This year was not only the start of a new job for me - it was the start of a new school and a new lifestyle. I'm sure anyone in construction will tell you that the foundation is a key element in any new structure. As part of the team building the foundational elements of a school I can tell you it's not an easy job - but it sure is rewarding.
So this week we've moved into July and ended Term 2, marking the halfway point of 2015. Where has this journey taken me so far? And, where do I hope it will take me next?
For a start, it has taken me to one of the most beautiful parts of NZ - this morning when I woke up I pulled back the curtains to a sky blended with pink, and outlined by the towering snowy mountains. It has also taken me to a place of learning, acceptance, appreciation and sharing. What has been invested in building the team collaboratively and in professional knowledge shows the value that has been placed in us to make this thing happen.
When I announced last year that I had been offered and had accepted a position in an ILE (MLE), amongst the congratulations and the praise for going for what I believe in, I could sense some doubt. Some asked the questions - How will work? Won't it be hard working with other people? What about all that noise!? What will happen to those children who can't cope with all that distraction? How can you actually build effective relationships with all those children? Then, I have to admit (although I didn't outloud!) the seeds of doubt started to creep in. How could I have come this far on a belief and not question that it would never be able to work!?
Now though, from all those questions, I can see, nobody asked the WHY? I have since learnt about the power of why and wish I had been able to articulate it at the time (and not just believe it). I also have the experience of it now. The actual environment is freeing. Children who had been behaviourally 'flagged' by their previous schools have been of little issue - some, no issue at all! The noise is barely a factor and generally sits at a learning hum. I don't really know how, to be honest, but you just do build relationships with all the children. The distraction I believe is less - perhaps because the children are engaged in what they're doing, or perhaps they just know that everyone is learning differently doing different things. The children have some freedom to move to a space suitable for their task, spread out, and to where they will be able to work free from distraction. They have more choice about who to collaborate with. They have more choice about what/how they will learn. The actual timetable/collaborative nature of the day is still developing and will always be - that is how we react to the needs of our learners, and our stage in our personal development of pedagogy. One of the major benefits I've seen of that is better use of time to support learners with needs. An example of that is while one teacher runs the morning slot, three other teachers can work with individuals or small groups on targeted needs. You'd never get that opportunity in a traditional classroom.
We finished up the term with an evening for the parents on Thursday night. We invited the parents in to share our 'Habitat Happenings' from the mentors point of view, with a short 20 minute presentation. It was lovely to be able to have a quick chat following with some very pleased parents! Some of the comments I had:
- My son loves maths! That's big for him and I can see his progress.
- *** actually likes to coming to school. I no longer have to push him through the door. I think it's something about the space - he hates to feel crammed in.
- *** lives for Curiosity time. I don't though (laughing)- he's started to pull apart things that actually work!
- I'm really loving how I can talk to *** at the end of the day about what they've learnt. (Referring to our communication with home via our Habitat blog and learning apps/websites)
- My child tells me it's ok to feel like it's hard and fail - it's all part of learning.
- Thank you. (From several people, who clearly weren't just meaning for the parents evening.)
What a great way to finish the term. But what next......
As our experience (as mentors) and pedagogical knowledge within an ILE grows I would like to see our level our collaboration go up. A power of three or four teachers is obviously more dynamic than one, and I would like to see us continue to let go 'old practice' and make use of each other in both a planning and teaching sense. Something else I will be working on is how I can more effectively teach our Learning Model (Inquiry) with junior students.