Alex Wharton is one of two keynote speakers at this year’s Educational Publishing Awards. He is Head of Middle School at Carinya Christian School, Gunnedah. Prior to this current role which still includes significant classroom teaching, he has served as an English Teacher and Head Teacher of English for a combined total of 10 years. Alex has written extensively with regards to teaching and learning resources for subject English, and presented at local, state and national conferences for English Teachers. Alex is the Copyright Agency’s first Reading Australia Fellow for Teacher of English and Literacy. Alex aims to use this opportunity to share this unique professional learning opportunity with colleagues, knowing full well this experience will further transform his own daily teaching and leadership practices within the English classroom.
What first inspired you to embark on a career in education?
I was significantly impacted by the teachers I had in my senior years of high school. They modelled to me life-long learning, a passion for your craft, and love of subject. Being in education is a wonderful way to make a tangible difference to the lives of others around you.
Is that what keeps you there now you’ve had experience in the field?
Yes! Education is about bettering others. Everyday, we are still able to develop and model to others the power of education to change the world.
You’ve just been awarded the Reading Australia Fellow for Teaching and Literacy. Can you tell us a little bit about the project you will be embarking on and what led you to want to work in this area?
I am so honoured to have received the inaugural Reading Australia Fellowship for Teachers of English and Literacy. My Fellowship is titled The Missing Peace and it is a literary analysis of the Australian representation surrounding the First Nation and non-First Nation colonial experience. A consideration of the textual representations relating to the colonial experience, this Project aims to bring together narratives from a variety of different writers to significantly inform English teaching practice.
The Copyright Agency’s CEO Mr Adam Suckling has said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures is a cross curriculum priority (also known as the CCP) in Australian schools, but teachers are often scrambling to find great resources to bring these perspectives to life.”
So over the next twelve months, I am using the $15,000 funding to research the representation of the colonial experience in every state and territory in Australia. This involves conferences, museums, libraries, interviews, school visits, academic presentations, and in depth research into literature.
What do you anticipate might be an outcome of your research that may impact or be meaningful to the Australian educational publishing community?
The notion of something being missing is a key motif which drives much of our greatest Australian literature. Yet, one can only be aware of something being missing, when the knowledge of what should be there, arises. The Missing Peace is a research based, Australian literary analysis project, which seeks to address the missing pieces (oh yes, word play!) in the professional knowledge of English teachers regarding Indigenous and non-Indigenous representations pertaining to the colonial experience.
Is there a gap in what educational publishers are producing to help with Indigenous literacy? Or are there publications that are hitting the spot in your observations?
Author Ellen van Neerven has written some fantastic content on how teaching books by Indigenous authors has a huge impact on both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. Magabala Books – Australia’s oldest independent Indigenous publishing house – is doing some exceptional and exciting work in this space, and I am looking forward to meeting with them in coming months as part of my Reading Australia Fellowship.
To change tact now, when it comes to choosing educational resources for your school, what features do you look out for? Why?
I look for curriculum mapping and alignment, that the resource is both relevant and engaging to our student learning experience. I interrogate a text for its adaptability, for its usefulness and consider ways that it can bring about transformative learning experiences for the students in our care.
What’s the most valuable thing about a high quality resource to you for planning and in the classroom?
It is the trust and confidence that comes with using a high quality resource in my classroom. It enables me to use the resource as a vehicle to shape understanding, to build a positive learning experience, and to challenge thinking in ways which classrooms were designed for.
Is there a particular Australian resource that you really value? What is it and talk us through what aspects of it really work for you and your students.
The Copyright Agency’s Reading Australia resource suite is by far the most valuable to my work as an English Teacher. Reading Australia provides teaching resources for Australia’s greatest literature and it’s all mapped to the Australian Curriculum. It’s a resource made freely available to teachers, and written by teachers for their use in the classroom. I love that it offers quality Australian literature suggestions, accompanied by the most incredible collection of resources ranging from academic essays, to author podcasts, to units of work that I know I will love teaching and my students will love learning from.
I think the world of the Australian education publishing sector makes an incredibly valuable contribution to our society. We are fortunate to have a sector who is committed to advancing the cause of education for the ultimate benefit of others – our students.
The Educational Publishing Awards will be held 4 September 2019. Get your tickets here.