Learning From Each Other and Overcoming Assumptions with Hamish Curry Ep 32

In this Episode:

Listen as Mike interviews Hamish Curry, Educator, enabler, and collaborator, on everything from the Design Thinking Process and the place of post-its to overcoming tokenism to authentically develop new intercultural relationships.

For more episodes of the Outclassed Podcast go to utb.fyi/outclassed

Podcast Episode Highlights:


Podcast Episode Highlights:

0:20 Meet our guest – Hamish Curry
8:12 Design Thinking for Good Learning
10:50 The mindset, the skillset. the toolset
12:54 From concept to implementation
17:11 Change is not wholesale
20:12 Local environment and learning design
26:39 Prejudice in education
32:25 Taylor Mali – What Do Teachers Make
33:40 The Great Resignation & Learning From Each Other
37:41 Cultural Responsiveness – Where To Start?
40:00 Otto Sharma – The Four Types of Listening
42:48 Tokenism and the Development of New Intercultural Relationships
50:01 Losing My Mojo – Hamish’s Blog Post
56:02 The Next Step at Cool Australia
01:00:10 The Industrialised Model of Education

Resources and links mentioned:


Hamish Curry
What a teacher makes slam poet
Hamish blog post on losing his Mojo
Cool Australia
Weapons of mass instruction book



Mike Reading:  00:16
All right, so welcome back to the class podcast. It’s great to have Hamish curry with me today. Hamish, we go back a little way I was looking on Twitter. I remember sitting in Melbourne and down there doing some some professional development on Google, I believe, just as Google was starting to come out, and schools were starting to get interested. And I’d find from Sydney down in Melbourne and had one of those rare nights where I didn’t have anything on and I remember just putting on Twitter, my note like, hey, Melbourne, if anyone wants to catch up, let us know. And then I got a DM from you. And say, Hey, I’d love to catch up. And you were working in the library? Not a school library, the public library. Yeah, she was at the city library that you were in at the time. That’s the Yeah, the Victorian State Library. Yeah. Yeah.

Hamish Curry:  1:02
That’s a good memory, Mike. When that totally sounds like me back in those days, networking like crazy. Yeah, yeah, that’s

Mike Reading:  01:09
all I remember catching up with you. Just having a drink after work one day, and just hearing about some of the cool things you are doing in thinking. I’ve, to be honest, I’ve been pretty much in the in the education space, and not really connected in the, like public library space. But to be honest, it seems like you’re one of the first people that ever talked to me about how libraries could be something other than just a collection of books for people to come and read. So

Hamish Curry:  1:35
yeah, well, and it’s interesting, like you look back on it now, and what people thought was going to happen to libraries, and what has actually happened to libraries, you know, those that really embrace technology and didn’t say Google as the enemy, but also didn’t try and be the bookshop have actually done really well. And I guess that was my brief coming into the state library. I mean, I came straight out of teach being a teacher in school, I’d lead a united City Campus program in Melbourne. So I kind of cut my teeth on really pushing, learning for teenagers in really creative ways. And so when I came into the library, it’s like, how do we change, you know, what is one of the oldest public libraries in Australia to kind of modernize a bit. And so I started to bring in like video games and, and he films and, and I started to join up. What I’ve always been interested in education, which is, it’s not just about the school community, the teachers, the school leaders, and kids, it’s all these other businesses and industries that actually have something to share. And so bringing in, for example, people from the game industry, or the film industry, or designers, and people actually, a lot of that time, a lot of the co working spaces were were going growing, particularly have Australia or have Melbourne at that point. And so bringing teachers into contact with that wider world of networks and tools was so exciting. And I actually remember around that time, one of the things that we kicked off was called the Vic PLN. So the Victorian Professional Learning Network, which started as kind of a, it was a hashtag, which is still going I looked at it, it’s still going after all these years. And we also create an online course to help teachers learn about one of the top, like 20 tools they should be using, you know. And then we also started some physical networks, like bringing teachers in to just talk about how is how is technology? And how is pedagogy evolving with what’s happening in the world. And it was such a an amazing time. And I think one of the things that came out of that was a lot of really interesting relationships and pleading with yourself that have lasted the years are those that have always been looking at the edge. And that kept me going as well. Like I just I just, I get bored by routine. And I constantly want to look at Alright, is that better? And where’s the next interesting thing come or Oh, that’s really shiny over there. Not that I not that I follow too many shiny leads and get exhausted, but really looking for the missing pieces that will make a difference to education. That’s what kept me going.

Mike Reading:  04:21
Yeah, and it’s interesting, because I think schools, maybe some of the schools are starting to go down that path and they’re thinking the answer is just a makerspace. Or we’ll put some cold beanbags in a corner and maybe Chuck an Xbox up there or something. And then you know, we’re digitizing the library but there’s so much opportunity in that library space for them to lead a digital pedagogy in a sense, right because they they they hold so much knowledge and content and and so on even remember showing librarians initially Google Books and how to take all the ISBN and put it into your own little Google Books scenario to have the students searching for the Google Book. So in on Google rather than the catalog in,

Hamish Curry:  5:03
yeah, well, all that stuff you, you suddenly, like Google library suddenly had a really, really even more relevant role to talk about like, so how do we use Google Scholar or, you know, I got interested in things like Google ngram, which is still going thankfully, they haven’t, you know, case, I love that idea of like, visualizing words from books and all the stuff that tech could do that suddenly connected to people that had really deep knowledge of how information worked. And, you know, libraries, libraries, some schools got rid of that librarian thought, Oh, we’ve got good, we don’t need libraries. But actually, it was the opposite. Because libraries became the hub, the school, they were the makerspace, they were the information space. And I was always advocating for libraries to just envision themselves as having a much more pivotal role. And I still think I remember I actually gave a keynote at edgy tackle a number of years ago, but my whole talk was about, it’s not a library inside a school, what if it was a school inside a library. So the whole idea of redesign the way information and learning and access works, where age is blurred, interests are aligned. And information flows are much more based around passion, synergy momentum. And they’re the things actually, when it comes to design, that you can make education even better than it was. And that’s the thing that keeps me going.

Mike Reading:  06:30
And it’s interesting to like that whole connection to community piece for a school library is very important as well. So one of our IT trainers, Joe, he found a way to connect the school library with the public library. So when the students are searching, not just a school library, they can be actually searching the public library database and have those books come down to the school, and he’s just trying to find ways to make those. Those connections and libraries are always trying to find ways to stay relevant.

