A proud Dharug woman from the Boorooberongal clan, Lesley Woodhouse is the CEO & Co-Founder of ClassHive.
To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I have a Bachelor of Laws in Australian Indigenous Laws and a Master of Business Administration. I started my career in legal centres after completing my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Technology. I moved over to the NSW Government, where I worked for almost 10 years, contributing to policy and projects that directly impact Aboriginal communities.
During this work, I saw the education gap that contributes significantly to the outcomes of Aboriginal people. It is my view that until non-Aboriginal people are given adequate truth-based education about our histories and communities, closing the gaps in outcomes is very unlikely. In 2014 I left the public service to start Wingaru Education and provide accessible Aboriginal education to all Australian children through culturally safe learning materials and teacher support.
Wingaru provides a bespoke digital learning platform to deliver our resources. This technology was built by my partner Javier Woodhouse, who also built the initial Mathletics platform. His experience with Mathletics and involvement in several other EduTech resources meant we were very well placed to deliver responsive, intuitive technology that delivers the tools teachers needed.
Teachers are amazing people with growing workloads. The more we worked with schools, the more we saw that teachers and students needed a tool to reduce the administrative burden of using EduTech resources. The benefits of these tools are undeniable; we had to make them easier to coordinate, simpler to access and quicker to roll out. Our solution is ClassHive.
I am now the CEO of Wingaru Education and ClassHive.
What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
No day is the same, which is one of the things I love about my job! I generally start the day with a team meeting where we touch base about the projects we are working on, including our school support team, who are working with teachers and schools every day.
We are an Aboriginal company, and this daily yarn is an important part of sharing knowledge and connecting with each other as well as the content we are creating. Between all our school resources, we are supporting a large number of schools from all over Australia, and I typically spend a few hours of the day talking to teachers and schools.
One of my favourite things is talking to teachers about ClassHive. It is a new tool, so talking to teachers who have just discovered us and hearing about the time we have saved them is very rewarding. I love knowing we have made people’s lives easier. ClassHive is in a growth period, so it is currently a large focus of my day.
We also offer education programs for the workplace and undertake various projects that have an Aboriginal education focus. The remainder of my day is spent working on the various projects that we have taken on. This could mean delivering Cultural Awareness Training, developing and delivering cultural education plans for organisations, working on the organisation’s policies or RAPs or helping with a specific project or issue.
We also create educational resources for other organisations, which is always interesting – I learn something new every day from the organisations and the team of educators I am so lucky to work with. At the moment, we are: wrapping up some education workshops we delivered for the NSW Ministry of Health; developing a series of professional development modules and education videos addressing cultural safety for a peak body in the eye-health space and creating some education resources for a group of education based attractions who are rolling out amazing programs across the county.
And, of course, there is all the day-to-day of owning a business – all those things that must be done to keep everything running smoothly. I am really lucky to have amazing advisors for both the Aboriginal education side of the business and for ClassHive. I speak to them a few times a week and really value these conversations as they make me and my business better.
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance is so important to me. I have two young kids, so spending time with them and my partner is essential. I try to schedule meetings in the mornings, so I have flexibility after school to spend time with the kids, and I try to attend as many of their events as I can. Generally, I don’t open the laptop on weekends – it is too easy to get caught up in a project and lose that recreation time.
My team is amazing, and they are a key part in achieving a great work-life balance. We work collaboratively, which really helps. Having a great support network helps too. I remind myself of my goals and priorities and try really hard to be firm about boundaries.
Beyond my personal life, we are working toward achieving that goal for the education community with ClassHive. The tool has been designed to help reduce unnecessary classroom admin, ultimately seeking to help afford teachers a better work-life balance.
In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits from changing your life?
Working from home during COVID lockdowns really changed the way we work as an organisation, and that has been great for me personally. I won’t go into the office every day, and being flexible about where I work has meant I could free up time that would have previously been spent commuting. I have found it much easier to manage my priorities and get to more of the things I need to do.
I have also started being kinder to myself – I put so much pressure on myself to do everything. This year I have embraced ‘less’ and am much more selective about the things that I take on and, by extension, that the company takes on.
My favourite habit is signing off for the week at four on Fridays and taking my kids for an afternoon treat. I started it halfway through last year and love that opportunity to connect, see what is going on with them and be a little bit silly. It isn’t something every mum can logistically do, so I feel really lucky to be able to carve out that time.
Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Am I Black Enough for you? by Anita Heiss.
This is a deeply personal memoir written in Anita’s iconic and distinctive style.
A raw, first-hand account of Anita’s experiences as a woman with an Aboriginal mother and Austrian father, her journey into activism and what it means to grow an activist’s consciousness.
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
This is a book I believe deserves immortal recognition. A non-fiction book by Bruce Pasco, Dark Emu bravely reexamines the understated colonial accounts of First Nations people in Australia.
Wine with Teacher
As someone heavily involved with the Education sector and working tightly with the teaching community, it gives me so much comfort (and pleasure) knowing that a podcast such as ‘Wine with Teacher’ exists. Ceri Sandford’s insights are as personable, charming and as hilarious as they are valuable.
Teacher Take Away
Teacher Take Away is for teachers seeking practical takeaway ideas to implement within their classroom school setting. Slightly more no-fuss than Wine with Teacher, it is hosted by an incredible panel of 4 Australian teachers. I could not recommend it more, particularly for preservice teachers or adjusting to a new school environment or in the first years of their careers.
Chat 10 looks 3
‘Chat 10 Looks 3’ is a podcast hosted by Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb – female powerhouses of Australian Journalism (so you know it’s bound to be good). They cover all types of media – from television, books, radio, movies, food, politics + a sprinkle of whatever else they might feel like. If I ever need guidance on what to consume next or need an update on what’s happening in the world – this is the Podcast I turn to.
Hosted by a Ballardong Whadjuk Noongar woman, Brook Collard yarns with six elders from Noongar Country, exploring their ideas on creating the tools to care for yourself, your mob and your community. I have personal affinities with this Podcast, but I believe in its value for everyone in listening to alternative perspectives on such an important matter.
If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Lately, I have been working with our educators and some Aboriginal Elders on our NAIDOC resources for 2023. The theme is ‘Celebrate Elders,’ so I have been thinking a lot about the work our Elders do in our communities. I often find myself in awe of how they fit it all in – jobs, families and managing to stay so connected to the communities they lead. It is really inspiring.
Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
For the teaching community, time management and workload overwhelm are having a very real and detrimental effect on their ability to achieve even some essence of a work-life balance. We understand a healthy work-life balance is what teachers need, but it feels so hard to obtain – and with little tools or support to help teachers achieve this.
This is why we believe tools – such as ClassHive, are so important, as they offer solutions to help address these issues. Of course, it will take much more than this, but it’s a step in the right direction as teachers are already telling us they are saving hours each week.
Personally, when I think about work-life balance, I think it’s important to be realistic about what we consider a ‘perfect day’ and how ‘balance’ plays into this. It’s rare that I ever get the exact right amount of time to have that perfect impact at work and get the quality time I desire with my children and partner every day.
Sometimes balance is not about better time management but better boundary management. Achieving balance requires us to make choices and, more importantly, enjoy those choices. I am fortunate to have a team and support network that emphasises the value of collaboration and teamwork; so that we can all work towards achieving a healthier work-life balance.
My final thought is that I hope we can always remember to take care of ourselves first. When this drops, our relationships can suffer, our performance suffers, and our company suffers. Prioritise what you love and those you love most. The rest will follow.
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