Impact: Emerging Leaders
Acting Assistant Principal, Dandenong High School
A couple of years ago, Aaron Mackinnon was given a thankyou card featuring the smiling face of a three-year-old boy.
'There is just this big grin from ear to ear,' says Aaron, Acting Assistant Principal of Dandenong High.
The card was a parting gift from a student who hadn't smiled as much as Aaron would have liked, and whose time at school had not always been easy.
'Seeing him as a young kid in that photo really hit home – the journey that people go through. As teachers, we're just a small part of someone's journey.'
The card also reminded Aaron of his own journey as a teenager. He had a learning disability and a waning interest in school, but this came full circle when he found himself back in the school environment as art teacher.
Aaron spent many hours in his younger years with paintbrush and easel in hand, funnelling his creativity onto canvas, and it was this love of art and working with young people that led him to teaching.
The classroom, as Aaron has discovered, is not entirely different from an artist's canvas – or even to the Sistine Chapel, a work that inspires him.
'It's a pretty epic artwork when you think about the time it took – 40 years to paint this thing, lying on your back, suspended 30-foot above the ground.'
The importance of how detail fits into the bigger picture is something that Aaron has come to appreciate. As a leader and through participating in Bastow's Impact Program, he can now clearly see how school fits into children's lives and provides a 'moral compass' to navigate daily challenges.
'Like education, creating an artwork is about labouring. You don't always see the end result straight away.'
'It was only when I started to look a little deeper that I came to the conclusion that we – as educators – need to be relevant to students. If we're relevant, students feel a greater connection to school because they're learning something that's meaningful to them.'
Aaron is always looking for ways to give his students meaningful experiences. One example that sticks in his mind was when he asked some older students to mentor primary school students. He was astounded by the results.
'The older students really wanted to make it special for the kids – and they did. But I could see that
they loved it too. As soon as they were in front of the kids, they grew a few inches.'