This episode is a special one as I am joined by my beautiful teacher and friend Jennie O'Donoghue (and CAFS legend).
If you have met Jen before on your CAFS journey you would know that she always lights up the CAFS space with her big heart and cheekiness.

Jen shares with us her lessons from the classroom from the last 45 years in teaching and what she has done over the last 30 + years to develop relationships and results in her CAFS classroom for HSC success. 

Show Notes 




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The Learning Network

Since 2004 I have been teaching PDHPE and Community & Family Studies. I love learning. It lights me up. I am so passionate about supporting you to be the best educator you can be.

My Purpose
To grow a lively and connected community, where Community & Family Studies teachers can network, learn and share with each other.

My Mission
To build on the knowledge, understanding and skills of Community & Family Studies teachers to set their students up for success with confidence.



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Show Transcription

Intro by Kelly Bell:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to The Learning Network Podcast, this is episode #9. And in this special episode, we are joined by the beautiful Jennie O'Donoghue. Jen has taught CAFS a really long time, since its development, but also has taught life management. Jen is an amazing teacher and amazing person and I had the absolute privilege and honour to work alongside her as her relieving headteacher of PE for two and a half years, before she retired from the Department of Education. After teaching for 45 years, Jen retired in March 2021 and she's an absolute gem in CAFS. If you know our course very well, you would have come across Jen somewhere along your journey. Jen has consistently been above the state average with her HSC results, and she's super proud of that. Often her results were the best at her senior campus, year after year. Jen has also presented and prepared sessions for HSC study days across New South Wales for the best part of her career, and also co-authored one of our CAFS textbooks. Jen is also married to Alan and Al gets to enjoy her company five days a week now, or seven days a week, in retirement. Although, Jen will tell you that she's got a very busy social life and doesn't really get to spend much time with Al, but Jen's got three beautiful children, and three grandchildren. Jen is an amazing person and she's got such great spirit, a great heart.


Hey, I'm Kelly Bell. Welcome to The Learning Network Podcast. I guide Community and Family Studies teachers, newbies and experienced, through best practice to improve knowledge, increase empowerment and alleviate stress, to help you and your students to make meaningful connections across the course. I will share strategic and purposeful applications from my 16 years experience in the classroom that I have adopted to increase student motivation, enjoyment, engagement and results. Together, we will grow and transform your CAFS crew to the next level without impacting your sleep and wellbeing process. To join my free how to improve writing and fast track results webinar, head to So tune in, get inspired and let's connect, learn and grow together. 

Today I'm joined by a very very special guest. I'm joined by Jennifer O'Donoghue. Jennie O, J.O., I've known Jen for a very long time. She's an absolute legend of teaching CAFS, and I've worked with her in lots of different capacities before. The most recent as being her relieving headteacher and we had definitely had a really good time teaching CAFS, and I absolutely love any time we get to spend together. So this is a huge pleasure to have Jen on here. Jen is very, very experienced in teaching CAFS, but Jen, did you wanna tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?


Jennie O'Donoghue:


Okay, thank you, Kell. Thank you for inviting me this afternoon. I have been, I'm currently a retired teacher. I retired in March this year after starting teaching in 1976 in a small country town. I then moved to the Central Coast and took time off when I had my three children, did casual teaching for about 13 years and then was able to get back as a permanent teacher. Yes and teaching CAFS has really been my passion. Prior to retiring, there was a couple of years where all I taught was CAFS. I would have three year elevens [classes], two year twelves [classes] because I was teaching at a senior high school and then the next year I'd have three year twelves, two year elevens. So I really do feel as though I got to know the subject very well, and was very passionate about the subject and I really feel that I did pass that passion on to lots of students that have done, done well and really love the subject,



Jen, you're a bit of a legend in CAFS. I know we've known each other, I think since 2007, I remember first working with you and another CAFS legend, Colleen Barlow, and that energy that you lovely ladies just expelled during that time for me was so so amazing to see for someone who is experienced. Jen is my mum's age and I kind of call her my second mum. I don't know, I think that I had the pleasure of kind of seeing your journey out as you retired at the beginning of this year and the passion and drive and commitment that you had to our subject has definitely filtered across New South Wales. I know there are some students that you taught who now are PDHPE and CAFS teachers. 


Jen: Yes. 

Kelly: Which must kind of yeah must be an absolute delight for you to see.


Jen: Yes, well, in particular, one of my students, Amy, yeah. She was back in the days when we had three-unit life management and she's now a headteacher. But many of the other students have gone on to become lawyers, counsellors, psychologists, teachers, police officers and then I'm still friends with a lot of ex-students on Facebook and I get excited when they tell me they've had a baby and I think "Oh, another CAFS baby." It was actually a couple of months ago, it was a boy and girl that I had in class, Molly and Cooper, well they've had a baby and that's just amazing. 

