The Festival of Teachers

Over the 1st weekend in September we welcomed a lovely group of teachers from a variety of schools across south east Queensland to the beautiful Maroochy Waterfront Camp and Conference Centre for the Festival of Teachers.

The dance floor was packed, we shared beverages and speed dating on the first night and the main themes of the conference was to release the inner child and connecting on camp and outdoor educational experiences.

One of the things that I enjoyed witnessing most was watching teachers let down their hair and step into the shoes of their students in a re-enactment of school camp.  But, instead of cordial, we had alcohol and instead of lasagne we had rack of lamb and barramundi! The wonderful team at Maroochy Waterfront Camp and Conference Centre put on a great spread for the teachers.

Key messages from the conference were to not only thank teachers for their wonderful contribution in schools, but also to highlight the further possibilities of meaningful connections with their students outside of school.  I am passionate about putting things into perspective and over the conference, one of my goals was to deliver a few perspectives to teachers, which I would like to share with you now.

Perspective #1 –

On overnight camps and experiences I often hear teachers and camp coordinators telling students how grateful they should be that their teachers are spending time away from their families, and giving up their time to be on camp.  While I acknowledge this is a wonderful offering, I also challenge the same teachers or camp coordinators to recognise that the students too are giving up their valuable time away from their families.  Many of them who have not yet got the resilience, social skills and experience of spending that time away from the comfort of their home.

Perspective #2 –

During the festival, teachers took part in Dragon Boating and a variety of other team building sessions.  It was a real privilege to watch teachers approach me in the same manner as students to double check the items they would need to bring for activities even though these were explained just prior. It’s a great reminder to us all that we are only human. We can’t always be aware of everything that is happening around us. I am reminded that patience is not only a virtue but an intentional practice that we all should invest into our character. Teachers are only human and I really encourage the members of the community to not only recognise the great service they offer but also that they are just like the rest of us too.

Perspective #3 –

Among the great group of teachers there were those who found it very challenging to get their feet wet with Dragon Boating, yet excelled in our Domino Construction activity.  The creativity of some teachers was matched with the physicality of others in different activities.  All in all, it was great to see the variety of characters combining to build one beautiful culture.  I believe most teachers by the end of the conference could identify how they as individuals could more intentionally respond to different experiences when they are taken outside their norm, and challenged with new learnings.

We summarised the conference with a viewing of the wonderfully imaginative animation, “Room on the Broom.”  It was a wonderful way to summarise the conference, allowing each teacher to connect with one of the characters in the story and to see how they would be challenged when placed outside of friendship groups and comfort zones on outdoor educational experiences.

A message to the readers of this blog who were unable to attend the festival –  If you get the chance, access the ABC iView app on your smart TV or interactive phones and watch “Room on the Broom” (if possible watch it with your students to help foster a sense of character development and the inner child – Hurry!! ends mid-September). The story has so many wonderful messages that will help build the right team culture for your classrooms and year levels.

I would personally like to thank the wonderful contribution of all teachers who attended the Festival of Teachers over the weekend, together with the wonderful staff at the beautiful Maroochy Waterfront Camp and Conference Centre.

Although never easy it was a privilege to be away from my family, to spend a couple of wonderful days with wonderful teachers … and the return home was just as good!

 

Damon

5 minutes with Gavin – Character Builders’ Lead Facilitator

I recently had the pleasure of sitting with our Lead Facilitator Gavin Andrews and getting to know a little more about his passions both at work, and at home.

Here is what we chatted about:

1.       Tell me a little bit about yourself?

I am a passionate facilitator and educator. I taught for 12 years across several QLD schools holding both classroom teaching and Head of Sport titles. I grew up in a little town called Alstonville in northern NSW, and passionately support the BLUES!.  My other passions are family, my Christian faith, sport, workshop facilitation and outdoor education.

I love creating opportunities for students to step out of their comfort zones and learn new things about themselves. I also like to lead by example in the breaking down of stereo types such as ‘real men don’t talk about their feelings’.

