An attendee wrote:

“Is Chatter Matters being funded by Tas Gov to run this workshop? Will there be a continuation? Will there be one for school leaders, such as teachers, as the direction becomes cheaper? Do we have Department support for Speech Pathologists to work in this way? i.e. better aligned with schools’ improving and planning.”

In June 2019 Chatter Matters convened a seminar, Colleagues @ The Heart of Literacy. Its purpose was to share positive change-making practices for student literacy development. In particular, it presented examples of positive colleagueship between teachers, school leadership and speech pathologists. It showed how the combination of the two knowledge sets from these two professions, used in a trusting, problem-solving way, is powerful for bringing real change to students at disadvantage for learning language and learning to read.

The event was attended by teachers, speech pathologists, parents of children with difficulties learning to read, administrators and policy makers. The feedback was very positive and can be found here. We are making responses to the questions and points raised in the feedback, and that is the purpose of this post.

The attendee’s money question is a key one, so thank you to the person who raised it.

Chatter Matters did not receive funding from the Tasmanian Government to run the Colleagues workshop. We made approach to the Department of Education for financial support and were delighted that the senior leadership of the Department were happy to send ten of their key administrators and policy makers to attend the day. Shared listening and information is an important form of support.

The money for the event came entirely from philanthropic funds. These funds covered the cost of the airfares and accommodation for the keynote speakers who travelled from interstate. The two talented and pioneering speakers gave their time and expertise to us without raising charge to us. The cost per head to attend was kept very low, just $45, to make it accessible for parents: this income covered most of the venue hire and catering costs. Philanthropic funds filled the gap. We were also the beneficiaries of generous in-kind support from the C3 Church and Convention Centre which helped us keep the registration price as low as this. The day was staffed entirely by volunteers – members of the Chatter Matters Board and Chatter Matters supporters. And all of the speakers, the MC, designers and administrators of the event gave their time for free. Attendees will recall that they were asked to bring their own nametags – to reduce, reuse, recycle and to avoid a superfluous and considerable cost.

All this effort shows the wide support for the collegial messages which were presented and the will for change which richly includes such shared collegiality. This was also shown in the opening given by the Minister of Education, The Hon. Jeremy Rockliff; and the presence, all day(!), of our brilliant Patron, our supportive Governor, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner, AC.

We’d love some more funding from Government to make it all a bit easier and to pay our unflagging volunteers what they’re worth. But all movements arise in the swirlings of passionate hearts, and we know this. So we say “#100PercentLiteracy”, “#HeartOfLiteracy” and “please join us”… because as another piece of feedback gave: “48% illiterate is not ok!!”.

The attendee who asked about funding also asked:

“Will there be a continuation?”

Yes there will!

We have already drawn together the next steering committee and have begun to locate speakers who can share the inspiration of their stories of unfettered colleagueship. It takes trust to make a difference. As leadership author Margaret Wheatley writes “Nothing else works, no new tools or technical applications, no redesigned organizational chart. The solution is each other. If we can rely on one another, we can cope with almost anything. Without each other, we retreat into fear.”

So stay tuned. Mid-year, next year, we will hold Colleagues @ The Heart of Literacy 2020.

“Will there be one for school leaders, such as teachers, as the direction becomes cheaper?”

You bet!

We are planning specific trainings and pilot projects. The Colleagues seminar gave an overview of what is possible and how well this collegial model works. Obviously, in the detailed minutiae within such an overview there are many skills for all of us to learn and to receive training and coaching in. We plan to bring events and set up discussions and pilot projects that will actively, warmly, richly grow these skills amongst Tasmanian colleagues and, collaboratively, into Tasmanian systems.

“Do we have Department support for Speech Pathologists to work in this way? i.e. better aligned with schools’ improving and planning.”

This is the perfect question to follow the previous one. For there has never been such a time as this to bring speech pathologists into working this way. The Department has issued a fabulous Literacy Framework that specifically names actions for impact which involve such collaboration:

Action for Impact 2: Build on the collaborative culture between speech and language pathologists and educators for a more coherent approach to improve oral, augmentative and alternative communication.

Action for Impact 3: Increase access and support for learners to improve oral, augmentative and alternative communication.

It is worth reading the complete Literacy Plan for Action and the Implementation Plan.

To our eye, the Department is giving its support for speech pathologists to work in this way and to be aligned with schools’ improvement plans.

So now we all continue, calmly and kindly, to turn the wheels of change.

This article was first published in The Mercury on 15th August. Rosie Martin is a Hobart-based speech pathologist and the Founder and CEO of Chatter Matters Tasmania, a benevolent organisation supporting connection through language, literacy and love.

#100PercentLiteracy #HeartOfLiteracy