No, I just hope that the subject I think, with your passion of what you're developing with your network, students, and teachers can't help but develop the passion for the subject, which I think every student should be forced to take, because it has so many life skills, so much sensible, relevant content that I think students can take with them when they leave school.


Kelly: Yeah, I think, you know, we were, and I think we've had these conversations before, you'll see ex-students in the street or in the shopping, and you still live relatively close to where you used to work, so I'm sure you've seen many ex-students and they do say that, don't they, 'Oh miss, you know what,' like, 'we had to create a literature review at uni,' or 'we had to create this research paper,' and I'm like, yeah.


Jen: I think the biggest thing is Maslow, when they tell you that Maslow came up in uni. And I'll never forget one of the students, and she's now a chartered accountant, and that was the first thing and she sort of put her hand up and she said, 'Oh, I know all about Maslow.' You know, so it doesn't matter what uni course they're doing, Maslow always manages to pop up. So it's really good.


Kelly: I think we are lucky. It's a course that like, I've taught it since 2004, so it was like two years into the whole syllabus starting. I had no idea what I was doing. I had the purple textbook, which you then became an author of the, I say the white textbooks. 


Jen: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.


Kelly: And I, I don't know, like I think it does hold a very special place in my heart and your heart and I just, I feel so blessed to be able to teach this course.


Jen: But it always amazes me too. We tended to get the best results. 


Kelly: Yeah.


Jen: In the HSC. And people would always say, 'Oh, yeah, you should pick CAFS, you should do that, you know, because they get, so many band sixes.' And so it was always held in very high esteem at our schools too. That, you know, you can get good results, and you can get good ATAR points if you do that particular subject.


Kelly: And I think that's a bit of a myth, isn't it? Like if you take this course it's going to scale you down, and I have never. I was watching an all-girls Catholic school, it was always the best, one of the best courses that our school often got really good results in, but had kids who were the dux of the school and what did they take? CAFS, art, PE, you know.


Jen: Yeah, that's right, and I think I always would say to kids, pick a subject that you enjoy, and that you love, and therefore you will work hard at it, and you will achieve good results. But I think a lot of students were impacted by parents saying you've got to pick advanced English, you've got to pick this one, and you know. But no, I think, yeah, there used to be a school, I'm pretty sure it was in Orange, where it was a boys school and they were all, it was compulsory for them to do CAFS.


Kelly: Wow, That's amazing.

Jen: Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was orange. Whether it was, yeah, I can't think, yeah, but I'm pretty sure it was Orange.

Kelly: Yeah, that's phenomenal. And I think that has, I don't know, just the relevancy of our course has definitely seen a growth. I think last year was the 11th, yeah the 11th most popular course in NSW. 

Jen: Oh, yes.

Kelly: Which's just like blown my mind to go. What on earth? How is that? 

Jen: Yeah, yeah. 

Kelly: But I think it is because of its relevancy. 


Jen: It is! And I always say, you can always pick up a newspaper, and there's always something, I was forever cutting articles out of newspapers, you know, this is old school, but you know, that could be the start of your lesson, but there was always something that you'd pick up that was relevant to our subject. And again, news items, TV shows, and one of the things that I'm doing now in my retirement is I'm donating my time to a local patchwork quilting group that donates quilts to homeless people and Central Coast kids in need. So I feel as though you know, I've retired from the classroom, but I'm still giving back. Yeah, so it's good. 


Kelly: Yeah, that's cool. That's nice, Jen. What's the organisation called?

Jen: It's called P & P Quilters at Wyong. 

Kelly: Oh beautiful, so nice.

Jen: Yeah. Yeah. 


Kelly: So Jen, you've mentioned, obviously, you had a bit of success with your students, and you did have a bit of a reputation when I got to the senior school that you mentioned. Big shoes to feel, I think, coming as a newbie, and people would talk about CAFS and I don't know, our powers combined, hopefully there was some sort of success there. But what do you think, for teachers who are starting out, or teachers who are a little bit stuck maybe at the moment with their teaching of CAFS and kind of, not stuck in a rut but kind of go, 'Right, we get,' you know, 'some band fours, we get some band threes,' but how can they really increase their results? 


Jen: Okay. Well, I think the first and foremost is it's essential that you know your content, that you know the syllabus dot points, and that you know, where they where the dot points fit in under the headings. I always taught students to identify the content with a question and an answer so they could cover it up to test themselves. And I always said, get anybody in the house, anyone who can read can ask you the question, and check that you've got the correct answer. So I think that content is number one. 

Number two would be knowing your HSC verbs, knowing the meaning of those, how they link and fit in with the marking guidelines. You know, if a question is asking you to 'assess,' you have to know what that means. If the question is asking you to 'outline,' you're not going to make a value judgement in your answer. So those HSC verbs are essential. 