Hamish Curry:  6:59
Oh, yeah. Well, in the age of co working, I mean, kind of like libraries were the original co working environment. Right, you know, so it is interesting that, you know, if you sit still others will just innovate around you. So someone’s like, saying, why should all this co working exist when we have libraries? You know, libraries, aren’t the kind of the Shoosh environment that people suspect so. So yeah, it’s it’s been a really interesting transition. And I’ve enjoyed the journey of watching education evolve. I mean, there’s some elements about school that haven’t changed, but but I think we’re beginning to either live with it or start to bend the rules a bit more.

Mike Reading:  07:38
Yeah. So on that, so you went from in libraries to working for no rush for a number of years. So I think, what did you say? Three, four years?

Hamish Curry:  7:46
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. So that was very much the moving into kind of the design thinking for learning. And I got very much into design thinking while I was at the library, starting to see it as a space that, you know, the days of Tim Brown and IDEO, evolving, that it was going to be huge. And when I came into nature, I didn’t really know much about designing, but I quickly realized that, as a teacher always interested in how we design learning differently, and how do we find a better process that design thinking was just made for, you know, really good learning. So bringing the critical and the creative thinking worlds together. And one of the other really interesting things from that four years with no, Tosh was having the opportunity to well live out of a suitcase, not that that’s as glamorous as everyone thinks, you know, that, you know, but going to visit so many schools around Australia and internationally, like I went to China, Japan, Germany, Egypt’s New Zealand, Singapore, and it just showed me lots of things about how schools and education systems around the world are often in alignment around what they’re trying to change. It’s just they’re often dealing with different constraints. And the same would go if I was working with a school in Perth or a school in Brisbane, if you can understand the constraints of your school, they’re often quite unique. And I used to say that your schools are like a fingerprint. Every school is slightly different. Its culture is different, its learning environment is different. And if you can understand that, then you can start to innovate rather than these kind of, oh, you know, I say that High Tech High is doing that, then we should do it or it’s the cookie cutter model. And education is not always been an effective one, which is why I think curriculum is a tough one to scale. And it has to be customized at the at the school level.

Mike Reading:  09:46
Yeah, yeah. One of my favorite quotes is from Dillon Williams, where he says everything will work somewhere, but not everything works everywhere. So you need to ask, why is this working? And so that’s one of the things we talk a lot to school leaders about is that you can Don’t take somebody’s program, you can take the principle. But you can’t take the program because even we’ve found principals who are very successful in one school, and they leave. And they’re like, I’m just going to take my suitcase and implement that in my new school and it fails. And they sit there. And they wonder why. And it’s because I felt understand that they were looking at the unique context. And they built something uniquely for that. So it’s always interesting to me when we go to big tech conferences, and people talk about their school and their programs and the things that they’re doing. And we all get inspired and want to come back and drive that same sort of change in our schools. And we wonder why it doesn’t work. It’s around that, that, that design, like that design thinking process, where it’s very much customized to the school?

Hamish Curry:  10:44
Yeah. Well, and it’s a good reminder, right? Like the idea that wait a minute, it no trash, we talk about those three layers, the mindset, the skill set, and the toolset. And that’s, it’s a decreasing focus, like, so everyone goes to the tech conference, right? You know, so it looks like zoom is the next big thing, you know, and so but that’s just a tool set. Like if you don’t have the right mindset around why we’re using it, how is it going to help our community? And do we have the right skills, just start using it in creative ways, then the tool is, is like a, you know, it’s an add on. And at the moment, you know, there are so many tools for everything, it’s not, if you know what your problem, if you can really define your problem, then there will probably be a tool that will help you get most of the way there are a combination of tools, not the other way around. So we’ve got to be very careful of the of the quick fix. And the same was true in some of the projects I worked on at no charge around looking at school design. So you know, looking at master plans and the development of new school architecture, same principle, but but sometimes phenomenally more expensive, you know, building more classrooms or, or creating or designing a new school has as much in it about the mindset and culture as it does about the final tool set of the build. And that’s the last thing you worry about. So, you know, when people come up with the Master Plan, the first thing they want to do is I’ll let’s go and visit all these amazing schools. And the work that I was doing was actually you know, that’s that’s, like, maybe halfway through the process. Because until you can get your own mindset and what’s who who is your school? What do they need? What are you trying to create? What’s the vision, then when you go into another school or another learning environment, you’ll then be able to, I used to say, you can read the room? So literally, you can read the rigor, right? Well, that’s not going to suit our pedagogy or not. That’s, that’s not us, you know, whereas if you just start with the tools, you Oh, I like those chairs. Oh, I love these, you know, green screens, and and you just get distracted by the by the peripheral stuff.

Mike Reading:  12:54
Yeah. Yeah. So in those programs, were you working with schools from concept to implementation? Because one of the reason I ask is one of the things I see so much is that leaders will go off and they’ll do a design thinking program or a course and they’ll walk away with these wonderful hexagons, or colored post it notes. That was probably about the need for change. And then you go back in, you see them six or 12 months later, and they haven’t done a damn thing about it. Like, somewhere there’s this missing step between inspiration and actual perspiration and getting getting the work done. And yeah, that’s,

Hamish Curry:  13:31
that’s so true, Mike. And look, it does come down to commitment. It comes down to understanding that change requires a lot of patience and perseverance, and actually requires leadership, something that I think, you know, without pointing fingers, I think leadership is hugely, hugely important in driving change. And not just leadership, as in I will you’re the principal or the CEO, or the the executive director. I often used to borrow a phrase, and I still do a phrase from Will Richardson he talks about leader shift, which is the other who are the other leaders that have an opportunity to come forward, you know, middle managers, school, school, school students, you know, who are the leaders, we can discover through this process and give them a chance to shine. And then that’s the thing where schools go, it’s not just or the school principals are realizing it’s not just us. Like we’ve got this really capable group of people in our school. That includes the students, the students aren’t just there to risk be the receivers of learning. They are co designers of that learning something that we see happening more and more now. But even five, six years ago, it wasn’t really a big thing. And there weren’t many people really doing it. Well.

