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Transcript - Open-to-Learning (OTL™) Conversations

My name's Tony Fowler, and I've been Principal at Warracknabeal Secondary College for nearly 8 years.

And it was 2013 that I first became interested in open to learning conversations as a way of building relational trust across an organisation. And Bastow offered the course, and I was accepted into it. And by November, I'd got through the 9 days. And now I'm a trained facilitator.

Since doing the course, I've become much more aware of listening to the views of other people and being prepared to challenge my own assumptions and beliefs. Because believe it or not, I'm not always right.

But I think as teachers in general, educators in general, we're pretty successful people. And we haven't had to challenge the fact whether we're right and wrong too much in our lives. We've generally been right.

In terms of what we're asking the teachers to do, we're asking them to look at themselves, and look at their own practice really carefully so that we can improve.

So how is that impacting on us? Well, all teachers now get student voice feedback from a survey that we run across the whole school. And we're able to sit down now with the results of that survey in small groups, and discuss it. I think 3 or 4 years ago we couldn't have done that because there wasn't the trust amongst the staff.

We go into conversations now, and we're much more willing to really listen to the other person and be prepared to take their views on board. And if we do that, then the other person is more likely to walk away from a discussion. One, feeling like they've been heard. But two, that their views are really valued as well. And together, you can co-collaborate on some sort of solution to a problem at hand.

Viviane took us on a journey where even in the first step we were out of our comfort zone. And it seemed to be, as soon as we got into any area of comfort zone, she'd shift the goalposts. And we'd all be pulling our hair out just wondering, are we ever going to get this? And that was tough.

And I've done lots of courses in my life. And I'm currently studying a master's, and it's way tougher than that because I think it was asking me to change - not who I am - but certainly my thought processes, and really challenge those, and asked myself for the first time, in every situation, how am I contributing to a problem where I don't think I've done that very well in the past. And so, it was really tough. But it's like anything in life. If it's not tough. It's not challenging you, and you're probably not going to get the best out of it.

In terms of recommending the course, I would recommend it to anybody. Because as a principal or a leader in a school, you're always going to have tough conversations.

And the model is, it's there for tough conversations, but it's there for every conversation too. I mean, it's helped me in my personal life.​