Another point for success is teaching students how to write succinctly when they're doing the short answers in the exam. Now, the short answer section now is worth 55 marks, which is the bulk of the paper. 


Kelly: Yeah.


Jen: They can be four marks, they could be eight marks, six marks, but the students have to know how to write succinctly to get those four marks, to not waffle on, to not be generalised. 

Which comes to another point for success is having specific examples. And again, that all links with the rubric, which is, in our paper, is only used for the option. But knowing that you have to make reference to wellbeing, that you have to be clear and organised, that you have to have specific examples, it's just essential. But in order to have all of that knowledge, students must practice past exam papers. Practice, practice, practice, get the feedback from the teachers, understand the marking guidelines, understand why they've only been given two out of six when they think, oh, I filled up all the lines. It should be, you know, I've done pretty well. So I took feedback from the teachers. But again, the teachers have to give the appropriate feedback. 


Kelly: Yeah.


Jen: They have to know what, what you have to do to get four out of four. Why have I only got five out of six, what can I do to get that six out of six? But, you knoe, NESA has past exam papers, they've got marking guidelines, there's feedback from all the exams. So it shouldn't be a problem, but again, the students you've got to be hungry for that success. 

Teachers, I think, want that success for the students, but the students have to want it themselves. And there's got to be a reason why they want to improve what they're doing. It might be to get the ATAR points to get to uni or it might be just to get their HSC and to make it something that they're proud of. And the other thing with the option is the importance of wellbeing. But again, that's clearly set out in the in the rubric.


Kelly: So Jen, you have just unleashed a whole heap of gems for teachers to really come away with, you know, and I think your success and those strategies, are obviously built over a number of years. Let's unpack some of these if that's okay. 

So you mentioned the importance of the HSC verbs, Glossary of Keywords, key terms, verbs, whatever they are, we know that they have a purpose, and I've been trying to, you know how I feel about this. How much of an impact do you think they have on students marks and students results?


Jen: Oh, I think, well, the content, the content, maybe 75%. Okay, so let's say look at a question, if you've got the content, you're halfway there. 

Kelly: Yeah.

Jen: If you've explained the verb in the correct manner, that will that will get you the top marks. 

Kelly: Yeah. 

Jen: So I think content is important, but also, so I'd say maybe, I don't know, maybe 50% each. 50% content, verb for understanding. 


Kelly: Yeah. And I think that's something that I've been trying to teach our CAFS crew, our CAFS teachers and students about this. That, you know, say if it's an eight marker, typically, you might only get a four or five out of eight, if you just have the content. 

Jen: Yes, yes, yeah.

Kelly: You know, we need to teach these skills, these skills of applying that Glossary of Keyword or the verb is so important. And often, I think it is a missing ingredient, like I've said, a missing ingredient across the state, that's maybe why our kids are still in that kind of 60s to 70s range.


Jen: Yeah. And I think it's probably because there's probably a bit of speed and rushing on the student's part, because generally, you know, the verb is the first word in the question, then they look at the question, they can see the syllabus content, and they just start writing about the syllabus content. But forget to go back to 'have I assessed, have I analysed, have I compared, have I explained?' So I think that again, that would come with practice. Practice, practice, practice. Doing it and doing it under exam-type conditions, giving it to the students in class or even giving it to them at home to do and then getting that effective feedback from their teacher.


Kelly: Yeah, because I think, you know, I kind of, my little tagline is the content will always be there, you know, the content lends itself so well to our life, to our context, you know, you've mentioned, you know, having a media wall or some sort of newspapers or articles to kind of get the kids going, but if you don't teach the kids these words, they're not going to know.


Jen: No, no, and they're only going to get a four, maybe a five, out of an eight mark question. 


Kelly: Yeah. So can you unpack what that would look like in your CAFS classroom? So if we were sitting in your classroom, and you had your students working, when you would unpack a question, or you were try to teach them explicitly, like how to assess something, how to analyse, evaluate, what would that look like? 


Jen: Well, the first thing, you'd have the question on the board, or on the computer screen, you would underline the verb, and sometimes, these days, that it's not those verbs, that could be just how? Or it could be to what extent? So they've got to underline that or circle that, then they've got to find the syllabus content in the question. So they should be underlining that or circling that. And then going back to their Glossary of verbs, and say, 'Okay, well, what does explain mean?' And, you know, students should be able to come up with that it's the characteristics, the features and characteristics of a particular topic. And then again, perhaps have the whole class doing it together to start with, moving your paper around the room, or just doing it on the board. But even, I think the best way to teach that is with the evaluate verb. And that's usually in 15 a mark question. 

Kelly: Yeah. 

Jen: So you in order to evaluate, you've first of all got to list. So if you just listed, you would end up with maybe say, four out of 15. And then you've got to explain, show the features and characteristics of the things that you have listed. 