Mike Reading:  14:54
Yeah. So if I’m a principal and I’ve been to her, like a design thing, I’ve been through that process I’d like I get it. I know my score needs to change. I know that there’s areas of improvement. But like, I’m just not getting it done like, have you found? Like, what would you say to a principal like me? Who’s Who’s really struggling in that space around the actual implementation of these ideas? Was there one sort of thing? Like, is there one piece of advice? Or that you would normally go to a principal and say, Listen, just, if you can make this domino fall, then you’ll start to see some momentum? Or was it really case by case?

Hamish Curry:  15:32
Yeah, that’s, that’s, yeah, that’s a interesting one. Mike, I guess it is a little bit case by case because sometimes I think about No, so what was the genesis of that idea? Where did it come from? Like, what if it was just you pushing that barrier, then yeah, that’s, that’s going to be hard. Because you’re, you’re, then you’re, you’re, you know, charisma and conviction carry so much of the responsibility versus, you know, a project that I once worked in, in in Perth and WA, where it was a school master planning project. And one of my biggest challenges in the table of school leaders that I was working with was, was the head of the maths department, because he’d been teaching for 35 years, and it was, you know, very traditional way of approaching and he wasn’t going to budge. By the end of the process, we started to look at what was possible. And we’d seen what some of the students really wanted to help change their own learning. And he adapted a couple of them, all of a sudden, his classroom became the model. Like, he’s, and he, I distinctly remember the son of the one of the final session, he said, you know, after 35 years of teaching, I finally realized what I can do to reinvigorate my own passion, see kids learn differently. And I’ve got a much more differentiated maths classrooms as a senior maths classroom. And of course, at that point, it’s a bit like the bell curve, everyone else kind of will, geez, if he can change like that, surely, we must be doing something we could change too. So. So you kind of sometimes it depends where you where you want your wins, and change is not wholesale, it just doesn’t happen. Like everyone doesn’t just change overnight. And the pandemic that we’ve been through over the last couple of years, has been a lovely example of where education can, in fact, adapt overnight, because teachers are incredibly flexible and adaptable. But you can’t sustain that level of change. Like, as we’re seeing now, I think, you know, schools and educators are exhausted, because it’s just been adapting change after change after change. And there’s there’s almost no relief in sight. So change has to have a whole lot of other things behind it for it to really stick.

Mike Reading:  17:54
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think you’d look at it like seasons, is housing explaining it to a principal just this week, because he was the same, the same thing when the pandemic hit is a large international school. He said, They shifted their pedagogy in the first like six weeks, like they had a bit of a plan of how they wanted things to change over the like, the next three years. In terms of the school improvement plan, he said, like they, they ticked off everything in their three year plan in six weeks, because they just had to, but we’re at that last hurdle for them to really finish off that change program. And he’s saying he’s struggling to get their buy in right now. Because everyone’s exhausted, and they’re just done with it. That initial enthusiasm that everyone had, has now waned, and I was like, it’s just a season, you’ve got to, you got to realize that you might feel like you’re in winter right now. But springs coming, you know, so don’t, don’t sweat it, just let it roll. Up, and you’ll change.

Hamish Curry:  18:52
Yeah, and sometimes empathy is your best friend. Like just just instead of giving over time to really listen to people, and understand their issues and challenges, not that I can solve it straightaway. But it just helps me to understand the landscape rather than just saying that we’re just going to keep pushing through, you end up you end up either breaking yourself or breaking a lot of other people and it doesn’t, doesn’t help the cultural learning environment at all.

Mike Reading:  19:18
Yeah, yeah. That’s so true. My dad always used to say to me, like, see time harvest. And the thing I always struggle with the most of the time part, like I just want to see water bomb. Give it to me.

Hamish Curry:  19:31
Yeah, me too. I’m so impatient with that.

Mike Reading:  19:33
Yeah, same he’s like, son time time. It’s going to take time. It’s gonna be alright. Yeah,

Hamish Curry:  19:39
yeah, humans are not very patient. I think we’re not we’re not bred to be patient, which is why we really we suck at slow change. We really suck.

Mike Reading:  19:47
Yeah, yeah. That’s super interesting. So then yeah, so you went from library when design thinking no Tosh side of things and then you saw your pop up all of a sudden, cuz every now and just check out where you’re at? on Twitter and sorry with Asia, it was called Asier. Education.

Hamish Curry:  20:04
Yeah, Asia Education Foundation. Yeah. Yeah. And again, it was it was like another change where I was like, like with the library, and then with designing, I was like, Wait, what am I doing here to actually understand this environment? And I think for me, what I’ve always endeavored to understand is that space of education and learning and how do we design great learning. And so the past four years at HR Education Foundation, were massive lesson in understanding, like, what does intercultural learning look like not just across Australia, but how does it tie us into our own neighborhood. And I think it’s something that not many Australians, and Australian school children, and teachers have the ability to really understand the value of our own neighborhood. And that includes actually, you know, our own evolution as a nation. So often, people would think of Asia Education Foundation as being I will, I guess, that’s all about Asia, and, you know, going on trips to China or connecting with teachers in Japan. But increasingly, my emphasis moved to actually looking at Asia in Australia. And in fact, Asia is so much a part of Australia it you know, 30%, or more actually, of Australians now have Asian heritage. And so this is our society it and this is who we are in Australia is is richer for it, but we often try to play it down, or we have ongoing issues around prejudice. And one of the things that the wider organization at EY F, which is called Asia link, one of the wider issues they kept talking about was looking at the bamboo ceiling, which is how do we help Asian Australians now present themselves in leadership roles that have opportunities for leadership roles in Australian society? And I think we’ve hit that point, but we’re beginning to hit that point, you know, where the whole idea and I remember, it was actually a New York Times article that had the title of something like, you know, after 200 years in Australia, Chinese Australians finally can call it home. You know, so we have this, we forget, we have this concept sense that it’s recent, but it hasn’t like it’s been happening over decades. And so again, coming to that slow change point, where it’s been happening, we just didn’t really pay attention to it. And so I really enjoyed the work at AT A F in trying to help people start to shift their perspective and suddenly get a wider field of vision to things that they hadn’t really noticed. And that’s often a good space for learning.

Mike Reading:  22:48
All right, so what was the like, initially, you said, your focus changed to that, but was the original focus? What was the original focus? Was it trying to draw more international students to Australia was getting us more influential overseas, like, what was the play there?

