Category Archives: RTC 10 – Bi-cultural practice
Last week I passed a significant milestone in my teaching career, I became a fully registered teacher. In New Zealand Newly Qualified Teachers go through a two year-induction and mentoring process. At the start of the process I decided that I wasn’t going to keep a PRT folder in the traditional sense.
Out went the dull meeting minutes and dry forms, in came blog posts, twitter chats, youtube and flickr. I’ve wandered through classrooms in different cities and countries and had some incredible experiences with my learners along the way.
None of this would be possible without the amazing support of the online teaching community only a fraction of whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting offline. I started to write a post wanting to thank you all but quickly realised that it would be inevitable that I would forget someone important. So instead if at some point you’ve dropped me a blog comment, responded to one of my tweets, had a chat at a conference, put me up for the night, then you are part of the awesome tribe of virtual mentor teachers.
At the start of this process my goals were to share, learn, show an alternative and inform.
1. To share – I haven’t shared as much as I had hoped to at the start of this process because I simply didn’t have the energy. I often have posts rolling around in my head but getting them into some sort of coherent and publishable form at the end of a long day of teaching is difficult. Nevertheless there are some posts I’m proud of and I’ve enjoyed documenting this journey. The bonus is of all this sharing has been tapping into expertise of some amazing educators.
2. To learn – To say the last two years have been a steep learning curve would be an understatement. When I look around the classroom, the space is markedly different both from a physical and pedagogical from the start of last year despite half the students being the same kids. This change has been result of reading about other more awesome teachers ideas and repurposing them for my context. The biggest learning moment for me has been the realisation that the induction process for new teachers is too important to be left to one person. I’ve had two incredible mentor teachers to learn from but having a world of educators expertise to tap into has made me smarter. I’m a proud member of the ‘mentor whore’ club.
3. To provide an ‘adjacent possible‘ Over the last two years the online community of teachers has grown considerably and it’s been fantastic to see more PRTs active on twitter. Hopefully others might start thinking that traditional PRT folder has long had its day and it’s time to start something more awesome.
4. To inform. I said at the start I wanted to show that teachers aren’t finished products immediate post graduation. 2 school years on, I feel like even less of finished product. Teachers need to be learning and growing because our kids and communities are ever changing.
Have there been any downsides?
Aside from the cringe that comes when someone says ‘hey aren’t you traintheteacher’ the only downside is the pressure to keep up with everyone else. It can be easy in a world of awesome teachers doing amazing things to think what you are doing sucks in comparison. There are frequent offers to join collaborative projects or new initiatives and sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to say yes to everything.
I’m often asked if I’m worried about breaching privacy of my students and colleagues by reflecting on public platform. If by keeping 99 percent of what I do at school off limits in terms of what I write online, then yes, I am totally invading other people’s privacy. Learning how, what and who to share with are important skills not just for our students but for teachers as well.
So thanks again to the dozens of mentor teachers out there helping make my classroom more awesome!
When I first became a stepparent one of my friends remarked that once you become responsible for a child, the days are very long but the years are short.
I was reminded of that comment as I was grabbing my belongings in my empty classroom and realised that although there were some very long days, this year has been incredibly short.
If the first session of the first day was the longest hour of my life, the lead up to the final day of the school year just seemed to pass in a blur.
Like my many of my students I couldn’t wait for school holidays to start. I counted the weeks, marked off the days on my calendar, and went down my list of things to get finished in the final hours. But now that the end of the school year has gone I’m winging my way to
Bangkok Burma I feel sad that I didn’t take more time to be in the moment with my first group of students.
As we watched some of the crazy videos we made this year, I looked out and felt very fortunate to have taught such a great group of kids in my first class. We’ve had our shares of ups and downs, messy projects that never seemed to run to schedule and yes there have been times of frustration we’ve I’ve wondered if I am actually making a difference. Sometimes in those long days progress can be hard to measure. But as one year ends another is just on the horizon and I’ve learned that empty classrooms are bookends, it’s what you do in between that counts.
Over the last week or so I’ve been gathering together all the photos and videos that I had on my hard drive and was staggered at how much digital content the students have created over the year. So much I couldn’t fit it onto a single DVD.