Kelly: And the impact of that, yeah. 


Jen: Yeah and that would take you up to maybe eight or nine. And then, in order to get to the 13, 14, 15, that's when you've got the evaluation, where you've made that judgement, you've looked at the positives, you've looked at the negatives. A lot of students don't get to that 13, 14, 15, they're stuck on the 10, 11, 12, and that's because they haven't linked in the wellbeing, generally, and they've got a weak judgement. So yeah, I think, yeah, the way to teach them to unpack those verbs in the questions is just regular practice at it in the classroom.


Kelly: Yeah, so I think some teachers are really nervous about doing that and I think, you know, when I first started, and you probably the same, you kind of just have to throw yourself in there and go, 'You know what, I'm not 100% sure but I'm going to use all the tools I have,' you know, 'available to me and I'm just going to give it a go. I'm going to model it, demonstrate it and have a crack. Rather than doing nothing at all.'


Jen: Yeah, I think, yeah, and it's got to be modelled, you've got to model it for the students and if you don't show them how you can do it, they're not going to have the confidence to know that they can do it then.

Kelly: And I suppose like for CAFS teachers who have no idea what that looks like, there are lots of free resources on my website that I've shown you guys how to do that. 


Jen: Yes. 

Kelly: And I think having that big bank of words, you know, if you're making a judgement, this has a significant impact, or this is highly effective, or all those sort of judgement words that you mentioned are really different.

Jen: Yeah. Instead of 'therefore,' 'however,' yeah. But again, it comes back to that regular practice.

Kelly: Yeah. How much time in the classroom would you spend? So say, if you like, Can you unpack I suppose, like quickly, a typical lesson of how you incorporate content skills writing, that type of thing?


Jen: Well, there might be, you might have one lesson for an hour length, where you might just be doing purely content and then the next lesson, you would apply that content to an exam-type question, model it and then give them time to do it in class. Because I think often if you say to students 'Do it at home,' they won't. 

Kelly: [laughs] No.

Jen: They won't do it. You model it on the board, 'Okay, now you've got 15 minutes, go ahead and do it.' And I think a method that I used to use too would be peer marking, give to the person next to you to mark, or a different table across the other side of the room and I found that was really good. And if it's a question that is from a previous HSC exam, then you can throw up the marking guidelines on the computer to show them, 'This is what you've got to do to get this many marks.' But ask the students to peer report to their peers. 


Kelly: Why don't you think there are some barriers around teachers wanting to have their kids working together?

Jen: I think it's probably, would have to be an old fashioned method of teaching that 'I'm the boss. You do it my way. This is how you do it,' and it's more teacher-directed rather than student-led. Yeah, I just sort of, yeah, I think it's got to be an old fashioned method. Like, I don't know these, you'd come across new teachers, newbies these days, what are they being taught at uni when they come out of uni in terms of pedagogy?

Kelly: Yeah, I'm not sure.

Jen: Do they spend a lot of time on pedagogy?

Kelly: I don't know and I think I think skills is definitely missing and I think, you know, there's so much that we have to cover in university degrees and especially if students just do a master's in education. I was speaking to a university the other day, who I'm hoping to work with next term, and they said they spend two weeks on CAFS. 

Jen: Well, I was gonna say, I think I've heard people say they've looked at the syllabus, you know.

Kelly: Yeah

Jen: And you think, oh. But the majority of the people that you come across, they would be PE trained teachers.

Kelly: Yeah, yeah. 

Jen: Yeah. These days. 

Kelly: Yeah. Yeah.

Jen: Yeah, but I don't know why people have this hesitancy to let students work together because I think often students can learn from their peers. 

Kelly: Yeah. 

Jen: And it's less confronting, if it's the peer that's told them, 'you need to do this, you haven't done that well enough,' rather than it coming from the teacher. But again, I think it's like doing things different. One thing I always said to my students, 'you will never know what we're going to do when you walk in the door.' It's not like you walk in, [sigh] pick up the textbook and turn to page 65. 

Kelly: Yeah.

Jen: You know people that just make kids re-write things out of the textbook,

Kelly: I do!

Jen: I always said to my kids, you'll never know what we're gonna do. We might not write anything, we might have a debate, have a discussion, and, you know, just read newspaper articles or look at something, you know, some sort of a video or something. So I think that makes it exciting for the students too, that they don't know what they're going to do.

Kelly: Yeah, so unpredictable.

Jen: Yeah, yeah.

Kelly: I think I, you know, obviously, people listening to this can kind of still sense that Jen is still so passionate. And I think, I don't know, like, I think that's, we are so blessed to be educators and to have our students in front of u, if we just get them to write textbook stuff, I think that's boring, like they deserve more than that. Anyway, I can get on my high horse about that but I wont. [laughs]

Jen: Yeah. [laughs]

Kelly: Jen, I wanted to kind of unpack what you said before about a bit of feedback. 

