl Boys High, captures the essence of strengths-based practice and highlights the importance of community engagement. In the school of around 450 students, 65% of the students come from the bottom quarter of the Community Socio-Educational Advantage index and 98% of them have a language background other than English.

When he was offered the job as acting principal, people said to him:

You’re wasting your time.

It’s a dead end school for dead beats.

These kids aren’t worth it.

In his words, “Too many had given up on the school.” Jihad Dib didn’t accept this, knew the kids were worth it and decided to make the school the best it could be. Continue reading

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Some weekend reading – Upcycling

A house made of bottles (Photo: Inhabitat)

A house made of bottles (Photo: Inhabitat)

It’s been a busy time, so I haven’t done any weekend reading for a while (and it might become an occasional series not a weekly one). Inspired by Cathy’s latest project for Transition Newcastlecreating an upcycling and sustainable skills hub – I’ve collected some blog posts about upcycling.

Upcycling Becomes a Treasure Trove for Green Business Ideas by Jennifer Wang via Entrepreneur – how businesses are turning waste into profit

Recycling vs. Upcycling: What is the difference? from Intercon – a look at upcycling before it became very popular Continue reading

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Write4Fun – maybe it’s not just about fun

This week Alexa (11) learned a hard lesson about business ethics. Yesterday she rang me at work all excited because a great short story she had submitted to Write4Fun (a “schools poetry and short story competition” run by the Australasian Publishing Group) had “passed the first round of judging”. By the time I arrived home some of the gloss had worn off, and by the end of the day she was quite disappointed. It’s a salutary warning about how the drive to make profit can corrupt a good idea.

By passing the first round of judging, she received a letter which said (amongst other things):

And Alexa, we are very excited to offer you the opportunity of having your short story published!

Before we continue, let me elaborate. ‘Read Write Repeat’ will contain many poems and short stories from students all over Australia. The book will be produced as a beautifully presented, hardbound volume that will literally last for generations.

Still attending school and a Published Author… this could be you!!

Continue reading

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Transition Streets on Blueprint for Living (ABC Radio National)

Transition Streets participants

Fitzroy Road Transition Streets group (Photo: Little Eco Footprints)

Blueprint for Living on ABC Radio National, recently did an 11 minute story on Transition Streets in Newcastle. We were essentially very happy with how they covered our story and it’s great they shared some of our experience.

The main thing I would have changed was making the relationship between the Transition movement and Transition Streets clearer. At times the two were confused. The Transition movement started in 2006 and Transition Streets was first run in Totnes in 2009. Transition Streets is just one project run by Transition Groups around the world. In Newcastle, Will started Transition Newcastle in 2008 and we launched Transition Streets (originally called Transition Streets Challenge) in 2012. Continue reading

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A passion for upcycling

Ties T's Workshop Flyer (03Cathy (my partner) is all fired-up about a new Transition Newcastle project. It really demonstrates the value of focusing on people’s skills and passions. She, and a number of people, are very excited by the potential of this project. The following is their vision.

Imagine this:

There is a centre in Newcastle which encourages people to develop practical skills for living sustainably. It promotes creativity and resourcefulness, sharing of skills and possessions, and helps build community. And it challenges us in how we consume. Continue reading

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Reflections on the 150th anniversary of Lambton Public School

Parade with bandLambton Public School just celebrated its 150th anniversary (which makes it a fairly old school for Australia) with a range of community events. On Friday there was a parade down the main street and it was wonderful seeing all the people cheering the kids on and so many of the shops decked out in green and red (the school colours).

On Saturday there was a school fete, and the perfect weather ensured the community showed up in force. Every class performed, as well as the school band, choirs, some ex-students (including Jasmine) and a couple of community groups. There were also a few other smaller events for ex-students and teachers.

It highlighted for me, once again, the important role schools play in community life. Continue reading

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Song for Sunday – Gabriel’s Oboe (for Aylan Kurdi)

Like many people I have been moved by the photo’s of Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach. His heart-rending death has highlighted the plight of so many others, and I can only hope it encourages world leaders and voters to rethink our treatment of refugees.

I was thus looking for a song that could honour the tragic experience of the world’s refugees. I’ve chosen Gabriel’s Oboe (and other music from the Mission) by Ennio Morricone. Although it isn’t directly related, the haunting music expresses so much. The movie also reminds us that we often face a choice between compassion and ruthlessness, and the tragic consequences when we put political interests above individuals.

If you liked this post please follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to watch some previous songs for Sunday:

  1. All the songs
  2. “Shine” by Vanessa Amorosi
  3. “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins
  4. “Miserere mei, Deus” by Gregorio Allegri (performed by the Tallis Scholars
  5. “Don’t pay the ferryman” by Chris De Burgh
  6. John Lennon’s “Image” by Playing for Change
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Some weekend reading – evidence-based programs and practice

(Photo: tpsdave)

(Photo: tpsdave)

Four weeks ago I posted some articles about evidence-based programs and practice. As I’ve continued looking, I’ve found many more useful resources and thus decided to include some more. This time, most of them come from a great site What Works Wisconsin – Effective Programs and Resources for Children, Youth and Families which is an initiative of the University of Wisconsin (Family Living Programs). It has lots of other good material, but these are some of them ones that stood out for me.

I should point out too, that often the photo for the weekend reading doesn’t have much to do with the topic (although there can be a vague connection in my mind). The photos are just ones that I’ve liked as I’ve looked around the net. Continue reading

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An open door

Graeme Stuart in his new officeI’ve recently moved into a new office. Its north-facing windows look over bushland and we’re serenaded by birds through the day. I also have a desk that I can use either sitting or standing – so much better than sitting at a desk all day. The down-side is that we (four of us) are separated from the rest of the Family Action Centre. We’re not far away but are in a building with a number of University services. One thing I’ve found interesting is the difference an open door makes. Continue reading

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Song for Sunday – Shine

You can give your life
You can lose your soul
You can bang your head or you can drown in a hole
Nothing lasts forever, but, you can try
Look around you,
Everyone you see, everyone you know is gonna (Shine) Shine

If you bear with me, there is a connection between today’s Song for Sunday and the strengths-based focus of the weekend reading.

A few years ago I heard an interview with Vanessa Amorosi in which she spoke about Shine. It was written for an old school friend who committed suicide and the original lyrics were “Everyone you see, everyone you know is gonna die.” Mark Holden (another Australian singer/songwriter) suggested they change “die” to “shine” and in doing helped create a very different song. Amorosi is convinced it created a much better song, and the success of the song suggests she is right.

I probably don’t need to labour the connection with a strengths-based approach: by shifting the focus, the song changed from a bleak, depressing song to a positive, uplifting anthem that Amorosi performed at the opening of the 2000 Paralympics.

If you liked this post please follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to watch some previous songs for Sunday:

  1. All the songs
  2. “Songs from the Wood” by Jethro Tull
  3. “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins
  4. “Satellite” by Lena
  5. “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor (Priscilla Queen of the Desert version)
  6. John Lennon’s “Image” by Playing for Change
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