I’ll never forget the Head of Middle School’s words that afternoon in July. “These kids are on their way out,” she said. “If we don’t do something drastic, they’ll have to leave the school.”
Her words hung heavy. As a teacher, you want the best for your students and will do anything to ensure it.
My dear colleague, Damian Hill and I met in the staff room, determined not to fail.
One thing was clear: sitting in a classroom all day wasn’t working. Our students needed to feel inspired again. But we couldn’t do it alone. If we wanted to help these kids, we had to break down silo mentality and get every teacher on board.
Enter ‘The Somerton Man’: one of Australia’s most intriguing unsolved murder cases. The case had baffled investigators for decades, but what if our students gave it a crack? What if they took their learning to the real world?
Over the next term, students used their Maths, Science and English skills to unravel the puzzle. They decoded clues, interviewed investigators and created their own theories on what took place that fateful day in 1948.
What happened next was life changing. Not only did their grades skyrocket, but so did their attitude to learning. They were inspired and hungry to succeed. Behaviour incident numbers declined, and attendance rates lifted dramatically.
That was the real turning point. I realised we’d succeeded not because of what we did, but how we did it.
Instead of working alone, we’d formed a community. We’d created momentum and excitement and a renewed love of learning. We’d shared ideas, combined knowledge and harnessed the power of true collaboration.
Between us, we’d changed the direction of 20 kids’ lives - for good.
This is what Aleda was founded on.
Since then, the methods used in ‘The Somerton Man’ have empowered over 5000 educators to work more collaboratively to improve learning for kids. They inspired my lifetime mate, Luke Darcy, to co-found the team and introduce our work to the AFL. It literally changed the game for countless footy teams. It is also having a profound impact in the corporate world today.
When we put aside our titles and see the leader in every person, when we focus on how we can support each other instead of what we can do to win, and when we foster a culture of collaboration, we can inspire each other to achieve extraordinary things.