EducampBOP – a challenge to secondary school teachers!

winter landscape with rainbow.Well, today was my first “Educamp“. I have thought about going to several over the years but have never quite made one. Mainly because they are on Saturdays and my boys have always had some sort of sports fixture. But also because there are very few, if any, secondary school teachers at them. They are not aimed solely at primary and intermediate schools but IMHO they tend to be the teachers who are most inclined to share. It is a shame because there are so many secondary teachers out there who do such great things in the classroom that are worth sharing. The “unconference” style means that everyone has a voice, everyone’s ideas are valued, there are no “experts” there are just learners and colleagues (and, of course, friends). However, today, I was there to learn and to meet people.  In my new role as Connected Learning Advisor I am keen to meet as many teachers as possible from all sectors and BOP and Waikato are the regions for which I am responsible.

I would love to see if we could gain some traction for a similar sort of event for secondary teachers. I am unsure if it is because secondary school teachers are too locked into their subject specialties or because there is too much competition with regard to exam results to want to share too much?  I know that each subject area has their own “conference”; languages have “Langsems” all over the country when teachers share what they have been doing, but these cost a significant amount of money and not all teachers go because of confernece costs and the relief costs on top of that.  What if secondary teachers just got together and shared their pedagogy, how they integrate technology, the tools they use?  So many approaches can be used and adapted across subject areas and as junior programmes are re-organised to be more open, task-based, cross-curricular and student-centred, there is a need to share practice and learn from each other.

Tweeting is normal at such events and the power of the “tweet” is being realised by more and more teachers.  Powerful learning not just for adults but for students too.  I wonder what the breakdown of users is between primary/intermediate and secondary teachers in NZ? My bet is that primary beat us hands down!

Making connections – more powerful than you know

I watched this Tedtalk back in May and it sent tingles down my spine.  A colleague just shared it with me today and I nearly didn’t watch it because  knew I had seen it before.  However, with only  a few minutes left of my “non-contact” time that had been eroded by dealing with unnecessary emails and admin tasks, I decided to click play.  I am so glad I did, my spine is still tingling as I type.  Rita Pierson is an inspirational, passionate speaker but she cuts to the core of what it is to be an effective teacher.  Which teachers do you remember from your schooldays? I know that I remember the grumpy ones or the ones that were mean, and we all have anecdotes about the teachers that we played tricks on.  But they are not the teachers whose subjects I ended up studying further, they didn’t inspire me to become a teacher, they didn’t encourage a sense of self-esteem or achievement.  The teachers that did that were the ones that cared, the ones that showed an interest in who I was and what I could do, who encouraged me and explained when I didn’t understand their subject, the ones who were kind but also didn’t take any nonsense.

I started to wonder whether being good at a subject is related to how we perceive our teachers .  Do we feel inspired by teachers who teach the subjects we like or do we end up liking the subject because of the teacher?  And does liking a subject mean that you get better at it even if you don’t have a natural talent for it?

In assembly today, the Principal talked about kindness and read out an edited version of George Saunders address to Syracuse University students.  I like this ” If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers.  We have to do that, to be our best selves.”  However, we also have to be careful not to get wrapped up in accomplishing being the end-game as the journey is just as important, and if we rush too fast to the goal we might just forget to be kind on the way.  Saunders also talks about how being kind gets easier as we get older because we become less selfish, less wrapped up in ourselves and who we are and more concerned about others.  The goal shifts from looking out for yourself to looking out for others .

Reflecting on my time in schools, I can relate to that.  I don’t think I was ever really ambitious but I have always enjoyed my work and constantly seek to improve what I do.  I also know that as a young teacher I was probably more focussed on me than on the students.  Having my own children definitely changed my whole outlook on life and watching how they have grown and how they learn has informed how I work with the students in my care.

It is humbling and quite frightening to think of the effect I might have had on a couple of generations of children over my nearly 30 year career as an educator.  I hope that on balance I was more kind than not!  What about you?

P.S.  Being kind is as good for you as it is for the people you are kind to.