Hamish Curry:  23:06
Yeah, that’s, that’s interesting, I guess, I guess, we AF wasn’t as concerned about international students, although we looked at that. And because we were based at University of Melbourne, there was a sense, people assumed that we must all be about international students, but actually, we were very much a schools focused organization. And so we were very much looking at how do we engage a strange schools in understanding and learning about Asia in new ways. And I guess the usual way to do that is through the curriculum. But we would do that through a whole bunch of other levers. So we had school partnership programs that would tie Australian schools to schools, across about 23 Different nations across Asia Pacific. We had youth programs, we had professional development programs. And I think the bit the status shift for me was, is there a different way of talking about this space that we’re in? And when I say that, I mean, in the curriculum, we might talk about it as intercultural understanding which is in the Australian Curriculum, the Victorian curriculum calls it intercultural capability, but almost the same thing. And then I was looking at it from a different perspective, or what is actually just intercultural learning what what does it look like and what’s and I came back a little bit to some of my grounding it No, Tasha and looking at well, what’s the mindset that we need? What’s the skill set when we have the plus one, you know, with one other person out in front of me that I have not really understood or connected with before? And what what’s the tools that how do we how do we start to work together when sometimes there are all sorts of cultural barriers, you know, potential barriers that we might perceive language barriers, different have protocols or just relationship elements. So I always got the best experience with that work in watching a game, people’s perception of the world start to break, you know, and you hear it in the way people talk. And in the nicest way, one of the sort of informal measures I used to think about was, educators might talk in a language that suggests there’s a bit of a colonial attitude of, oh, gosh, we’ve got to help these poor schools in Cambodia now that we’ve got to help these poor people in Papua New Guinea. And very quickly, about six months in, I had numerous conversations with educators who said, Actually, they’re the ones helping us, they’re helping us realize that it’s all about, you know, good relationships and sustainability and doing actually innovating with very little, or how to really create love and relationships inside a student teacher. Program. And they’re almost envious, actually, I’m so envious of what this school in the Philippines has created. And that was always a measurement success for me, because suddenly, it showed that the Australian educators were starting to shift their own perception of what they thought the job was. And I think that’s that they’re the that’s, I mean, in the truest sense, I would call that lifelong learning. That’s where I’ve now rewired my opinion, or my assumptions, or my stereotypes to be completely different to what the world actually is like.

Mike Reading:  26:39
So it was the purpose to try and shift teachers and students in their thinking about Asia, or like, I’m just trying, if I’m already. So I’m a teacher. And I’ve already got a very full curriculum, obviously, there’s some elements of that, that I need to satisfy in terms of Australia specifically, but if we broaden the conversation, regardless of what country you’re in, I always wonder about this, because, like we see a lot. One of the reasons I was thinking about you, particularly probably last year, was, you know, the whole pandemic thing, and then everyone’s blaming China for it. And then everyone’s blaming China for 5g, and you can’t trust the Wi Fi. And it seems to be like this real political, almost what we’re seeing in Russia and Ukraine at the moment, I’d hate to be an educator that was trying to bridge that gap at the moment. And then the racial tensions in in America, that that are spilling over at the moment, and I was actually thinking about you almost sitting in the center of this melting pot of Asian education. And I was just thinking, I wonder what the tensions are. Yeah, and how you’re managing those tensions right now and how you can have like, open and honest discussions with schools. And

Hamish Curry:  27:47
yeah, I would say probably the one of the most shocking things that I saw. So I my last trip to China was in November 2019. So just before, like, the pandemic kicked in, and it was that trip to China was with some Australian school principals. And it was full of so much opportunity, warmth, relationships, shared pedagogical purpose, like how do we really develop creativity in education, and to see where it went. It really just shows the power, again, of leadership that seeks to divide rather than unite. Media that gives out stories that actually perpetuate the UN, I used to think about the difference between when you talk about China, the country and China and Chinese people. It’s like saying, when I you know, if I went to China, and people say, Oh, Australia, like you’re a bunch of, you know, bogans. And it’s like, well, we’re not all like that, of course, we’re not all. And in fact, yes. Most people in most countries are not all like that. And so we paint, we paint countries, like there are a whole glob of people, when there’s a whole lot of different factors at work. And when you start to develop the relationships, people, it’s very, very different. And one of the things that disappointed me most was to see some of those education, relationships break down because now China was suddenly seen as being off limits, and not and I had some connections with school leaders in China last year. And none of that passion and interest had waned. It was just like, to be honest, the unspoken thing was Why have you stopped talking to us? Yeah. Why have Why have why? And it’s kind of it’s a it’s a facetious question. We know why. Yeah, but but actually, that’s not who we are. We still want we still care about education and learning and I heard Australian school leaders say that we brought them together with some Chinese school leaders online and Then at the end of the session, we did a debrief with the Australian educators, they were like, wow, they are so committed creative, passionate. And you could just hear them and all them going. Yeah, that’s not what I thought was gonna happen, you know, and you can hear them rewiring as they’re speaking. And that’s great. But, you know, but I always set the goal. Well, that’s 20 school leaders that are now rewired, I need 2000. And I think we’re in a really challenging point in our education, where that anti China rhetoric has an is going to have an impact on education where kids will go, well, I shouldn’t be learning Mandarin. Or we shouldn’t be doing stuff on China or, and it’s, it’s all a fallacy, but it’s somehow been implanted there from from both misinformation disinformation. And actually suspicion and that’s where prejudice starts its roots. And again, coming back to my earlier point about Chinese Australians, people who’ve called this country home for generations, we don’t suddenly really were suddenly putting them aside. And I, I can say it now. But there were stories I heard from from school leaders who, whose whose parents reacted to other Chinese families at school, around exclusion, and suspicion, I was like, Are you kidding me? Is that actually happening? Saying yes. So the thing that doesn’t filter down into education, we would be kidding ourselves. And that was a was suppose an anxiety and a stress that I carry, and I still carry it with me. It’s like, Man, I can’t believe that we would let that happen in education, when that’s what the purpose of education is all about. Informing the challenging our knowledge of the world and helping us to make it better. If we’re not doing that in education, then we’re doing something seriously wrong.

Mike Reading:  31:58
Part of the tension isn’t because seems like everything falls on educators in one sense, right? There’s this the world is going in this direction, somehow education is going to be the answer. We need to we need to stop it now. We need to pivot and education is where it’s not. We’re not looking at corporate America to solve this or corporate Australia to solve these issues. We’re looking at teachers ultimately lead to do it.

