Dore Elementary

One of the great highlights of my trip was being able to visit our sister school, Dore Elementary, in Chicago. About twelve moths ago we set up a global linkages partnership with Dore, allowing our students (and staff) the opportunity to make contact with kids and teachers from the other side of the world. The opportunity to visit the school whilst I was in the USA was too good to pass up!


Hello Dore Elementary!

On the Friday morning of our visit, I caught the “Orange Line” train out into the suburbs and was met by the Principal of Dore, Dr Liz Alvarez, who showed me through the school. Even though my timing wasn’t great (the students and teachers were on their looooong Summer break) it was still a great opportunity to see the school and to meet Liz and Tai Basurto, Dore’s Assistant Principal. In the States, an Assistant Principal is the equivalent of a class-free Deputy in NSW.


With Liz Alvarez, Principal of Dore Elementary.

The obvious difference between Dalmeny and Dore is the way the school is set out. The majority of the classrooms are all in one, long central block. A hallway ran through the middle of the building with the classrooms, offices, foyer and even the cafeteria accessed along the corridor. At the end was the school gym. Two other smaller blocks were added to house the students in Years 5 to 8.


The internal hallway, with rooms and offices accessed along the corridor.


A welcome sight… Our flag proudly hanging in the foyer! Dore’s celebration and recognition of our global partnership.

Liz thought it a little funny (maybe a strange Aussie custom?!?!) that I took a photo of the boiler room. This was a point of interest as for me as the boiler room provides the school’s central heating, needed to cope with the freezing Winter temperatures which often bring metres of snow!

Welcome to Dore… The boiler room and gym.

After our visit, Liz and Tai took me out to lunch for a genuine Chicagoan hotdog at Portillo’s. The dog included celery salt, tomatoes, relish and pickles. Yum!


Our day concluded at 3:00pm with Liz driving me back into central Chicago. That night Nikki, Eli and I went on a fantastic cruise along the Chicago River and into Lake Michigan. A wonderful experience!




The Great Road Trip – Part 2

Graceland – St Louis – Chicago

We started the morning with a tour of Graceland – even those not Elvis fans would love the history and nostalgia of the place. Both Nikki and I loved the tour and spent up big in the gift shop!


From Graceland we drove to St Louis, famous for the arch that overlooks the Mississippi. That night, the Cardinals were playing and it seemed like every second person we saw was heading to the game.

St Louis

From St Louis we drove into Chicago – Nikki braved the traffic and crazy roads to take the wheel as we headed into town. My job was to navigate – not made easy when we spent so much time in tunnels that our Nav Man lost contact with the satellite leaving us guessing as to which exit we needed to take! After a few anxious moments we made it in one piece! 1,500km successfully traversed – all on the wrong side of the road!


Big, beautiful and busy – Chicago!

The Great Road Trip – Part 1


The past four days has been spent road-tripping from the South in Texas to the Mid-West, right through America’s heartland. All-in-all we travelled 1,500km – roughly the distance from Sydney to Adelaide.

As stated in the previous post, we kicked off our trip in Dallas and then over-nighted in Little Rock, Arkansas; a really charming little city built on the banks of the Arkansas River. We stayed in the River Market District, home to pubs, cafes and music.


Dinner at a great bar in Little Rock, Arkansas!

From Little Rock we drove to Memphis, Tennessee, one of my most favourite cities I’ve visited in the States. This place really spoke to me – I loved the music history, the stories and Beale Street- home to pubs and live music on every corner. We visited the Sun Studios where Elvis first recorded, along with other music legends such as Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. Of course, having two teenage sons so brilliant on the guitar, we also had to visit the Gibson factory and outlet shop!

Memphis Beale

Walking on The Beale in Memphis

Memphis Sun Studio

Sun Studio in  Memphis – Music history in the atmosphere!

The next post will take in the second part of the trip – Graceland, St Louis and into Chicago!

Heading North… From the South!

Following ten nights in Boston, I was up early on the Sunday morning to catch a flight to Dallas. The highlight of this trip was meeting Nikki and Eli who had flown in from Sydney some 15-odd hours earlier. After all of this time away, it was great to spend a night in Dallas with these two pictured here!


Monday morning was spent touring the site where JFK was assassinated in 1963. It was really interesting to piece it all together. Of course, we knew a little of the assassination, but our knowledge of the actual event was pretty sketchy. The photo below shows how it all came together…


The red car is almost exactly where Kennedy was shot (although he was in the middle lane). Like the car pictured here, the motorcade was moving towards the camera. The brown-brick building above the group of people (with the arch windows) was where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot that killed JFK. The hilly part on the left is the infamous grassy knoll, where some thought the actual shots came from… opening up thousands of conspiracy theories as to who actually pulled the trigger on that fateful day.