2.       How did you first get involved in Character Builders?

I was teaching Year 5 in a local Brisbane school and had the opportunity to work alongside Character Builders in the leadership programs. I really enjoyed and connected to the values and purpose of the programs and felt my own personal values aligned. I took some long service leave and began working as a contractor and am now full-time as the Lead Facilitator.

3.       What do you find most challenging about your job?

The most challenging aspect of my job is probably what makes my job the most fun! I never know what each day is going to bring or even what each session may bring. It sometimes can be challenging to be quickly thinking on your feet and catching a curve ball a participant or organiser throws at you. But I also thrive off this challenge.

4.       Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with Character Builders?

I have met a wide range of people working with Character Builders. People from all backgrounds financially, culturally and socially. The individuals that stick out to me from the programs I have facilitated are the ones who may not be the loudest; however, have a real presence and impact on a group. They do this through their attitude and sticking to a task no matter the challenge.

5.       How would someone describe your facilitation style?

My facilitation style has grown and changed in the time I have been in this role. I have moved from the rule following teacher style, to a more relaxed, fun and occasionally funny presenter. I like to enthuse and encourage with positive words and actions with individuals and teams.

6.       What do you do when you aren’t working?

I love to spend time with my wife and 2 boys. This could mean time at the local parks, taking my eldest to rugby union or cricket training and games, attending Church as a family or just chilling out at home. I am also trying to still play some social indoor cricket as often as I can. Also since beginning with Character Builders I have also found enjoyment in running for fitness, something I never thought I would find fun!

7.       What’s the best thing a Facilitator can do for students?

Connect – I believe making a personal connection with students is crucial in everything; but, also connecting presentations to personal values and beliefs. Without personal connection students don’t believe what you are presenting is authentic, it lacks meaning and purpose. Every session I facilitate I am to gather names and speak to as many students on an individual level showing a genuine interest in who they are.

8.       Who are some people you look up to, and why?

My parents – Col and Gwen Andrews. My parents both have education backgrounds. Over the years I have listened to both mum and dad speak about individual students and the genuine love and care they have for them. They knew different aspects of the students’ lives and the challenges they were facing and celebrated the joys. Since retirement both mum and dad have continued connections with students they had previously taught and have engaged in their ongoing lives. Also since retirement their involvements in Church and community programs has increased. These roles involve mentoring and assisting other in the community to reach greater potential.

Gavin is such a valuable part of the team at Character Builders, these insights reiterate why.  If you’re a client, you’ve no doubt gotten something out of all the hard work Gavin puts into his every day.  If you’re yet to met Gavin, I have no doubt you’ll think as much of him as we do!

2017 Facilitator Training

I had the honour and privilege of being invited to attend Character Builders’ annual Facilitator Training earlier this year.  Not only was the experience personally moving, it was eye opening to better understand the research, pedagogy and passion that Damon and Clare (Owners and Directors) put into the programs, experiences and training at Character Builders.

The view from Altitude 261, the beautiful venue of our 2017 Facilitator Training

I have worked as the Program Coordinator at Character Builders since March of this year.  With a background in school-based program management, children’s education, and the arts, I took on this role thinking I had little to learn, but a lot to share.  At the surface Character Builders appeared to be a straight forward, streamlined business that had built themselves a great reputation by being exceptional at what they did.  Their programs; tried and tested, simple and reliable.  What I couldn’t see from the surface was the years of expertise, knowledge and training that has gone into the creation of every single Character Builders’ experience.

 

The Girls’ team won the balloon construction experience!

Character Builders’ execute their activities with detailed precision and purpose; always driving towards a greater objective. We tailor every offering to ensure learning, connection and growth.   It was encouraging and eye opening to see the coaching Character Builders Facilitators receive in classroom management and more importantly around character development and support.  A dedication and commitment to be present, aware and to ensure every student can take something valuable from their time with the team.

Ready, Steady, Cook!

