Tuesday, 20 May 2014

What University Never Prepared Me For...Jhana Brash

My hands are shaking, I am sweating so much, I am worried that I smell bad, and I have never been so nervous in my whole entire life. Every time I think of this moment, I never thought it would change my life in so many ways. I am about to walk into my interview for a job at Te Karaka Area School and I am terrified.

Thinking back now, I wonder why I was so scared. It is really daunting being the only one in the room who feels nervous, or so you think. I walked out of the room that day thinking, “I really stuffed up, I rambled, I am never going to get the job”. So when Karyn called me on the Sunday after my interview, I was shocked. “Oh goodness, they have called me to say I don’t have it” and then Karyn says “We would like to offer you the job”……. complete silence….. “Are you still there Jhana?”

I was there all right… completely in shock, can I do this? Challenge accepted! “Yes, yes I will take the job, and no, I don’t need any time to think about it! THANK YOU SO MUCH”.

Walking to the new school I was overwhelmed.  Am I ready for this? Decile one, exactly where I want to be.

Day 1 – 50 little faces looking expectantly at me. Wow 50 names to remember, and now, I know 58 (as our class has expanded) of the most beautiful little people I have ever come to know.

University did not prepare me for this.

Well they did, however not for the effect it would have on me.  58 children that, although they are not my children, feel like family. Their disappointments are mine too, and so too are their triumphs. We have so much invested in each other, we believe in each other. The children trust that I will do right by them, and teach them what they need to know, and I trust that they will try their hardest to take part in the experiences I help them engage in. I was told “you won’t like every single child in your class.” However I can honestly say, that I actually do.

University did not prepare me for this new style of teaching. I was told that I would get a class of 30 students and it would be them and I, that is it. I was not told about giant, flexible classrooms, team teaching, and collaboration.

I wish all schools were like this, and that I could go back to University and tell all the 3rd years that this is a way of teaching too.  Give it a go, and don’t be scared.

We are told that our planning will be our own and that we will only really be answerable to our principal, tutor teacher, and parents. We are answerable to everyone in our team and every one in our school, everything is shared online and has been made available to others within the school and I love it.

University did not prepare me to be flexible, to step outside of my comfort zone, and to take a chance to do something completely different in my career. They don’t teach you that you can work in teams and collaborate and work as part of a team within one classroom, with a classroom that it bigger that 30 students.

They do teach you that you will like your students, however they didn’t tell me I would love them to the point that I feel like they are almost my own children. That I would look forward to seeing them so much that I absolutely love going to school every day to see the children in our class.

I must say, I truly think I have learned more about myself in the last 3 months, than I have in my whole entire life.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not all smiles, and rainbows, however the good definitely out weighs the bad. EASILY. 

I feel inspired everyday. The children in my class give me so much more than I could ever imagine. Love, acceptance, inspiration, drive, respect and more than anything, they like me for who I am, and I like them too.  I never really understood what being a teacher in a school like this really meant. Not only are we role models, we are Mum, Dad, a shoulder to cry on, tell secrets to and dream with. Our students really believe that they can be the best they can be and we really try to encourage them to reach far beyond what they believe they are capable of.

Everyone needs a cheerleading squad, and that is what I am – A Cheerleader to 60 + students and there is nowhere I would rather be.

That right there…is what University NEVER prepared me for.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A Glimpse of the future Tara O'Neill

A Glimpse of the future

As Educators we talk about how we cannot predict the future playing field of life but how we can give students the skills they need to be adaptable, future thinking citizens.   As educators we think about how we can prepare our learners born in 2014 for their life in 2032.  We wonder what technology will look like? What jobs will they be doing? Some of us wonder if there will be a world left, such is the pollution and attitude to consumption we see around us?

Every week a writing group of twelve, 5 and 6 year olds, take their published writing over the paddock to the pre-school.  The children read their writing to the slightly smaller learners sitting on the mat looking up with such admiration at the carefully printed story and beautiful artwork.  Then once finished, a five year old girl, takes her two year old sister’s hand and heads out to the sandpit.  I watch as all age groups play, take turns, discuss, laugh, run, learn how to get on together, learning together seems so natural.

In the Early Years Learning Community where I teach, I watch as 10 year olds, co-create with 5 years olds.   They get frustrated with each other at times.  They are learning to teach and learn together, to take turns and support each other.

At home, my 6 and 7 year old play, sometimes remembering to ask for a turn.  Sometimes snatching, sometimes complaining loudly because of the way they were treated by the other sister. In this environment, they are learning how to communicate successfully with each other.  These are skills necessary for the future.

Then, my 16 year old comes into the kitchen, so excited. “Mum, I just Skyped a person from Palestine.  I was teaching him Hebrew, he was teaching me Arabic.  We both speak English.”  My 16 year old has been learning Hebrew since she was 11 years old.  She has now started to learn Arabic.  The person from Palestine is a dentist who needs to learn Hebrew to go to work in Israel.  The website they share is a language learning site – “mylanguageexchange.com”.   She told him about New Zealand, about Pavlova, about the history of New Zealand.

This just left me with my mouth open.  Wow – right there, that is the future!
The playground has grown substantially so that instead of crossing a field you cross countries.   If this generation talk and learn from each other, somewhere along the line, one of them will become a leader on the world stage, and remember playing in the sandpit of online learning languages and maybe, this will make a difference to outcomes during times of peace and war.

I know, you are thinking, how do I know my daughter is safe? 
We have talked with her about safety regularly.  She has attended courses on cyber safety.  And I say to you, how do you know your children are safe walking down the road or going to uncles house for a visit?   We don’t ever know for sure, but we do what we can to give our children the knowledge and confidence to speak up and get help when they need.  

As Educators, we cannot let our fear, stop the Future learning from happening.
Instead, let us enable our learners to learn.  Let us spend time teaching them how to be safe, let us let them connect. Imagine the learning of being able to explain the history lesson you just read  to someone on the other side of the world.  Imagine the lessons learnt through communicating with a person from another culture.  Imagine the future of a world where people care about each other no matter where they live.

Imagine. Our students aren’t imagining they are doing it.  They are the future.

By Tara O’Neill