Hamish Curry:  32:25
I mean, that’s such a good pickup, Mike. I mean, I, again, I so feel for the work that teachers do. And so few people outside of education really understand. And I was thinking of yesterday of that famous slam poet Taylor Marley, like what are you remember that like what a teacher makes if anyone has listened to go and listen to it again, like either over a dinner table? So what is the teacher making salary? And he gets it, I’ll tell you what a teacher makes. And it’s just so uplifting, right? It’s something shows you the job of an educator. And that’s what teachers do it. And I think in Australia, we have a real issue with how we value educators and I come back to it’s the role of leadership, not necessarily school leadership, but leadership in Australian jurisdictions to really start to do something to support. The work that teaches doing has got far more complex than it has and the pandemic has made it more complex. But by that same notion, I think, out of complexity can come innovation and opportunity. If we’re ready to let some stuff go and embrace a little bit of how to do it differently. That helps everyone. Yeah,

Mike Reading:  33:40
I’ve got a sense of the moment. Like if we think the pandemics change things, I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet. If you look at the great resignation, which is happening with principals just leaving in droves, in terms of those leaders, they like were out. If you look at the level of stress and emotional toll that’s been taken on teachers, if you have a look at students, regardless of what you think of the pandemic, but basically masked up, not able to communicate, the I’m talking about young kids coming through a school system that they don’t even know what it’s like to sit through school for a whole year because of lock downs. That whole socialization site like give that five years to run. We’re going to see some interesting things happening. And again, it’s going to be on the school, and we’re still gonna see headlines like literacy is dropping, numeracy dropping, social anxiety skyrocketing. It’s gonna have to come to that point where it’s got to be innovation or die surely.

Hamish Curry:  34:44
yeah, and to be honest, too, I think my kids an opportunity to actually look for some more unity. And I think Australia occupies a very special place in the world, unfortunately, not a terribly good one. Like we’re one of the most stratified education systems in the world, between government independent, and other like Catholic sectors or other religious denomination schools, and I think some of the most inspiring work is having happen is when schools across jurisdictions start to work together. And just the other day, I was speaking with a school leader, who talked about work they’ve been doing, where they brought together, schools across those jurisdictions. And they said, the same thing, the conversation in was where you’re doing amazing stuff, just down the road that we had no idea and we can really learn from you. And in fact, you know, it’s a government government school versus this big, independent school down the road. I think sometimes, again, we need to really understand our neighborhood and our community, if we’re to look for the solution, the solution can’t come from one school, one organization, or we’ll fix it, it’s going to require, well, you know, that classic saying it’s going to require a community and a village to really shift what we do in education. And I think there’s a willingness there. There are definitely people out there who are looking to bring that unity together, what we’ve got to do is start to do that help them join those dots. And that’s something I’ve always found really, really interesting.

Mike Reading:  36:14
Yeah, yeah, I think we’re, yeah, that’s one of the things I missed the most, because though, we used to run a lot of events across Australia and New Zealand, in particular, we’d have everyone come from all over different cities, different contexts, sometimes even different platforms. So you got like people who are very Googly talking to someone who’s very committed to Microsoft or Apple technologies, and, but they’re learning from one another in terms of their context and what they’re doing. And like, I miss those melting pot moments where you, you get more learning out of the lunch break than you do out of the secondary run sometimes Yeah.

Hamish Curry:  36:50
With your that, yeah. I said, Well, your lunch break. So should we just skip the afternoon session? And keep talking? Yeah, let’s do that.

Mike Reading:  36:56
Yeah, yeah. There’s so much in that, isn’t it? In terms of, and again, it’s like what you’re saying, bringing people together just to have those conversations?

Hamish Curry:  37:04
yeah, yeah, I think we’re all missing that role missing that just that human connection again, and remind each other that we are all human and fallible, and we have our own hopes and dreams. And, and together actually, we can we can make each other just feel a little better about what we’re doing. And that it’s not, it’s not as it, you know, I guess, you know, it’s easy to get drawn into the dire stuff. And you’ve got to understand it, but you can’t live in it, it’ll just break you, you need to have the thing that releases you that that gives you optimism and a sense of creative energy that pulls you out. Yeah.

Mike Reading:  37:41
terms of that, I don’t know what you’d call it, like culturally responsive pedagogy, and so on, are there any like fundamental building blocks or things that we should be thinking about? If we wanted to go down and pursue that? Or at least do some reflection on it? Would there be a, like, how would you start that process of being a little bit more culturally responsive? Would you say?

Hamish Curry:  38:06
Look, maybe the simple way to answer that one would be, I think it’s a, and this was stuff that I was working on, while I was at AF, which was the idea of, I think you start with two things, you start with yourself. And sometimes it’s admitting that we all carry assumptions. And in fact, many of us all carry stereotypes as well, about ourselves and about others. And if you can articulate and understand those assumptions and stereotypes, and also acknowledge where there may have been prejudice, it helps you start to change the way you talk or change the way you might see things and just hold back a little bit. And then the other side of it is, is that the skill set? And I think a lot has been said about things like respect and empathy. And I think in schools respect sometimes means a different thing to how I have seen it. And respect is about often culturally understanding what’s a respectful way to engage. And it means maybe changing the way you speak or address or behave. And if you can learn sometimes those protocols. It’s, it’s it’s like a little bit of a superpower and navigate things that otherwise might have felt awkward. So helping school principals understand how to deal with address and communicate with maybe new arrivals or new, maybe families that maybe might have come from China or something like that. So and then it’s not just well, we treat all families the same here as well. No, actually, you need to understand there are some other different cultural protocols, that might mean that they don’t see it that way. So there’s that big one. I think the empathy piece is massive. I think. My sense is I don’t think we teach empathy as a skill enough. And I often talk about it as the ability to listen, observe and question with as little with as little bias as possible. And there’s all that work around people like Otto Sharma, which looks at like all those listing protocols and skills that you go through that really help in empathy. People as much as they say, I get that empathy is not sympathy, but people still conflate the two. Yeah. So I think I think empathy is really deeply important. It can take you a long way. And, and I think, then the final part is finding something that we want, we both agree, we would like a work that we would like a shared outcome on. So it’s not we want to change the world together. But what’s one thing we both agree we want to help make better, and if we, if it’s if it’s nice and tight, manageable, that changes that relationship markedly, we suddenly feel both invested in each other. And I think when looking at culture responsive, pedagogies those sorts of, you know, again, coming back to mindset and skill set, they can do a lot to changing the way, you know, we see responsibility. Reciprocity, so how we exchange and actually also reflection, which means looking back and gosh, I can’t believe I used to think like that, or I used to behave like that. That’s, that’s an important part, which again, unfortunately, the speed of education, we don’t spend a lot of time looking back and go, How have I changed not? How have my grades changed? How has my mindset changed?