Jen: Yeah.


Kelly: So teachers are time-poor, how did you balance all the feedback that you wanted to give your senior students but also keep in mind that you want them to be moving in the same direction, so your whole class, them being above the state average?


Jen: Well, the way I did the feedback initially was a one on one discussion through their exam paper or their assessment task, or whatever. And then I know, when I was working with you, you had a really good system of feedback, asking them to write down what they did, what they were comfortable with, what they're happy with, what they've achieved, how they could improve it. But I still thought that the one on one talk with the teacher was very important, but it's also very important for them to identify their strengths and their weaknesses, and what they can do to move forward. Feedback is time-consuming and it was always time-consuming, having that one on one talk. And then I got to the stage, I'd often have two people together and we'd discuss that together, but then you've got to have another activity for those students to be doing. I guess the other thing, too, depending on your class size, some class sizes, as you know, we had up to 30 students in the class, I think the research suggests maybe 15 is a good size. And then I think you'll probably come across small country towns where they only have, could count on one hand how many students they have in the class. So I think it's important for kids to have competition too, particularly those top kids. You know, we used to publish the results on the back wall and I think that was sort of a no, no, wasn't it? 


Kelly: [laughs]

Jen: You know, you'd publish who came first, the ranks. 

Kelly: Yeah.

Jen: That's when it became a private thing, didn't it? 

Kelly: Yeah, it did, yeah.


Jen: Because you couldn't show up the student who was ranked the lowest, so we stopped doing that. But I used to always start a lesson after the exam or after assessment tasks, I've put the top mark on the board, I'd put the bottom mark on the board and give them a bit of reflection time and I'd say, 'Where do you think you fit in?

So there'll be a little bit of chit chat amongst the group of students, and then we hand out the tasks, I'd hand out the exams. And yeah, I would tell them who was the first place, but you wouldn't name the bottom person, but then you'd sort of, you know, you feel sorry for, someone has to be at the bottom. But it gave them a bit of time to think, where do they think they fit in on that, on that ladder of results? 


Kelly: Yeah. We know the importance of having that spread of marks, but having a really small spread of marks, we want all the kids to be really close together, and the average needs to be super high for their results to then only be spread across, you know, a certain number of marks. 

When I worked in Sydney, all-girls Catholic school, had four CAFS classes by the time I left, our averages were kind of like 15, 16, 18 kind of kids, maybe a couple more in year 11, but typically was around those teens. And then coming to, you know, the new school, senior school, lot's of kids, like you said, up to 30 kids, how do get all the kids on the same page?


Jen: Well, that is the hard thing. That's hard because they're not on the same page, they're not on the same level. So you sort of had to teach to the average, then you had to provide extra support for the lower ones. I remember a girl that had to have everything printed on blue paper. Oh, and I'd be handing out something and she look at me, I was like 'Oh, so sorry.' So she'd go off to the photocopy room and get hers in blue. And then you had, the you know, the people like those two lovely girls, Grace and Chloe, that you had to extend, you had to give extra things to. Yeah, so it's, it was hard teaching a group of 30 with all different abilities. And then one year we decided at the end of year 11 to grade the classes and the kids didn't like that, because 'Oh no, I've been with Mrs. so-and-so, I don't want to go with her class,' and we tried changing options for students. We always, I always taught family and societal interactions, but at one year,


Kelly: And then I came in? [laughs]

Jen: Yeah. [laughs] Even before that, we tried to offer another one. No, no, no, we're happy to do that. So we never ever didn't another option until you came in. But the reason I did that option was because before CAFS, when it was life management, for three unit, you had different topics, there was families in the law, socialisation of children and then when Community and Family Studies started, there was no textbook. 


Kelly: Yeah. 

Jen: So, you know, you can imagine, like, I know, a lot of teachers today. How could they have? They wouldn't have coped without a textbook. 

Kelly: Nup.

Jen: And I know that's the problem, why family and societal interactions is not in the textbook, because not enough people choose to do it. But, but that's why I did that, because that linked in with families in the law. And again, that's constantly changing information. 

Kelly: It's, it's all very new and it's...

Jen: Yes!

Kelly: And it links in other like, it links to parenting and caring a lot, groups in context, so much.

Jen: Yeah, I know. Yeah.

Kelly: So much connection

Jen: Yeah, huge connections in all areas of the subject. 

Kelly: Yeah. So Jen, is anything else that you want to cover in relation to, just I suppose that transition between, you know, that year 11 to year 12? I think we have a lot of very immature kids in your 11 year who... 


Jen: Yeah. Yeah, I think for that transition from year 11 to 12, I think it's important for the students to develop their passion for the subject and if the teacher has the passion, that can help the students develop their passion. And I think the amended syllabus that we've got for CAFS, I can't think what year...

