Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. A Teaching Team that Worked.

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

Many years ago I began to team-teach, something I’d never done before. 
I am now an absolute convert to the learning, challenge and excitement that team teaching allows, and a true believer that if we do collaboratively teach with adults, then our learners get a much better deal. 
You can read a previous post about co-teaching here. 

And I can’t possibly write a series of blogposts on the people who have influenced my practice, as I have been this week, without writing a post about Matt- my co-conspirator, and co-teacher all those 14 years ago. 

Sharing a classroom block with complete collective responsibility for our learners for those four years were some of the most rewarding years of my teaching career. 

I learnt. Oh, how I learnt. 

I learnt from Matt, a lot I now take for granted I always knew about how to deal with young people. About approaching with care and love, not just confrontation and unexplained expectation. But my reality is I think I learnt or at least refined a lot of that from Matt.

We laughed a lot. With our learners. People wondered how well you could develop close relationships with 70 learners instead of 30. But between the two of us we had close relationship with those young learners. Different relationships certainly. And that was the magic. They could go to Matt for some things and me for others. And they soon learnt which one of us to go to for which. 

I learnt to let go of the ego so often involved in teaching. I learnt it was okay not to be everything to everyone. And Matt helped me learn that.

Matt was one of those teachers that just made kids know he was there for them 100%. He expected things from them, but he gave his all to them, and I got to be part of that too.

You don't realise how alone you are in a single cell classroom until you share a classroom, not just with your young learners but with another adult. The power of another adult to turn a possibly fraught moment with a child to a humorous one, or at the very least deflect the young person and disperse the tension. 

We definitely fought. We had huge debates at the beginning of each term about the direction to go in and what we each thought our young learners needed. We were both used to being innovative in our practice, but  \team teaching required us to hone that innovation into some very clearly stated purposes and visions, which only helped to improve the quality for our learners.

We learnt to balance. My need for documentation and paperwork and immense and complicated planning lessened a little, and Matt’s ability to see the need for some planning being written down increased!

I learnt from Matt how integral art could be to the learning process. He facilitated some of the most amazing integrated visual arts as part of our term inquiries I have ever seen. (Even if I sometimes had to teach all the maths to allow him the time to work with the kids to get it finished!)

But Matt, you were, (and although I haven't seen you teach for many years I have been told you still are) one of the most natural teachers there is. You had an absolute instinctive way with young people. You made them know they mattered. You cared and you inspired them to care. That you now have a young family of your own to share that with as well is awesome. Lucky whānau. 

Those four years team teaching with you were demanding, and hard work, because of the programs we were implementing, but they were so, so rewarding because of who you were and what we achieved together. Im so thankful that modern communication has allowed us to stay in touch, even when you were on the other side of the world. it’s great you are now back in NZ education.

You remain an inspiration.