16 January 2024

Insight from: Robbie Sefton

During the recent Christmas break I had the pleasure of watching a great story on a group of kids learning by distance education, and more specifically on how these students and their teachers went about putting together a stage musical when the young performers all lived on isolated properties, so far away from their peers.

It was an inspiring story about the power of creativity, problem solving, determination, passion and resilience and brought home to me just how remarkable our nation’s distance education programs are, and how amazing the teachers are who deliver them. In a country as vast as ours, education options for those who don’t have the option of attending a bricks and mortar school on a regular basis have always been so important. Today, the advancement of technology has taken these critical learning programs to another level and is giving these kids even more scope to learn and grow, and has enabled something like a school musical to take shape despite the fact its cast was hardly ever in the same room.

This type of creative pursuit is a vital cog in a well-rounded education and to see it evolve in the isolated learning environments these kids see as completely normal was really inspiring. It was also intriguing to see the students mould their own creative destiny, using their own ingenuity. Yes, they had their parents around them, online teachers and technology, however, they often needed to find their own solutions to the creative conundrums put in front of them, based on the production demands, and the roles or crew functions they had been allocated. Then, rain, hail or shine, they had to get the results.

Many of the kids had to really step outside their comfort zones, too, some even having to navigate health challenges as part of their journey. And some of these kids truly triumphed. Like the delightful young girl who danced beautifully, but didn’t want to speak in public, but then became the narrator for the musical, who introduced each scene, using both dance and voice. For me it really emphasised the qualities that embody ‘bush’ kids – a can-do attitude, resilience and nouse that’s developed when relative isolation is your everyday reality.  

As a result, you could see these kids flourish, and I can imagine there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as their teachers, parents, friends and family gathered for the night of the performance, where the cast finally came together for the triumphant finale. As well as an important educational opportunity, I also saw this whole process as a subliminal leadership program for the kids. Determining the nature of the task at hand; working consistently and never giving up until the desired outcome is achieved; listening carefully to instructions and converting these into meaningful actions; persisting even when it’s hard; learning to work as a team remotely; negotiating your own personal demons; and even learning to smile through adversity. Such important life lessons and a strong foundation for our leaders of tomorrow.

Some may see these kids as disadvantaged when it comes to their education, but on the contrary I think not only is the standard of learning that’s being delivered is second-to-none – thanks to our committed education professionals – the opportunities for personal development and growth are immense. The students I had the privilege of watching will carry the experience with them always, and not only will they look back fondly on what they achieved, what they learned will assist them in every aspect of their lives – for the rest of their lives.

 

To read this article in The Land newspaper, visit Land Insight: Tyranny of distance fosters valuable qualities in our leaders of tomorrow | The Land | NSW