Kelly: 2016, I think, is the current...

Jen: Yes. It helps that transition from year 11 to 12 because it's got that focus on the specific needs, focus on wellbeing and often in the learn about column, there are examples of, you make reference to say a 16-year-old male, work working parents, a disabled person, and that links in with the year 12 syllabus really well. So I think constantly in year 11, it's got relevance to year 12, whereas in the past, it was like, 'Thats year 11..."

Kelly: Yeah, like two different courses, hey?

Jen: Yeah, 'That's your year 11 book, leave them at home.' 

Kelly: Yeah. 

Jen: Yeah, but now, yeah, so I think that's what helps with that transition from year 11 into year 12, is having that syllabus amended. But again, I think the students have to have confidence in their teacher. 

Kelly: Yeah

Jen: That the teacher has the passion, the knowledge, the understanding about the subject. And that was one of the things that we found we'd have very few students that would drop the subject after year 11. You know, how you've sort of, students talk about 'Oh, I've got to drop this,' and, you know, but it was, there was not much dropping, was there? 

Kelly: No, no.

Jen: No, most students were happy to continue. I think sometimes the IRP was one thing that was always a bit of a bug-bear. But I think a lot of students these days, doing the teacher-facilitated, and them doing it together, It's got to be making it little bit easier. But I think what I liked with the IRP was linking it to the option. 

Kelly: Yeah. 


Jen: So they've picked a topic that fitted into their option and teaching the option at the same time. Did you find, have you found many schools are continuing to do that?

Kelly: Um, Jen, so 150 teachers took that course last year and then another 82, I think I have, and the way that I show that in Strategic Approaches the IRP, with that connection, because I think there is so much value...


Jen: Yeah.

Kelly: know. I would often have kids do things like domestic violence or self-esteem or body image...

Jen: Oh the body image!

Kelly: I'm like these are great but they're actually not linked to CAFS.

Jen: Oh the body images used to... and then trying to mark the body image.


Kelly: Like this is good, but does it relate to CAFS? Not really. But I think, I don't know, you don't know if you don't know. And if you're not showing a different way, or a new way of doing things, you just get stuck in your ways. And that's just something that I think, 


Jen: I think yeah, with that option I used to, you know, you'd put, well in my room I used to have, in my room, four whiteboards. And you'd put 'aged' and 'housing,' you know. 'Okay, come up with some topics that fit in there.' Yeah, rather than the teen pregnancy, the suicide, the breast cancer, even though that was good...


Kelly: Yeah, good link to wellbeing.

Jen: Yeah, it was and students were able to pick, and I'd often say to students, 'Well, if you want to do something on abortion,' you know, 'where you're going to get your primary data from? Do you know anybody?' 

Kelly: Yeah. 

Jen: But yeah, in some cases, it was good because it gave them that comfort because they felt comfortable with the topic. But yeah, no, I think linking it to that option and not spending all of term four on research methodology. 

Kelly: Yeah. 

Jen: Halfway, half of that is your option content. 

Kelly: Yeah. 

Jen: So yeah. So how many of those teachers do you think are following your [method], you don't know?


Kelly: I don't know, like from start to finish how many actually ended up doing it, but I think the majority of the teachers from last year, so we had 150 teachers take the course last year when I first started it. And I think that the big majority of them definitely saw a link, they definitely did strategic, they definitelty did teacher facilitated, and then just having that connection to the option. And we know how important the option is, 25 marks up for grabs, that's at least a 15 marker. The average across the state is still below par, 7, 5, 6 out of 15 is, to me, it's not good enough. And I think you know. we need to...

Jen: Is that the average, 7 out of 15? 

Kelly: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think maybe of them is eight, I don't know. I think it's, I don't know, I think again, we're not teaching that explicitly, that skill of embedding wellbeing in that 15 marker, a lot of people are still having the option as the last thing they do in the scope and sequence. So I think it's changed it.

Jen: Yes, but I think if you start it in term four and finish it halfway through term one. Yeah.

Kelly: Yeah and have assessment tasks based on that, so you can test those skills, build on those skills for the next six months. People would kind of scrap together, like having it third or fourth, 'Okay, trials, I can't really assess everything in the trials, I haven't finished the content,' you know.

Jen: Mm, this year would be very different with no trials.

Kelly: Yeah, yeah, it will look interesting to see what happened.

Jen: Do you know of any schools that have had trials this year?

Kelly: Um, I think people are doing a few different things, you know. But I suppose this year is a different year, COVID, you know, has turned the world upside down. 

Jen: It's certainly very different to last year. 

Kelly: Yeah, that's right. 

Jen: Last was a taster of COVID I think. [laughs]

Kelly: Yeah, [laughs], 2020, taster, than 2021...