Mike Reading:  41:29
Yeah, I think we’ve seen that a lot. Like in an Australian context, I’ve been out of Australia, seven years. But when I was still teaching in Australia, and in working, when we started the company, you especially probably more so in New South Wales, I think it really started off where before you did anything you’d acknowledge the Aboriginal ancestors, and, and so on. And you know, those a bit, sometimes they do with different ceremonies, like Welcome to Country ceremonies and things like that, depending on what event you’re at. And it seemed like, people would pull out their little piece of paper that’s been laminated and gets passed from classroom to classroom, and they just read it verbatim. Put it down, like now the real work starts, you know. And something that I’ve noticed in the last two or three years is that quite often people have living that a little bit like they’re owning it. And they’re, they’re talking about it. That yeah, it seems like even those little it seemed very tokenistic initially. But it seems like it’s in to a large extent, I save a lot more. I agree, genuine. Is there a is there almost a place for tokenistic? Just to get the ball rolling when you’re talking about cultural change? Or?

Hamish Curry:  42:46
Yeah, that’s a tricky one, I guess. Hmm. I think if you’re working on any process that involves some sort of the development of new intercultural relationships, then those moments become they’re actually really, really important that they’re not tokenistic. And they can be. Actually, do they have the opposite effect? If they are tokenistic, they can reinforce a stereotype. And I think something I’ve noticed is increasingly people now being much more comfortable with actually knowing what country are you on. So knowing that you’re on Wiradjuri country, or Gadigal country or, you know, Boonwurrung country. So I think all those all those, that element of knowledge can be very empowering. And I think I’ve also seen an increase in a lot more work being done on schools, even teaching indigenous languages. And one of the things that, just as you may remind me, and I used to use it a lot, because I always was keen to just change that acknowledgement of country. I didn’t want it to be formulaic. I wanted it to be contextual. And I’ve always actually had a lot of respect for when I’ve been to New Zealand and seen some of the conferences and educational events there that the way people do those. Maori acknowledgments is often really contextual. I’ve always been very involved. In Wiradjuri , country called Wominjeka, which Wominjeka has sort of become translated as welcome. And that’s often how it’s used. But in fact, I learned from a wandering elder that actually Wominjeka is a like a compound word. It’s a made up of two different parts. And it actually literally translates as come with purpose. Right? And I absolutely love that translation like the idea of I now better understand what First Nations people meant when they said, Wominjeka, like come with purpose. Like if you come here with genuine intention, and we can trust you and all that sort of stuff then then welcome you know, and I think sometimes, to use that classic phrase that lost in translation can sometimes be a really powerful lesson in learning. And sometimes it means undoing what we learned.

Mike Reading:  45:13
Yeah. So how do you balance that tension? Again, you’ve got a very European white culture in Australia, essentially. And then you’ve got, like the Aboriginal culture, and then you’ve got the Asian cultures, and you’ve got this melting pot. I mean, Australia specifically is a very multicultural country. How do you how do you balance that tension then between? Like, how do you Yeah, how do you sort of hold all that tension in terms of how do you do justice to your Asian community and the Asian heritage they’ve got, but then also the Aboriginal heritage? And they’ve got and then some of that more traditional Australian heritage, for instance?

Hamish Curry:  45:58
Yeah, it’s an interesting one. I think there’s, I think it’s understanding the context, actually, context is a big factor. And I think sometimes in in Australia’s case, you’ve got to be careful that the context don’t become tokenistic. So, you know, just to take a bit of a broad swath to Harmony Day, can feel actually like it actually does more damage, it reinforces more stereotypes, because we just start this one day to dress up in a cultural wear or have some cultural food that becomes stereotypical. Rather, she said is what’s something contextual? That means something to our community? And I, as I said, I think I my sense, I think we’re doing that better. From a First Nations perspective, I think we’re still learning how to do it. Because when it comes to an Asian context, I mean, you’re talking about 40, to 45 different potential nations. And even then, I distinctly remember, when I was on one of my trips to Indonesia, we were talking a little bit about this. And one of the educators got a bit worked up, and he kind of went at me across the table. He said, Yeah, but you don’t understand it. We’re not we’re not just Indonesian. You know, he’s Timorese on Balinese, you know, he’s from East Kalimantan. You know, he’s from Surabaya, you know, so people identify by by the little region that they’re from, because they have their own dialect and their own customers and their own protocols. And so there’s all that stuff that sometimes, again, we get caught by trying to generalize things to make it easy, but we end up shutting people out. And actually, and I think the answer to that, then is honesty is actually the best solution is actually that I know, I’m probably generalizing here, I know, I’m leaving people out, showing a bit of vulnerability and weakness, I don’t think leaders do that enough. To be honest, they would rather lie and act like it was all meant to be or someone else’s fault that actually admit that they didn’t know or they maybe didn’t say it in the right way. And I think we need an AI we hear it from people like Brene Brown and others, Simon Sinek, around vulnerable leaders who’ve got the courage, or people like your own Prime Minister, Prime Minister, you know, people that have the courage to be vulnerable, much more relatable human, and we can forgive some of their some of their assumptions. That’s and that’s okay.

Mike Reading:  48:33
Yeah, it’s definitely something I’m doing a lot of thinking around. Because culturally responsive is definitely like an area of focus for a lot of people, but at the same time, how do you stop that being a totalistic tokenistic activity? And then obviously, it’s, it’s local to where you are. So yeah, New Zealand. Obviously, there’s a fair bit of te reo and Maori going through and but then you’ve got some schools that as a proportion, Indian, but yet in our New Zealand context. So becomes quite, quite quite a struggle for and rightly so for for executive leadership teams to really met like to figure out what does cultural responsive pedagogy look in that particular context? So it’s been actually quite helpful for me to hear your reflections on that and and sort of filter that through in some of those things I’ve been thinking about

Hamish Curry:  49:28
Yeah, I think I think again, in simple terms, it comes back to just admitting that you don’t know you don’t understand and saying I actually have I actually have a gap in my own knowledge and capability here. Like we tell kids every day about the gaps in their knowledge and all the skills they’ve got to have gaps in but we’ve got to swallow our own medicine and something that I learned very, very well at no charge was always we talked about that, like, if we can’t do it to ourselves, then we shouldn’t be doing it to teachers, and we shouldn’t certainly be doing it to kids. It’s either.