Putting together the content for my students reminded me that despite my many meltdowns into misery, my class has had quite a year.
We produced two awesome assemblies, had some fun with the Daily 5 in literacy blocks, set up individual blogs, we’ve read two novels out loud, made a youtube submission to parliament, redesigned our learning space, built an igloo, went to camp, had a go at some real-world maths, completed an impact project and a bar camp.
On a professional level, I really enjoyed participating in the educamps, ignition2012 and making a contribution to Teachers Council Social media guidelines. I wish I had more time and blog and my attempts at getting an educamp in Wellington were a bit of a F.A.I.L.
Next year I’ve been asked to be a keynote speaker at SocCon on the work that the class did on the digital learning submission. If feels good to be giving something back to the education community that has supported me in the last few years.
Over the last year I’ve had labels like, techie, creative or innovative attached to my teaching and frankly I don’t get it. Nothing I’ve accomplished this year has been as the result of any inherent talent of my own. I’m forever pinching ideas off people and adapting them to suit my needs. If anything this year has taught me the importance of nurturing those connections.
My main problem is that I seem to have far too many ideas and far too little time to implement then. As a teacher I often feel like I am being pulled in two opposite directions. Between those messy and crazy projects and all the must dos that need to be checked off. While I appreciate the importance of those signposts sure schools must be more than factories that spit out kids with NCEA credits at the end of it.
Because when all is said and done the students aren’t going to remember my lesson on inferencing or using place value to multiply decimals but I’m pretty sure they’ll remember the igloo or the day they showed up to find that half the desks had been removed or the year that they caught the reading bug.
It has been a good year.
This reflection is probably a week late give that it Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, Māori language week, was last week. However my class was on assembly so we didn’t get a chance to really get cracking on our contribution to our school’s competition in celebration of our week to celebrate one of the official languages of New Zealand.
Māori language week was set up back in the 1975. Part of the reason that the celebration was instituted was due to New Zealand almost stamping the language out. Kids got the strap for speaking te reo when my parents went to school. During the 1980s various Māori language recovery programmes were instituted including Māori immersion schools.
However many pākehā New Zealanders have a rather odd disconnect when it comes to learning te reo. One of my friends was advised by one of her high school teachers that learning te reo was a waste of time because it was dead language and encouraged her to learn Latin instead. That was only 20 years ago and even today there’s still large pockets of pākehā New Zealanders who don’t want their kids to learn te reo.
What is really interesting is how many New Zealanders readily embrace Māori culture and language as part of our identity when they move overseas. Anyone who has witnessed any large gathering of kiwi expats on February 6 especially in places like London will know what I am talking about.
What I find interesting is this idea that we can only learn a finite amount of language and that pākehā kids should focus on the important stuff like learning English or French or even at a push an Asian language first before learning Māori. Yet the principles of language learning can easily be applied to different languages. For example when I looked at the theme Arohita te Reo for this year’s celebration I had no idea what it meant. Yet I knew the word aroha meant love and Te Reo was Māori language. So I decided arohatia meant a love of something or to cherish something and I was right. I realized that my guess work was actually coming from my experience of learning Korean.
So even though my own knowledge of Māori is pretty bad, I could still help my students prepare an entry for the competition. The brief for the competition was rather simple, students were to produce as a class or as a group a teaching resource for others to learn about Te Reo or aspects of Māori culture. One of the most powerful things I did was get the kids to identify a learning need.
What the kids came back with was nothing short of amazing.
Some students noticed from the quiz we held during our assembly the previous week that many of the students in our school don’t know the colours in Māori so a group of students composed a song to help people learn the colours. Other students thought there needed to be more signage so went about making signs, mobiles and one group even made a Koru in minecraft.
What was amazing was seeing the students wander off to find their needs, for instance a group of students went up to the cooking room to look at the ingredients on hand, and the they started grabbing computers and the classroom ipod touches to look up the meanings of words. My job then became about steering kids back toward their goal of filling a need and giving groups encouragement, inspiration and sourcing resources.
It was noisy, it was messy but kids begging to stay in at lunch time to finish their projects. I immediately recognized that having my students so engaged and interested in a project was far more important than anything I could possibly teach them that day so I did something that would make some people cringe: I threw out my timetable and the kids spent the rest of the day working on their projects.