Jen: ...the full on COVID. 

Kelly: That's right.

Jen: Next year, there won't need any teachers because they'll all be parents. [laughs]


Kelly: No. [laughs] Alright, Jen, is there anything else that you wanted to wrap up, like your pearls of wisdom, teaching the course for a really long time?

Jen: No, I think I've covered it but I think the main thing is having that passion, having the passion yourself as a teacher, trying to embed that passion into students. And yeah, being enthusiastic, doing different things, trying different things. Showing the students the confidence that, you know, when you say that, 'you only got 2 out of 10 for that particular response,' it's not because I don't like you, it's because that's all it's worth. And, yeah, but again, my advice to teachers would be, keep trying different things, have a go. But again, keep your ears open and again, for kids, everything's not just in the textbook. With this subject, it's listening to the news, listening to Current Affairs, reading newspapers, listening to the ABC Radio of an afternoon rather than doing what they're doing. But just...

Kelly: They're on TikTok. [laughs]

Jen: Yeah. [laughs] But just, I've found when I do my sewing of an afternoon I listen to James Valentine on the ABC and they have some wonderful, wonderful topics.

Kelly: Jen, I don't know how we can get young people listening to the radio, but maybe they can find those people on social media, maybe. 

Jen: [laughs] They could. [laughs] That or they'll listen to us on your podcast. 

Kelly: Oh yeah. [laughs]

Jen: They can listen to James Valentine on the podcast too.


Kelly: Oh there you go, yeah, there we go, that's a good idea. And how did you, this is something I'm really curious to hear, I think I've asked you this before, but how did you maintain your passion for so long and what day you kind of know, Alright, I'm done. I think I need to let it go?

Jen: I think the year I knew I was done, was when I started to do part time teaching. 

Kelly: Yeah, okay. 

Jen: That was, yeah, sort of working, what was it, five days a fortnight? Yeah, because I, yeah, I didn't want to retire, but I knew I had to, I knew I had to retire at some stage. 

Kelly: At some point, yeah.

Jen: Yeah, you can't, because I knew I had to make way for the young people coming too. But no, so I think it was that working part-time. Coming back after your couple of days off and going...

Kelly: Going, 'What on earth am I...' 

Jen: Yeah, and oh, and even the students saying, 'Oh, okay. We're glad you're here and we haven't got him,' and la la la. But I think perhaps one of the things that told me it was time to finish too was the overload of paperwork! 

Kelly: [laughs] Yeah, they haven't gone away.


Jen: The accountability, yeah, I think that was I've sort of, I feel for teachers today, trying to teach, deal with discipline, but ticking all the boxes for all the accountability. And I think back to when I first started teaching Community and Family Studies, or even life management, you'd say like, 'We've got an assessment task today,' so you'd write the question on the board with a piece of chalk. The kids would have their own paper, none of this handout paper in case there's, you know, notes on it, collect them up, bring them home and think right now, where's Amy's, because she's the best in the class, she became the...

Kelly: Benchmark?

Jen: She was the benchmark. Okay, so Amy gets that mark, and everyone else just fitted in underneath. And as I've always said, those students went to university, they went to TAFE, they got traineeships and that was all about, it was like fun times teaching kids. Whereas I think what's happened now, there's so much time, you haven't got time to be fun and jovial with them because 'I've got to tick this off,' and you've got to sign this, and, you know sign for the task, sign that you've handed in, sign that you've got this and it's all you're doing is signing, signing, signing, and no time for fun. No time for just sitting down having a chit chat and yeah, I think that's when I knew it was time to go. [laughs]

Kelly: So you never bucked the system, you're pretty compliant.

Jen: Oh, yeah. Well I... 

Kelly: [inaudible]

Jen: Yeah, one of those. So remember, we said in that hairdressing salon and these people, you know, oh, you have to have so many entries and so much here and ugh. I was compliant and in those days, I taught in three different classrooms and I'd carry a bag for this class and a bag for that. You know, and that, one of those students that you ended up inheriting her, she's doing nursing at university now.

Kelly: Oh that's fabulous. 

Jen: Yeah.

Kelly: They're the good stories, they're the stories that you like to hear. 

Jen: Yes, yes.

Kelly: That they are successful. And they might not like the school system, but you know, they come out the other end.

Jen: Yeah. And to me, success is not becoming a lawyer. 

Kelly: No. 

Jen: That's maybe successful for some people. 

Kelly: Yeah, for them.