Mike Reading:  50:01
Very true, I just want to pivot for a quick sec, because you’ve said a couple of times when I was at, AF. So obviously, you’re moving on part of that thing I saw, you put up and you’re speaking about vulnerability, put up on LinkedIn, I think I saw it a post about saying you’re feeling a bit burnt out and a bit like you’d lost your, your vibe or your mojo, and you’re out to try and pick that up. And obviously, stepping away from that role over the last three months or so just interested in that whole burnout piece. Not only how deep you want to go into this, but like, what were the steps you took to recognize that you’re, you’re burning out? And then what were the steps? You got a pathway out of that?

Hamish Curry:  50:41
Wow. Yeah, thanks. Thanks, Mike. Look, it was tough. Like, I really loved my job. And I felt and I will continue to love the work that that I have does, and I guess it was a really interesting time where I kept thinking that, okay, so I’ve got to try and help solve some of these quite complex challenges. And people were really stretched, there was a lot that people had on. And there was a lot of compounding pressures that that I think, just build up. And, of course, I think, you know, in all, in all parts of life, that you know, if mentally, you’re under a huge amounts of pressure, then your body starts to reflect that too. So I end up getting really bad pain in my neck and shoulders. And a lot of it was just crouched over a laptop all day long stressing out and not really looking after my own physical well being as much as my mental well being. And so that story that I kind of did take some time to work out if I wanted to tell it or not. But I must say that I’ve actually been really, really humbled and surprised at the people that it has reached and resonated with I, you know, I I’ve don’t write much on my blog very often. And when I do, it’s sort of, I just want to get some thoughts out. And they’re not meant to be for like, I’m not intending this to be some sort of mega sources, where I like to do my thinking. And so it was really probably quite powerful to say that lots of people have lost their mojo. And increasingly, what I thought too, was, I think it’s not just school leaders and teachers, but kids, kids have lost their mojo. So losing it, and for me, was admitting it that I just lost, it was big. And I think the thing was, and I like to say maybe it’s, I was, and maybe traditionally have been a little bit of a bloke and kind of, she’ll be right, I’ll be right, or I’m just a bit down, you know, but actually asking for help, and professional help. And that was a big thing for me, because I I was almost a little bit out of character. So once a second meeting, something not right, you know, and the professional help was wonderful, because they didn’t try and diagnose me or tell me what was wrong. They just listened. Right? Good empathy skills, like, just listened. And about the midpoint through that cycle of, of work. They then said, you know, you’re actually suffering from burnout. And I’m like, yeah, no, I burnout, no, no burnout, it’s an actual thing. You know, it has all these sort of different conditions and anxieties that come with burnout. And that then helped me actually, when you can pinpoint the problem, you can deal with it, you can, and then I was left with that point. Okay, do I do I work through this and stay? Or do I take some time to look after myself and leave, and it was a hard decision to leave, I must say. But the three month gap now of having left, I don’t regret it. I feel I feel better. I got myself physically Well, again, mentally well, again, I got time with my family to support them. With that was that has worked out really well, serendipitously. And I think increasingly, it’s something that you know, my advice to those that that maybe go through this is you need to have the trusted people that you can talk to all the services or things you can call on to talk to. And not and I guess in my story is not to see it as being somehow weak or a sense of failure. And that’s a big step. And then that’ll be a lesson that I carry with me for the rest of my life.

Mike Reading:  54:36
Yeah, yeah, I think yeah, I probably don’t take it from Oh, maybe I do from like on my blog, just get on with it. Toughen up. I think I’ve just eternally optimistic like I’m always I don’t know, I just I always see the good in something of I see the best in people i. And it’s been an interesting journey for me just recently to just saying Like not everything has to be fantastic all the time. And it’s okay just for it to be crap, you know, so. And just acknowledging that sometimes can go a long way to just helping the reality is it is what it is. But Yep, absolutely can’t get better. But, like sit in that for a moment and just acknowledge it and then find the path out.

Hamish Curry:  55:22
that’s absolutely right, Mike. And I’ve always been someone I love to help make it better and design things to be better. And when you run out of that creative energy you make it better is when you I think it’s the introspection to look back and go, I need to make myself better. First of all, I tried to make other people or other things better.

Mike Reading:  55:39
Yeah, yeah, that’s interesting. Did you take yourself through a design thinking process?

Hamish Curry:  55:44
There were no hexagons or post it notes involved with that one, I’m pleased to say, Yeah, I put that aside for a minute.

Mike Reading:  55:51
And that’s good. And now you want to talk about what’s next. Obviously, you’ve found your vibe back in his got a bit of a spring in your step, and you’ve got a bit of future focus?

Hamish Curry:  56:02
do. I do. Mike, I look at you know, again, it’s been I mean, that’s where I think networks are a wonderful thing. And understanding what you want, and for me had that’s been that three month gap of so what do I want to do next. So I’ve, my education career has been, has had a lot of variety, still standard learning space, but always from a slightly different perspective. And that’s what I was looking for. And looking for, I’m very much a people person, I wanted to work with a team of really vibrant energetic people, I didn’t want to just be a consultant or a freelance or just just sort of pop in pop out. So it was finding that right synergy of people purpose, and what’s the real thing that gets them up in the morning. And so So yeah, so you’re probably one of the first people to hear the news that I’ve been appointed as the new general manager for cooler Australia. And Cool Australia is an incredible organization, a startup from about 13 years ago, founded by Jason Kimberly, around the premise of trying to help our teachers save time on how to help their students learn about sustainability through social, economic and environmental lenses. And it has blossomed into an organization now of about over a dozen staff, and reaching almost into every school in Australia, I think they’re just about to hit 2 million downloads of their resources. And I’m really humbled and fortunate to take on this role in helping to kind of shape and support the next phase of what Cool Australia is doing. And in the truest sense of the word. It’s built around digital, it’s about improving access. And it’s about finding the things that are going to ensure a better future for educators and young Australians and their parents in wrestling with some of the biggest challenges of our times and how do we communicate that in a way that allows people to learn the context and take some action? And yeah, it’s, I’m super excited. It just feels like things clicked.