I now feel that it is my responsibility to better communicate these complexities with clients through the processes and systems behind the scenes.  Clare and Damon have become so good at what they do; they make this business seem effortless.  While they absolutely have the people and infrastructure in place to ensure streamlined operations, nothing could be less true than what they do being effortless.  The reality is, that Character Builders is a labour of love and a business built on passion.  The team here work tirelessly to ensure high quality programs and meaningful outcomes from every piece of work we do.  Nothing is by accident.  Every “game”, each “activity”, is driving towards a purposeful outcome.  Everything is genuinely engineered around creating unity, respect, self-esteem and confidence. I feel privileged to have joined such a passionate and talented team.

(Most of) The team!

I’m looking forward to years of learning working beside them.

 

Erin

Kokoda Trail – ‘Following in the Footsteps of Heroes’

Kokoda Trail Soldiers

One of the bloodiest campaigns of World War II, which has forever sealed the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea, began over 70 years ago.

It was on July 21, 1942, that Japanese troops landed on the northern coast of then New Guinea and unexpectedly began to march over the Owen Stanley Ranges with the intent of capturing Port Moresby.

Had they succeeded, the mainland of Australia would have come under dire threat.

More Australians died in the seven months of fighting in Papua, and the Japanese came closer to Australia than in any other campaign.

Many of those young Australians, whose average age was between 18 and 19, now lie buried at the Bomana War Cemetery outside Port Moresby.

Conditions were almost indescribable.

Stretcher bearers in the Owen Stanleys, William Dargie, 1947. [Oil on canvas 143.2 x 234.4cm AWM ART26653] The evacuation of the wounded was a serious problem. The native bearers carried the stretchers, sometimes under fire, back to the ADS [Advanced Dressing Station]. The Papuans constructed the stretchers: blankets slung between two poles with spreaders at each end. Eight natives were allotted to each stretcher and they stayed with the same patient until they reached their destination. [Papua Campaigns, Report dealing with Medical organisation, 1942. AWM54 481/2/48]

Much of the track was through dense rain forest, which enclosed the narrow passage between walls of thick bush.

It rained most of the time, and at higher levels, the terrain became moss and stunted trees, were often covered in mist.

Worn down and weary from hunger, malaria and dysentery, the men endured some of the most difficult terrains in the world.

But the men kept fighting, making the enemy pay dearly for every bit of ground – buying time for those being prepared to come up from Port Moresby to relieve them.

The force, being desperately tired but determined, kept themselves between the Japanese Major General Horri’s South Sea Force and Port Moresby – defending, retreating and then counter – attacking in a masterly display of strategic defence.

We remember The Battle of Kokoda as one of the most heroic defensive actions in Australian military history.

Why conquer the Character Builders’ Kokoda Challenge?

Character Builders – Kokoda Sling-Shot activity

‘Hearing both sides of the story’

Character Builders’ Kokoda Challenge draws on the past accounts from all sidesof the campaign including the Japanese, Australians’ and Papuan soldiers.

These stories help students to understand the importance of putting things into perspective.

FEATURES:

  • Amazing outdoor experience for all ages (including Staff)
  • Challenges students to respect diversity and difference in others
  • Culturally and historically important for every student
  • Inspires young minds to look for perspective
  • Demands commitment and a high level of teamwork from students
  • Empowers students to strive for leadership
  • Emphasises the message of “Lest We Forget”

YOUR STUDENTS AND STAFF WILL

  • carry each other (mountain assault and stretchers)
  • trust each other (team games and base camp duties)
  • share with each other (food on, BBQ cooking and reflection)
  • appreciate the environment

OUTCOMES:

Students and staff walk away from this day having been given the opportunity to stop, reflect on the past, act in the present and plan a more open-minded approach to take back to school and implement into their lives.

* Contact Character Builders to book your Kokoda Challenge

Phone: 1300 205 101  Email: info@characterbuilders.com.au
Web: www.characterbuilders.com.au

Character Builders Blazing Trails into 2017

    

Despite temperatures reaching a scorching 37 degrees, we’ve had a fantastic turn-out for the year. Character Builders staff have enjoyed providing events jam-packed with fun, laughter and positivity.

Over the last few weeks we have had the pleasure of working with staff and students from the following schools:

As always, it’s been a pleasure to give students a chance to bond, share stories and enjoy time away from the rigours of the classroom.

We have had an awesome start to 2017 and are looking forward to spending more time with these wonderful groups in the future.