Because the head fake in this competition was the students weren’t just teaching others Maori language, they were actually teaching themselves.
I always feel uncomfortable when people start talking about leadership. Especially if it happens to be in the context of events that have the tag ‘Emerging Leader’ ‘Young Leader’ or ‘Future Leader.’ Leaders have interesting things to say, leaders have responsibilities, leaders don’t forget to take the class roll after lunch.
I think opinionated geek is the most accurate description.
When I heard that #ignition2012 was happening during the April school holidays I couldn’t wait to book my flights vven though the dreaded ‘leader’ tag was attached to the event. The reason? Two days of un-conference .
Ever since I went to my first unconference back in July 2011 I’ve been hooked on the format. As a learner there’s nothing more engaging than being able to choose what to learn, when and from who. As an attendee I much prefer being an active participant at a conference than sitting as an audience member patiently waiting for the Q&A session to contribute to the conversation. Yes the person up the front might have something important to say but unconferences embrace the idea that the sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.
Which is what made #ignition2012 so exciting.
All those hierarchies that our model of industrial system of schooling built up over the last century or so vanished. At #ignition2012 it if you were veteran teacher of scholarship level physics at a large-inner city high school or someone in their first year of teaching five year olds their ABCs at a rural country school. Everyone was there with a common purpose to make New Zealand schools awesomeness incubators.
I love teachers from such a diverse range of contexts quite readily give up two days of their holidays to spend time at #ignition2012 learning and growing together. Nobody was required to be there and yet we were there. Some teachers traveled great distances to participate and the result was a giant melting pot of professional learning. There were sessions on e-portfolios building apps for learning and looking at applying augmented reality into the classroom. We discussed the Ultra Fast Broadband inquiry and talked about the conditions that lead to success for Maori students. In short it this was teacher professional development on steroids.
#Ignition2012 undoubtedly highlighted that the greatest strength of the New Zealand schooling system, institutional autonomy, is also its Achilles Heel. New Zealand schools and the educators within them don’t talk to each other nearly as much as we should. I think this is particularly the case for Beginning Teachers who can easily become isolated in our classrooms/schools with very little contact with those beyond our own bubbles. #Ignition2012 gave teachers an opportunity to connect with other teachers we would normally not be in contact with and the result was a bazaar of ideas to improve teaching and learning in New Zealand.
Moreover for those teachers on twitter and other social media, it allowed us to reconnect and put faces with profile pictures. It provided that real-life human component that is not there in online conversations. Coming together in real life is to quote the amazing @annekenn MAGIC.
What was really inspiring for me is knowing that there are other teachers out there in our schooling system who are dissatisfied with our schools and think we can do better. When I read about the latest policy developments in New Zealand education like the introduction of Charter Schools and Teach First New Zealand I often get despondent that the only new ideas for schooling are coming from the business sector. Ultimately discussions over how we train teachers or school governance is going to make very little difference to the shape of education. It’s the teachers who are in there with our students each day who need to ‘be the change’ in our schools.
#Ignition2012 shows that there are passionate New Zealand teachers out there who have no interest in perserving status quo in New Zealand schools. We know we can do better and in the case of Maori and Pasifika students in particular we know that system must do better. There are more teachers out who want to make New Zealand schools awesomeness incubators.
I hope next year you can come join us next year armed with your teaspoon.
“I honestly believe that the future is going to be millions of little things saving us. I imagine a big seesaw, and at one end of this seesaw is on the ground with a basket half-full of big rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air. It’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. And some of us got teaspoons, and we’re trying to fill up sand. A lot of people are laughing at us, and they say, “Ah, people like you have been trying to do that for thousands of years, and it’s leaking out as fast as you’re putting it in.” But we’re saying, “We’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time.” And we think, “One of these years, you’ll see that whole seesaw go zooop in the other direction.” And people will say, “Gee, how did it happen so suddenly?” Us and all our little teaspoons…” Pete Seeger.
My profound thanks goes to the organizers of #ignition2012 in particular to @mosbourne and the crew at Albany Senior High School. A big shout out also goes to Russell Stanners, Tony Bacon and Abbie Reynolds from @vodafoneNZ for supporting my attendance.