From the start of the year, I decided my ‘One Word’ (professional goal) would be ‘INSPIRE’. It is a word I connect with, and it is something I hope to do as a teacher for all students I work with.
Initially I struggled to get my head around how I would measure my progress as it can be a difficult thing to quantify. I tried surveys and gathering student feedback but found they were unreliable -I decided it would be best to make a personal judgement on whether I felt I had success. Paying attention of levels of engagement has been a measure which meant I have had to pay attention and look for signs of ‘inspired students’.
My One Word helps motivate me each day to spend time with our learners, (outside of class time) engage with them and find out what motivates them. It is also in mind when planning any passion and inquiry classes.
Part of my ‘inspire’ goal was around developing my leadership skills. Luckily for me, I have some inspiring leaders around me to learn from. Our Principal Karyn Gray has been an ongoing source of leadership inspiration. How she does, what she does, so quickly- amazes me! She is a strong leader with a lot of experience and a future focused approach to education.
In term 1 I was involved with assisting the youth organisers of the School Gala. This was a huge learning experience for many senior students, and for myself. Its one thing to direct students, its another to let them direct a new path and take responsibility. This was a great opportunity to watch their leadership skills develop while under real pressure and deadlines.
During term 3 I had the opportunity to train up 10 student ‘Learning Centre Assistants’. It reminded me of how responsible and helpful our younger students can be when given the opportunity, and how important those opportunities are for learners.
Our class community has 6 teachers team-teaching. Luckily for the students, we are all quite different, and work well together. I have learnt a lot from each of them and their varied approaches to teaching and leadership. Throughout all of these experiences and during class teaching, my own leadership skills have been developing. I am constantly reflecting through my blog, written reflections and talking to team teachers to help me develop as a leader.
Inspiring through questioning:
Through my class inquiries I have had the opportunity to question students and their learning at various levels. Often I have felt that the level of my questioning has been surface level, and it has been through the observation of other co-workers that I have seen (and reminded myself) of the need for deeper level questioning.
I have found it much easier to give deeper level questioning for gifted students that I have been working with on a 1-on-1 basis. Eg; with C* through her speech, art creations and writing, and S* with her senior art. Part of it may be that I know the student is fully engaged and they are wanting discussion and feedback. S* and J* are other students who I have given a lot of deeper level questioning too. Often it has been because I have wanted to better understand what they are doing, and it has been a great tool for that purpose.
I have loved trying to spark ideas and inspire our students. I have been doing this in various ways - through passion classes, individual engagement and finding out what interests them most.
Through an inquiry in T3 (Cause and Effect), I was again able to tailor the topics to meet student interest. They chose an area they were interested in to study. With some students I had to coax them at first into an area that I knew they were interested in - i.e. one student with economics, one with pregnancy health, another with her whanau history. Once they had gotten into their topic they were hooked, and it was exciting to watch.
In July I was able to gain sponsored tickets to a sports awards evening in T2 and take 3 students along. It was a highlight for my year - seeing these girls spark at all the possibilities available to them. They loved meeting some All Blacks and top sports people, realising they too could be among those sport achievers if they want too.
With one art student this year, I found myself regularly inspired by her work, and was able to constantly feed her new ideas and suggest different techniques for her to try. Once she and other seniors had finished their amazing art, I took junior budding artists to watch
Chess Club in T3 was a fantastic opportunity where a colleague and I spent time with our students playing and encouraging Chess as an interest. It was inspiring to see so many students take to it, enjoy the game and want to learn more. I also loved seeing the game cross boundaries - gender, age etc. There are now so many chess players within the school and students regularly play and organise matches during their breaks - something we didn't see 6 months ago. It is a game that challenges stereotypes, as I often see students of different age, gender and from different school communities playing one another.
My kete to Inspire:
I had a low point near the end of T2 where I was getting myself out of balance. One of the things I learnt, was the importance of focusing on the ‘gems’. I started a post on our school forum to focus on just that, to share the gems with the other teachers. Now whenever I record anecdotal notes I make myself reflect on positive moments or achievements that I have seen that day.
I created a place on the window to put some inspiring words and an image. I have changed this regularly and have found the images capture more attention when they have photos of our students in them. Im in the process of creating a digital collection of these so that I can show it on our community large screen tv’s.
This is a link to my 'Inspire' Pinterest board, a place where I keep quotes, ideas and inspiration: https://www.pinterest.com/
This term we have developed an inquiry around homelessness, (continuing to develop our empathy learning muscle). Im really excited at the emotion and deeper level of thought that has been developing in our learners. Next week we hope to take a group of students with us to feed homeless people in our own Gisborne community. Our youth are inspired to do something, to make a difference, and the choice to do this is completely theirs.
Quotes from some of our learners:
"Lanie has inspired me this year by introducing me to different media and giving me ideas for my boards”- Stacey “Without Koka Lanie I would have just given up on my boards” - Tamara, “you also inspired me with Pay It Forward when I got my idea for a random act of kindness” - Brody. Cheyenne: “How you've inspired me this year is in my writing when I needed help with editing my writing for a short story competition. Also when we did the mixed media art with the guitars and the one were we made posters out of different medians- because it's something I never would have done in art.”
Have I inspired our learners as was my goal? I think so. Some more than others certainly. My One Word may change next year, but as a teacher I will always want to inspire learning and passion - as so many amazing teachers have done for me.