Mike Reading:  58:20
yeah, that’s awesome. Really happy for you about that. I mean, talk about, I don’t know, if you see this, where I kind of see it on the outside and just looking in, it was kind of like you’re at the library, and you’re almost at the coffee, like the cutting face of what was happening in libraries, and you went to no toss, which was very cutting edge in terms of design. And then you really jumped into the Asia thing. And that was very, like, that’s on the bleeding edge of where education is. And then if you look at society, economics and an environment, well, if those three things that were schools are under pressure to innovate and to incorporate into their curriculums and their thinking that be it right, so, yeah, I think you found yourself right. And there’s right spot where you need to be in terms of that next step of your journey.

Hamish Curry:  59:04
Absolutely. Yeah. And I feel as I said, I feel very fortunate to have such such a role. And, and I can already just feel myself buzzing with kind of that creative energy that I’d been missing around, you know, how do we get the best impact out of this and, and, and working with such amazing partners? And I think that’s the thing you’ve realized there’s so many people that want to help improve education, and what they’re looking for a people that could know and understand how to design that learning. And that’s always been a real passion of mine. And yeah, it feels like such a good fit. So yet, I’m ready for the next phase.

Mike Reading:  59:49
That’s awesome. I want to just wrap up with one last question for you. I mean, we’ve talked a lot about change and you know, the pressures and the tensions of that change and You know, the world changing around education in a sense, and quite often we hear politicians and people talk about how schools so industrialized and so stuck in its ways and, and so on, as someone who’s been on the outskirts of where education is into intersecting with society and culture, and, and so on, like, do you buy into that whole industrialized model in like 2022? Now, is that still the case? Or do you think we’ve moved on to an old paradigm and an old narrative so to speak?

Hamish Curry:  1:00:30
Yeah, look, it was, it was probably cool when Ken Robinson was talking about it. Which, you know, God bless, sir, can you know, it really helped articulate at least a little bit of introspection on how do we change the system. But I think, when you really look at education, and and I often refer to a guy called John Taylor Gatto, who wrote this seminal book called weapons of mass instruction. And it’s a great book. It’s quite, quite, quite old now. But he really nailed out the difference that I believe in, which is that all of us have experienced school. And we all understand the system of schooling, but not all of us have had an education. And I think when we talk about schooling as a system, yes, it’s quite indust. That’s the system that’s industrial like that model some of those models of schooling. But when you talk about education, I think everyone looks at education differently. And that really interesting cocktail that we design around a bit of this, a bit of that, and great teachers and engage kids and really interesting concepts. That’s education and the opportunity to access things and networks and experiences that otherwise we didn’t think were possible. So I think education has constantly adapted within a very rigid expectation of its model and its function in society. And it’s the same way maybe like, we might save other entities, like banks, you know, we have a perception of how banks operate in a society. But actually, if you work at a bank, they don’t operate like that anymore. We don’t recognize that. Or even in medicine, you know, we have industries that have really shifted the way they work. Because school deals with such scale, like you, you work with millions of kids every day, and trying to give them this experience of of learning. schooling was sort of the model, it just seemed to work to adapt to scale. And I think what we’ve realized in the last 25 years, or more, actually, is that that model doesn’t quite isn’t quite fit for purpose. And everyone is telling us that the kids, the parents, the teachers, like, but, but who’s actually going to change that who’s going to change those expectations of where learning happens, and how it happens. And when it happens. And I think the innovators are those that have more freedom to make their own choices. And I know there’s a lot being said about school autonomy. But school autonomy can feel like, oh, you know, a dead weight, if it’s suddenly like, or you just look after yourself, and we won’t help you. I mean, that’s just abandoning education. But I think we’re at a really interesting time. And I think, in the next five to 10 years, we’ll look back, you and I will look back at 2012. And it was there, it was there in 20s. While we just weren’t quite ready for that change, and it needed people to keep telling the story of that change, to keep inspiring people. And I think that’s the thing we need, we need help continually have people that inspire us to know that there are better options for education outside of what we think schooling is. And that helps us to start to transition. And I think probably eventually, I hope that, you know, certainly it’s not true for my kids, but their kids school might look a bit different. And, and I think that’s a natural evolution. And I feels like we’re in this interesting space where people are really stuck to bend the expectations and understanding of what what it means to learn it as a as a child.

Mike Reading:  01:04:25
Yeah. Yeah, very interesting. It’s, um, I think when you’re in it, you don’t see it. Part of that thing, like you don’t necessarily see yourself aging, or you don’t see yourself changing day to day, but if you don’t bump into someone for six months, and then you see them all of a sudden, you’re like, wow, you’ve changed, right? So I think you’re right when you’re in it. We’re not necessarily saying it, but I think if we do look back on, hopefully we’ll see those dots. Kind of like what we’ve done today. We’ve been on a bit of a journey. We’re sort of connecting the dots backwards. You can’t ever connect dots fall Do you can sort of see where you’re gonna go, but you don’t exactly know. But hindsight is always 2020. And you can always look back and say, Oh, that dot join to that thought which then joined at that time and yeah, here we are. That’s why

Hamish Curry:  1:05:11
I love I love the simplest definition of creativity is that it’s only logical in retrospect. Yeah, so tricky. At the time, everyone will tell you, you’re crazy. And that’s how you know you’re innovating. You know, but in respect, I see what you’re trying to do. And so I think that’s a good sign that you’ve you’ve you’ve tried to make a difference.

Mike Reading:  01:05:29
Yeah, yeah. What a good spot to stop on that. I think it’s really appreciate your time. I know you’re, you’re busy hooking into your new your new role, and I appreciate you taking time out. But I have genuinely been thinking about you over the last couple of years, especially with all the tensions on around China and culture and, and so on. And I was someone I’ve been wanting to chat to and just timing seems to be right for now, for some reason.

Hamish Curry:  1:05:57
as usual, Mike, your timing was perfect. You know, you had any new still got it. So yeah, just wonderful to have an opportunity to chat with you and share a bit of my story. And yeah, it’s been really wonderful catching up.

Mike Reading:  01:06:09
Yeah, appreciate it, and all the best in your new role. Thanks, Mike. Cheers.

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