Spring is in the air!

The Character Builders team have been very busy with some wonderful school groups out on camp over the last few weeks.

We have been leading fishing and cooking activity on Straddie, getting stuck into beach Olympics at Alexandra Headlands, trekking in all weathers on Mt Tamborine and taking time to get to know each other’s stories around the campfire in the evening. It is a privilege to facilitate these special events in the lives of young students.

Character Builders believe in building fantastic team spirit that students take with them back into their school and home lives. Working together in teams to take on physical and mental challenges is a sure way to help young people access strengths they did not know they had and to encourage them to step-up and help others. It is a great pleasure to see students grow in understanding of themselves and their peers.

What is your organisation doing to support the growth of great team spirit?

Ask us what we can do to help!

Building Better Communities

How do we build better communities with mindful, engaged participants?

At Character Builders we believe the opportunities are endless!

In our work, we see the capacity young people have to grow in self-knowledge and to connect more deeply with those around them. Knowing oneself and understanding others is key to breaking down the personal inhibitions and social behaviours that keep people locked in negative patterns. Better, healthier, more engaged communities must have mindful participants and what better way to begin than with our young people?

Over the course of the last  10 years the Character Builders team has had the privilege of working within school incursions and with young people on external programs to help support individual growth and social cohesion. The cornerstone of this work involves a technique we call ‘The Check-In’. By guiding people through the process of checking in with themselves, we make possible a pause in the internal chatter of the mind. This is an invaluable experience for young people many of whom are growing up with immersion in social media.

This pause – even by itself – allows one to become more ‘present’. It facilitates a greater potential for understanding oneself. But we don’t stop there! To support young people in building better understanding of, and therefore better relationships with others, we make possible a direct engagement with the lives of others through a powerful method we call ‘Your Story’. More about that next time! In the meantime be well

How to survive your exams

Yesterday was the first day of exams for year 12 students across Australia.  Unfortunately, these exams bring much stress and pressure for our students.

Research shows that approximately 43% of young Australian students have concerning levels of anxiety come exam time, while 52% believe too much is expected of them in year 12.

Character Builders would like to remind each and every student that your future is not governed by your year 12 results.

Whilst we acknowledge that the final year of secondary school is an important year, it will not be the most important year of your life.

Put things into perspective, and remember that your final score does not reflect who you are as a person and that it merely measures your ability in an exam at this specific point in time in your life, not your future success.

One of the cornerstones of Character Development is allowing yourself to experience success and failure as part of the learning process.

Through our failures we build resilience, awareness of what to do better in the future.  Through our successes we build confidence, realise our potential and are encouraged to continue to grow.

The key message is that it is not always about the result rather how you get there and what you take from the experience.

Good luck to all students undertaking their exams, we wish you all the best.

Importance of Corporate Team Building

Job satisfaction is an important part of a person’s employment. Feeling worthwhile, worthy, part of a team & having a sense of achievement within the working environment are essential elements to happiness. These feelings can motivate a workforce & ensure they are at their most productive, & in turn, this attitude will motivate their colleagues. Working on the premise that happy staff are productive staff, companies often find that team-building events positively affect the productivity of individuals, teams & the company as a whole.

Team building also benefits the team as a whole. When people who rarely work together are forced to communicate, they can discover that they enjoy the interaction & continue to network & bond with different people back at the office.

Character Builders helps break down barriers between staff by creating a forced interaction between all groups which creates opportunities for networks & friendships to develop.

10 Reasons for Team Building

1. Improving communication
2. Making the workplace more enjoyable
3. Motivating a team
4. Getting to know each other
5. Getting everyone “onto the same page”, including goal setting
6. Teaching the team self-regulation strategies
7. Helping participants to learn more about themselves (strengths & weaknesses)
8. Identifying and utilizing the strengths of team members
9. Improving team productivity
10. Practicing effective collaboration with team members

Character Builders not only focus on team bonding but their activities encourage the improvement of Interpersonal Skills such as: communication, negotiation, leadership, & motivation.

Contact Character Builders today for your next team building event on 1300 205 101.