As Head of the University of Newcastle’s School of Education, Professor John Fischetti‘s research agenda focuses on finding what gives great teachers that magic touch – how to prepare them to help students really learn.
On 25 June 2014, John presented the New Professors Talk, titled Schools for the 22nd Century – Reframing education for global collaboration and innovation.
John’s career spans more than three decades, including an exceptional background in school reform, educational leadership and professional development. This week he tells us about his passion for education and his dreams for the future of Australian schools.
Tell us about your background including what drew you into your area of interest?
I have been in Newcastle since October. I was born in Brooklyn, New York (US), grew up in the state of Virginia and have been a teacher and professor in Massachusetts, Kentucky, North Carolina and Louisiana over the past 30 years. Newcastle and the University are both beacons of light in the postindustrial era, using education, innovation and hard work as the way forward. Everyone must have the best education to be relevant in a diverse society and global economy.
What are you passionate about? Can others in the community get involved?
We are at an amazing time in human history where information is at our fingertips wherever we are and we can use it to make great decisions to help children and families have great lives. That is a challenge for all of us involved in education – to reinvent ourselves around that new reality.
What should a school look like? What should a university look like? Schools for too long have been places students go to watch adults work. This is now an obsolete way to do the business of education.
People can get involved by working with their local schools to discuss what the purpose of schooling is in the innovation age. Our children are waiting to be inspired.
Do you draw on any people or resources for inspiration?
I use a blend of work in education from neuroscience (how the brain learns), pedagogical science (how we teach) and sociology/philosophy (why do we have/need schools). I am motivated by the reality that so many failed policies in the UK and US are finding their way to Australia, and we have time to push back.
What’s been the most unexpected aspect of your work so far?
Australians are such smart and passionate people about the roots of this country and the goal of equity for all people. Everyone here shares a history of injustice and opportunity to overcome those injustices. Education plays a key role in that. I am so impressed with the desire to build a better country and fairer society.
What’s been your proudest achievement to date?
My two children are both great people and great teachers. That is something an educator can feel good about. My children saw my love of teaching and now they both share that love everyday with their students. And my daughter-in-law is a teacher as well. I always hoped to replace myself. Instead I have that times three!
What would be your dream project?
My dream project would be to partner with area school leaders and form learning centres to replace testing centres. These new schools will be reframed around what we know about learning with a forward thinking view of what our society needs and what knowledge, skills and dispositions will build a great future for Australia.
What does the future hold?
If we work together to reframe education, Australian education has a very bright future. The difference today from my generation is that we cannot afford for anyone amongst us to be poorly educated. The moral costs are too high and the economic costs are too great as well.
What’s your favourite Newcastle neighborhood and why?
I think the Bather’s Way from Nobbys to Merewether is one of the prettiest stretches in the world to walk, run or bike. It is breathtaking.
Can you name a local hero?
The heroes I have met so far are all the school principals and teachers who work so hard every day with their staff to provide great learning for students.
What do you look forward to doing most in Newcastle in summer?
Spending time near the water and the breathtaking coast of this part of the country.
Watching the full moon rise.
Where and what was the last greatest meal you had in Newcastle?
Best getaway destination?
Your #1 Newcastle insiders tip?
The Newcastle Baths are a great treasure. As a runner, I use the Baths to cross train. It is an amazing view and just after your swim you can watch off the coast for the whales to swim by. Then off for a coffee or tea at One Penny Black on Hunter. What a great place filled with great people.