Jen: But yeah, just being happy and you know, and I love it when you walk in the shops, 'Oh g'day, how you going?' and 'Oh, hello, how are you?' Can't remember your name, but I remember your face. Yeah. So, but I'm still, yeah, I still enjoy hearing about what's happening in CAFS and then I guess I'll never lose that passion and that interest. And yeah, so it's good, it's very, very good. But I think the future of CAFS is very, very lucky to have you and what you're doing. You're, it's just amazing. And I think you've got more and more people joining your courses, inviting you to their schools and I think it's only going to improve. And I think particularly with COVID, they're going to really, really need someone like yourself more than what they have in the past. Because you've certainly got a lot of passion, you have.


Kelly: Yeah, I always have and I think I'm lucky to be surrounded by teachers like yourself. You know, even though we worked in different schools for a really long time, I always had that person kind of, you know, you saw them at different events. 


Jen: Yes, yes. 

Kelly: Just that connection. I think our course is very lucky like that, that it's not competitive. Like there are other courses, like PDHPE, that are a bit competitive, but I think CAFS is that, that...

Jen: No, I think we are very supportive, and I think that's one thing that I am amazed with the sharing of you. You are, you're always very, very happy to share. You're not holding everything into yourself, you share the skills that you've got, whether it be the worksheet, the idea of the programming, you're out there, giving it and sharing it. And you're very happy to do that and I think teachers need to be appreciative of that.

Kelly: Oh thank you, Jen, it's a pleasure. It doesn't feel like work so I feel very blessed to be doing this and I think yeah, I don't know, it's no issue for me. 

Jen: No, well yes.

Kelly: I love it. [laughs]


Jen: You do it and yeah, but whereas other people say well that's mine, I put it in my folder and yeah, that's mine. I did that, put my name at the bottom of it. And you know, you're not getting it, but not you. You're a sharing, kind, sharing person, which is lovely. 


Kelly: [laughs] Thanks jen. All right. Well, just to wrap up, thank you so much, Jen, from the bottom of my heart. You're an absolute godsend, an absolute gem. I love any conversation we have, both personally and professionally and... 

Jen: Aw, thank you.

Kelly: ...we always have a good laugh when we're together so... 

Jen: We do.

Kelly: ... thank you so much for sharing your journey and your love of CAFS, I really appreciate it.

Jen: Well, thank you. Thank you for inviting me to share with you and it's been a pleasure and as you say, it doesn't matter whether it's a social thing or a professional thing, yeah, we get on well, it's great. 

Kelly: [laughs] We do.

Jen: And am still only your second mum. [laughs]

Kelly: [laughs] Thanks, Jen!

Jen: Okay, Thanks Kell!


Kelly - Professional Discussion Topic :

Our professional discussion topic for this week is for you to share with me your biggest lessons in CAFS, and I know because the course is so unique and it gives us so many opportunities to connect with the real world, I would love to hear from you what have been your biggest lightbulb moments in the CAFS classroom, either from your students, from our content or even from other CAFS teachers and learnings that you've had as a CAFS teacher. I know for me, teaching CAFS for a really long time, so 17 years, in 2019, I think, I decided to change our groups in context to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And being you know, an ex-student of Catholic University, Catholic Primary School, Catholic High School, it just wasn't part of our culture, you know. Catholicism was and those Catholic values were in there but I think it was something missing from the schools that I was at, or even our systems. 


So I decided to teach that particular group, so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, because I had a number of beautiful Aboriginal students in my class, Holly and Keet, I'm thinking about you guys, but also Ash and Sarah, and Emma and Taylor, there were a few beautiful girls that I taught, who are also discovering their journey. I think, you know what I would love to teach this group to our class. But also, for me, having so much learning in that particular two years that I taught that group, I just really loved it. So for me, it was that, that's one big lesson that I've had in my CAFS journey. And after I taught that group, I then you know, read Dark Emu, I, you know, listened to a couple of Stan Grant's podcast interviews and his letter. So many different things I've learned and look, I don't know, so much learning to have. 

So please, let me hear what you have learned, what your biggest lightbulb moments have been in the CAFS classroom or also in your CAFS journey. You can tag me on social media @thelearnnet or use our hashtag #thelearnnet to let me know what your biggest learnings have been in the CAFS world.

Kelly - Outro:

Thanks for joining The Learning Network, I'd love to hear what connected with you most about today's episode. Take a screenshot and tag me on Instagram and Facebook, @thelearnnet. If you'd like to know more about my courses, MasterClasses, Coaching and Mentoring and Membership, you can DM me over on Facebook or Instagram or head to Don't forget to stay connected by subscribing to Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and if you love today's episode, I would be so honoured if you could please leave me a review. See you again next week. Let's continue to connect, grow and learn together to make a huge impact on the students we teach. 

Want to work with me one on one?

In my CAFS Coaching and Mentoring, I develop a session or series of sessions that are created with the unique needs of your school and context in mind that are completely tailored based on your experience, stage and journey in
Community and Family Studies.

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I acknowledge and pay my respects to the
traditional custodians on whose land I walk, work & live.
This land was and always will be the land of the First Nations People.