Following the tour, we headed north east to Little Rock, Arkansas, a delightful little city full of character and atmosphere. We are lucky in that the River Markets are open tomorrow from 7:00am – a great place to site see, eat and shop before hitting the road and heading to Graceland!


Dinner in down town Little Rock!


Sad Saturday: So Long Harvard…

It’s hard to believe that I am typing my final blog post before officially signing out as a Harvard student. The wonderful Public Education Foundation state: we give life-changing scholarships and, true to this ethos, my life will never again be the same after being here.

This incredible experience challenged, motivated, refreshed, taught and inspired me time and time again as the week went on. It is amazing how so many Principals from all over the world can come together with the common goal of improving ourselves to provide better service for our students.

And even though our contexts were as wide and as varied as the countries from where we came, it became clear that we all face the same challenges, goals, complexities and motivations as each other. A very united group!

MersethOfficially, our final session was with Katherine Merseth who led a brilliant workshop using case-studies to prompt discussion and professional learning. Kate tied it all together, summarising the key learnings from across the week to help us plan for moving our schools forward.

Tonight will be spent packing, ready for a flight to Dallas tomorrow morning to meet my beautiful Nikki and baby Eli as they step off the plane from Sydney. Please keep reading, as my journey will continue for another 12 days, with the highlight being a visit to our sister school, Dore Elementary, in Chicago!


Members of my fantastic discussion group (from left): Mark (Florida), Stephanie (Boston), Lou (Western Australia), Paul (California), Jose (Texas), Yours Truly and Kelly (Texas).

Friday On My Mind

Friday was a long day that began with an outstanding workshop from Deborah Helsing on Immunity to Change: examining why leading purposeful, lasting, embedded change in any organisation is difficult. The session was rich in content and deep in understanding for all of us… particularly when we needed to examine what emotional ties were keeping us from embracing change ourselves!

After more discussion groups and a session on engaging our school stakeholders, we were off to the New England Clam Bake! A great chance to relax with colleagues and share fresh lobster, clams, clam chowder, baked chicken and salads… all washed down with ice cold Samuel Adams!


Widener Library

Any trip to Harvard is not complete without a visit to the magnificent Widener Memorial Library. Harry Widener was a past Harvard graduate who lost his life when the Titanic sunk in 1912. His mother Eleanor Widener had the library built in his honour and the beautiful building stands proudly among the others in this university.

As Harvard students, we were given passes to the library for the duration of our stay… an opportunity too good to pass up!

Final Days…

It’s been extremely hectic here (most days begin at 8:30am and often go 7:30 each night) so it’s been a little while since I’ve updated these pages.

Thursday’s morning session was led by the incredible, inspiring John Mundorf, whose Universal Design for Learning ensures all students can access curriculum, regardless of their background, disability, nationality or socio-economic status. One of my favourite Mundorf quotes was: “stop being surprised when kids are different!”


The incomparable John Mundorf: “Kids come in as best as they can be. The disability is not in the kid… it’s in the environment and the curriculum.”

After our brilliant discussion group met again on the Thursday, we were free to tour Harvard Square and Boston. Part of this time was spent knocking around with with my three new mates, Kelly, Jose and Steph. Great Principals, great people!


Culture x 2!

Today’s keynote speaker was Ebony Bidwell-Mitchell who has a PhD in the study of organisational culture. Her work is based around understanding how culture, be that good or bad, strong or weak, is developed and fostered in organisations and schools.

Part of our work reflected on how we, as Principals, can influence the different cultural sub-sets that exist in schools to build stronger organisations.

The day concluded with us engaging in a different kind of culture, being hosted at a reception at the historic Loeb House in Harvard.


Myself, Stephanie (Boston), Kelly (Texas), Mark (Florida) & Jose (Texas) enjoying the reception.

It was a great chance to talk in an informal setting and make new international acquaintances. Loeb House was built in 1912 and was home to the Harvard President up until 1971. It is now home to offices and is used to host functions such as ours.


Gardner & Mapp

Today was fantastic! We got to hear from one of the giants of the education world, Howard Gardner (of the Multiple Intelligences fame) talking to us about great leaders, great leadership and reflecting on our own work and influence as the Principal of our school.

Later in the day we heard from Karen Mapp who challenged current thinking around real family engagement in schools. Karen questioned assumptions and illustrated how we can (and, in fact, need) to bring our families into the fold to improve student outcomes. Some fantastic strategies to implement on return!


Learning with my new colleague, Steven, from New York.

The diversity of the group is amazing, with people from all over the world coming together for the common goal of improving ourselves as leaders of our schools.

Not only do we have people from the US here, but there are a number of fellow Aussies as well as Principals from France, China, Pakistan, New Zealand, England, Germany and one Principal from India who has over 6,000 students in her school… and I thought Dalmeny was big!