By Dr. Tina Marcoionni, Director of The Learner First (TLF) Australia

In my first weeks partnering with Murgon State School in Queensland, Australia, we were working through School Capability #1—understanding your school, your learners, and their needs—when the Deputy Principal received a teacher request. The teacher requested some “assistance” with Archie, a year six student who was acting out in class.

In light of our leadership team’s focus on Capability #1 and the rubric-guided, professional discussions we’d engaged in, we brainstormed a way to approach his behavior that might be more attuned to his identity and needs. So we invited Archie into the office we were meeting in, and he started doing schoolwork at the table beside us.

Soon, Archie joined with our team at the table. He energetically engaged in the conversation we were having, sharing his thoughts, ideas and opinions and relishing the value we attached to his voice, along with the chance to be a spokesman for his peers. At the end of the session, and of Archie’s “detention,” he begged to be invited back next time we met.

When the team came together at the following session, Archie strolled in beside two of his friends. Following Archie’s leadership, the three indigenous learners made invaluable contributions to the continued discussion of Murgon’s capabilities, working with the team through the rubrics’ dimensions and taking pride in informing the school’s new direction. Their insights, along with the rest of the team’s, has formed the foundation of a strategy and action plan geared at delivering contributive learning—learning that develops kids’ self-understanding, connections with others, and knowledge and competency, and that helps them contribute to the world in their way—an outcome well familiar to Archie and his friends.

The three boys became the school’s first “TLF Ambassadors,” promoting The Learner First mindset at Murgon and working toward the goals that they each helped establish. And after our discussion of “equity” in schools, they realized that girls and non-indigenous learners should have a chance to get in on the action as well.  Murgon SS now has six proud Ambassadors, years five and six students who are making a difference for peers, teachers, and the whole school community—and it started with a change in approach with one learner.