Anyone who thinks teacher-administrators have a cushy job, hasn’t spoken to our member Heather Ablett. Heading up four Junior Schools in the independent sector, she worked up to 60 hours most weeks, along with her colleagues. “I’d be at school well before school started and well after school hours finished, with meetings and school events into the evenings. Especially in the independent sector, there are a myriad of night-time school events like concerts, performances and parent meetings.” 
Heather semi-retired late last year. She’d planned a move from her Berwick home, perhaps to a city location, but is happy to wait awhile, given the pandemic.
 She still does some consulting, exam supervision and relief work. Her latest consulting job was a review of a kindergarten’s systems and procedures, interviewing the staff and doing detailed recommendations. 
She’s been a keen traveller, mostly with her travel buddy, a friend who’s also in education. Their most recent trip to Europe included an Amsterdam-Budapest river cruise. “Because we were both working full-time we were always restricted to the mid-year break, when we could be away for 3 weeks. We’ve cancelled for 2020, like everyone else, but hope to have our trip to France
Heather has enjoyed re-acquainting herself with her golf clubs, although it’s been spasmodic with restrictions. She also enjoys walking, the gym (when they re-open), gardening and cooking. Her taste in reading is for historical novels like Hilary Mantel and autobiographies – she’s just finished Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” 
She grew up in Lang Lang, South Gippsland, where her father was an engineer at the Holden Proving Ground. She did primary at Lang Lang before moving to boarding school in Melbourne for her secondary schooling. 
Her teacher training was at Ballarat State College and then Burwood State College. She taught at five country primary schools and then in Melbourne. 
For the last twenty-plus years of her career she was Head of Junior School (Primary Principal), in charge of 3-12 year-olds at Haileybury College, Berwick; Mentone Girls Grammar; Canberra Girls Grammar; and The Knox School, Melbourne.
 She spent nearly 10 years in the ACT at Canberra Girls Grammar, where she led the large Junior School on a separate campus with 650 students (70+ staff). Located at the heart of the Parliamentary Triangle, the Junior School was next to the Italian Embassy and only 80 metres from The Lodge.
Heather’s experience at these schools covered single gender and co-educational schools. How did looking after boys compare with girls? – “They’re all individuals, and should be treated as such. That’s how I related to them. Boys can sometimes appear to be more active and they particularly enjoy the hands-on activities, but I wouldn’t generalise.”
A big change was the arrival of computers into classes from the 1980s. It was a huge challenge for schools for teachers to become adept with new learning tools. These days staff and students use the technology with ease, with the students often educating their teachers. “I was grateful I always had a good IT support team. As you can imagine, there were incessant calls for help when somebody’s system froze or work disappeared into the aether. Individuals would run around in a panic when the technology failed and the planned lesson had to be abandoned. Thankfully teachers are a resilient bunch and have learnt to adapt at a moment’s notice.”
Every school has its own technology policies. “In my schools, the younger students tended to be given iPads, and the students from about mid-primary had school laptops. It’s common to have one-to-one programs, each student with their own school device to use rather than a bank of shared devices. “Students are considered digital natives as they’ve grown up with technology. It’s woven into most aspects of their lives. Schools these days understand that technology is one of the basic 21st century skills, not only in school but also in kids’ future workplaces. They’re also conscious of the need to teach students about being safe online and to use technology responsibly.”
Heather’s loved the range of the ‘fantastic’ Bearbrass speakers, and is relishing getting to know the members – even if only via Zoom coffee meetings. #