It’s been a while since I last posted. So here we are… in the midst of Covid-19 that has sent so many of us around the world to our homes with the possibility that this might go on for longer than originally thought. As an educator my role has become more important than ever in maintaining the connections with my tamariki (children) and their whanau (family) as we all navigate through this. As we all know, relationships are the glue that keep society together and offer a sense ofnormalcy and must be maintained..
As an educator now is the time for me and my colleagues in this field to be flexible and open to learning a bunch of new skills to provide learning opportunities for our tamariki. We need to provide ways to engage them in learning that will allow our students to connect into something other than thinking about the current situation 24/7.
Over the past few days I’ve been mulling over what this will mean for my immediate whanau at my school and the wonderful group of educators that are currently designing appropriate learning opportunities that meet the needs of the different levels across the school.
Learning is not just of an academic nature, it should be holistic where the whole child is developed. In New Zealand we have nine curriculum areas across the Primary Sector (Mathematics, Writing, Reading, Te Ao Māori (language & Tikanga), Science, Social Studies, The Arts (Drama, Dance, Music & Visual Arts), Technology (includes Digital – Computational Thinking & Designing, Developing Digital Outcomes), Health & Physical Education.
As you can imagine filling a child’s kete (basket) is a process over time, and right now we need to take care of their emotional well-being first. Learning online is not about putting activity after activity in front of a child to keep them busy. We must consider the needs and levels of our communities. Going in light and gentle for those starting this journey is important. In doing so we will reduce stress levels for all involved in this process. Learning should be interactive and interesting, not a chore for a family to be burdened with.
As I work through options and approaches I will do my best to share these with you. If I can be of support to others out there on the same journey, I am here and will help where I can.
So from my bubble to yours, kia kaha (be strong) my friends, draw your loved ones close and keep in your bubble.
Raising awareness often means putting yourself out there. Recently I agreed to be in a video to raise awareness around professional development for teachers because my students have directly benefitted from the Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning) with MindLab.
There are some really strong avenues out there to build teacher 21st skills to pass onto our students. There are also many ways a teacher can now receive professional development (PD), but not all are equal. Not all will provide better outcomes for students (or teachers). Over the 10 years that I have been teaching I’ve attended loads of courses. Some good, and some just plain boring. So if the purpose of PD is to make me a better teacher, and therefore make a positive impact on my students, shouldn’t the PD be interesting, interactive and looking to develop my 21st Century skill set?
Click on thislink to watch the video (you will need a Facebook account to watch this).
Three areas of the Practising Teacher Criteria I believe I have met well over the past 32 weeks are:
Criteria 5: Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning.
Criteria 6: Conceptualise, plan, and implement an appropriate learning programme.
Criteria 7: Promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment.
Over the past 32 weeks of my learning journey, I know that I have shown leadership that has contributed to effective teaching and learning at my school. I have actively contributed to the professional learning of my learning community by initiating and running professional development sessions for teachers, primarily on and around blogging. I have also shared professional readings/videos and shared ideas from the postgraduate course I am on.
I have introduced staff and students to Carol Dweck and what it means to have a ‘growth mindset’ to be an effective teacher/learner. In my class, each student can tell you where their mindset is and where they want to shift it to. Being able to know our weaknesses and be able to share them with others, is another way I have shown I am able to foster trust and respect among my ākonga/learners.
In recognition of our Maori learners needing to develop their student’s voice, blogging was reintroduced as one tool to help achieve this. With collaboration with professionals, both inside and outside of school, I was able to form the inquiry question:
“Can blogging improve the strength of a student’s voice when given authentic opportunities to identify their interests, direct their own learning and receive feedback from peers and the wider community?” (Hills, 2015)
This inquiry was presented to members of the community for feedback and after review, it was agreed that blogging was to be embedded in our learning programme. This inquiry was also reviewed by an academic who awarded me 92% due to the detailed and structured proposal put forward. With the pedagogy available to support how blogging could support student agency, and a clear implementation plan put forward, they felt I had clearly identified how blogging would engage students, parents and teachers to improve levels of engagement (Hills, 2016).
Throughout the past 32 weeks, I have worked collaboratively with my peers, my students and outside providers, with the one aim, to raise student achievement for all. I have utilised my social media network to help me grow my understanding. I have started a discussion group on the use of Chromebooks on the VLN Network and made many new connections with professionals using Twitter and Facebook, as well as utilising my connections through my postgraduate course with The MindLab in Petone. It has been a fun fuelled year and it does not stop here.
My two main goals for my future development in direct relation to the Practising Teacher Criteria will be to focus on:
Criteria 3: Demonstrate commitment to bicultural partnership in Aotearoa / New Zealand.
Criteria 9: Respond effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.
I feel like I have opened a door and want to walk through it in relation to my commitment to the bicultural partnership between Maori and Pakeha. I want to hold a better understanding in my head about the history of this partnership that goes beyond knowing the three ‘Ps’ (protection, partnership and participation). I want to at every opportunity make connections to similarities and differences, so students know their cultures and what makes them unique, but also how they can work alongside others with empathy and understanding.
I work at a culturally diverse school and feel I am only scratching the surface when it comes to responding effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga. I will be asking my school to provide me with professional development that really hones in on implementing teaching approaches, using resources, technologies, and learning and assessment activities that are inclusive and effective for diverse ākonga/learners. I have already shown I am able to modify my teaching approaches, so this type of professional development will really help me move my practice forward, benefiting the students that I teach.
What I have without a doubt learnt over the past 32 weeks of attending my course at The MindLab is the need to continually be looking for ways to improve and refine my practice while keeping an open mind. I have also set a goal to complete a Masters in e-Learning so I am able to earn a specialist qualification in the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning purposes.
“Professional development processes share a common goal: improved practice.”
Ostermand & Kottkamp (1993, p 12)
After completing my postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning) I can honestly say that the professional development has been rigorous and has without a doubt improved my practice.
Hills, C. (2016). Develop a reflective portfolio: Identify and engage with relevant community or communities in the formation of specific research questions. Address the potential impact of findings. Retrieved on 12 March 2016 from https://app.themindlab.com/media/17517/view