Monday, August 31, 2015

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. An Edu-Hero or Two

Ive had a few occasions to reflect over my past years in education lately. Writing reflective essays on leadership styles and managing change initiatives. Reading things written by previous staff members. Meeting up with people at conferences and meetings.
So I thought I’d write a few short reflective pieces this week on some of the people who have influenced me over the years. 

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini  
My success is not my own, but from many others

In 2006 I ventured into senior leadership in the role of Assistant Principal at a primary school in the Bay of Islands. I was pretty young and naive but it was a great grounding for future principalship, especially because it was there I got to meet two amazing teachers who contributed greatly to my development as a teacher not only during that year but for many years since.

One of these was the Deputy Principal of the school- Debbie. We connected straight away and we did some amazing things together that year. My Year 7-8 class and Debbie’s New Entrant class did some fantastic collaborative learning inspired by the new technology curriculum. We made all kinds of foodie things with our classes together. (Kit Kat challenges were awesome!)  And we built boats together. We learnt all about sailing and boats and the collaboration between these two classes that traditionally had very little to do with each other in the primary setting was amazing. 
Debbie and I had many similar views of teaching and learning and many a long conversation and/or discussion was had. And she introduced me to the wonders of an apple computer!! 
Ive often thought of Debbie with fondness and occasionally bumped into her over the years- especially through Future Problem Solving.  Thanks Debs, for the contribution you made to me becoming the teacher and leader I am today.

Debbie was very much like a big sister for the year I was in Paihia. Which was awesome because alongside Debbie I got to meet her big sister- the infamous Robyn Boswell. 
I got to go to many a training day facilitated by Robyn, which was an awesome opportunity in itself. But I also got to know her outside of facilitation days. I got to stay with her and talk endlessly with her about learning and education and how things needed to change. I got to pick her brains, and benefit from her experiences time after time during that year. 

I got to be part of the “Boswell/Green family” for the year, and I just learnt so much. Robyn, her experiences, and her views were, and are, inspirational. I had been exploring much in the way of student centred learning and choices in learning programmes, but it was real experimentation. Conversations with Robyn, and Debbie, allowed me to move from experimentation to a real philosophy for learning and started giving me the theory to back it up.

Robyn’s views on teaching then, would probably still be seen ahead of the time now nearly 20 years later. She was inspirational. My only regret is that I never actually got to teach alongside her- that would have been truly exciting. I think she was probably my first edu-celebrity- hero! 

I'd met up with Robyn a few times over the years- again mostly through Future Problem Solving, but had really lost contact in the last 8-10 years. However again, the value of social media comes to the fore and we started following each other on twitter last year.  

And it was in a twitter chat/conversation a few months ago that we were both involved in, that made me realise the use of the contemporary edu-hero really did apply to Robyn. In 1996  I looked up to her, I followed everything she said, and I she was absolutely my hero in every education sense of the word.  And from the conversations I see on twitter she is still very much a strong part of the education fabric of the North. And has been many other peoples heroes, past, present and likely to be in the future.

Robyn said recently in a twitter conversation that she was nearing looking at retirement. That will be a sad and poorer day for NZ education.

So, thanks Robyn, for the provocations, for the pushing, for the thinking you make everyone who works with you do. 

Thank you for being an educator who was not prepared to accept the status quo. I'm sure you've influenced many a young teacher in the way you influenced me. Working with and knowing you, even if only for a year, certainly helped me develop into a thoughtful and questioning educator prepared to do the best for young kids, not just do what's always been done.

Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti arahia o tatou mahi.

Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work.

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