Are you a Connected Educator?

Last week as part of the CLA webinar series we met up with 5 school leaders who chatted about why being connected provides them with such powerful professional learning.

Here is the Storify of the twitter back channel. Why not have a listen to the Webinar on the VLN and join in the conversation by posting your comments and answers to the questions posed to our panellists?

  • koru - unfurling frond of fernWhat does a “connected leader” look like?
  • How would you encourage a reluctant teacher/ leader to get connected?
  • In your role as a connected leader, what do you do to support/model/advocate/facilitate e-learning?
  • What attributes do you think you need most, to make this role successful?
  • As ‘time poor” senior leader, “What’s in it for me”

#edblognz Week 2 Challenge 1

Rather late in the piece because my head is buzzing so this will be a quickie! Just waiting for my breakout to start the morning after the night before! And what a night it was. Ulearn15 put on the razzlemadazzle once again out on the high seas with cutlass wielding pirates, rum tipsy sailors, shimmering, glimmering jellyfish, the “undead” of the Titanic and the crowd favourite “out of the box” thinking Pavarotti. He got my vote and the Twitterati vote – almost trending for the evening!

tweet

But this post isn’t about the Gala Dinner.  One of the challenges was to find two blogger I admire, take a selfie with them and then write a blog.  The first blogger I met as I entered Sky City on Tuesday morning was the MAGICAL Anne Kenneally who amazes me with her passion and excitement. This comes through in her tweets, her FB posts and her blogs.  I didn’t buy her a coffee but I did get her safely to the Twitter Dinner!

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My other inspiring blogger is actually one of a special groups of people: my fellow #efellows14. Marnel Van der Spuy is such a passionate teacher. Her sheer joy of teaching and learning is infectious and inspiring.

efellows 14

Have a read of their blogs, and connect with them on twitter @annekenn @1mvds. Be inspired!

#edblognz Week 1 Challenge 2 People who inspire me

Mmm…

A good word…inspire:

1. fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something.

Who has inspired me?  Got me thinking… so many areas to think about… and makes me think of what my passions have been over the years. There are two types of people who have inspired me; those who I have met and who through their interest in me and the care they showed me have had a profound effect on who I am today. And those who I have never met, but who through their actions, deeds, philosophies fill me with admiration and who make me want to aspire to be or act like them.

As an eight year old I was introduced to gymnastics by my PE teacher at primary school.  Mr Biscombe.  I was a quiet little thing, didn’t say boo to a goose in public (although a complete chatterbox with my friends).  He recognised that I had some talent, he nurtured it, he believed in me and he encouraged me.  I spent the next 20 years of my life pretty much immersed in gymnastics as a gymnast and a coach.  It is probably partly because of Mr Biscombe that I became a teacher.

As a nine year old I was introduced to French at the same primary school by Miss Larraine Francis. She was passionate about French and her interest in all her students was clear.  She treated us all as if we were special and brought out the best in us.  I have spent the rest of my life with a passion for learning languages, for exploring cultures and travelling.  She also shares my love of Roquefort cheese!  Miss Francis is probably the other reason that I became a teacher.

(Oh, and do you know the best part? Mrs Biscombe and Miss Francis, my two favourite teachers, fell in love and got married!)

My Mum and my Dad both inspired me too but I didn’t think they did when I was a teenager. They were just, well, Mum and Dad! Doh! Looking back though, how much of what you do is not inspired by your parents? They are the ultimate believers in you, everything they do is for you, even when you don’t think it is!

woman doing a handstand on the top of a hillAs a gymnast I was inspired by my coaches, Mrs Pollard and Mrs Marjorie Carter.   Mrs Pollard was an old lady – well she seemed that way to me as a 10 yr old – small, wrinkly, white haired and extremely agile. She could still do the splits and handstands.  I was determined that at 60-something I too would still be able to do the splits and handstands!  A few years to go yet but the challenge is still on!  I was terrified of Mrs Carter at first but soon realised her bark was worse than her bite and as I got older and started to coach alongside her I appreciated her determination, strength of character, integrity and absolute fairness.  Her belief in us all was absolute.

Olga Korbut – every gymnast’s idol in the 1970s. I so wanted to be like her, do what she could do. But it was Elvira Saadi who inspired me with her grace and poise.  She was the gymnast who “flew under the radar”. She didn’t turn the tricks of Korbut and the Comaneci, she did her own thing beautifully. I never met these people but I was inspired to train hard to be like them.

caver doing a handstand in a caveAs I left gymnastics behind, my new passion was the outdoors. In particular caving.  The old guard of the caving club were incredible. Their longevity, their dedication to their passion and their perseverance to keep doing what they loved was, is inspiring.  As their bodies grew old, they moulded their actions to their abilities. They caved less “hard” but still went out every week passing on their passion and their skills freely to any who would listen and accompany them.  They tell their stories, many have gone down in the annals of caving lore, embellished, growing richer in the telling.  I have moved on, I wonder if I was still in Yorkshire whether I would still be caving, but motherhood and a move to the other side of the world has broken the continuity. Who knows – it is never too late…

Man diving from a rocky outcrop into a riverNorbert Casteret is my caving hero.  Maybe partly because he is French and he links two of my passions? A highly talented sportsman he won many national honours in an array of sports; diving, running, boxing, ski jumping. He also explored more caves than appears humanly possible often with very little equipment. It is documented that he stripped off, attached his clothes to his head with a candle and matches firmly enclosed as he swam through sumps to continue exploration of caves in the Pyrenees. Anyone with that sort of dedication has got to be inspiring hasn’t he? But he was also deeply patriotic and risked his life in the Resistance during WW2 rescuing many fugitives and hiding important documents deep in the caves.

The last person who inspired me (not the only one but this post could get even longer than it already is if I go on!) is a colleague of many years in the UK. Actually, I’m going to cheat here and slip another inspiration in. Both these women, had qualities which I admire and aspire to. I’m still working on them.  Mrs Adam, a diminutive, white haired Scotswoman with half moon glasses who taught me Latin had such presence and commanded such respect that even the biggest, loutish boys at school would obey when she stood at the end of the corridor and shouted “WALK!”.   She was fair, had high expectations of us all, was always prepared and taught us with interest and passion for her subject.  Mrs Sue Cross, my dear colleague, just retired, had such serenity, her classroom door was always open, invited anyone in and her students were always clearly engaged in whatever task she had set them.  Her passion for French was, is, such that her students couldn’t fail to be infected by it.  She rarely raised her voice, was calm, firm, fair and stood absolutely no nonsense.  Of course, she had difficulties from time to time, don’t we all.  But she didn’t pretend, she asked for help when she needed it.  She accepted everyone and was generous with her time to help others.  And her sense of humour was infectious.

It is the human qualities of all of these people which connects them and inspires me. Their passion, their humanity, their integrity, the way they communicate with me and show absolute interest to make me feel special, their belief in me.  If I could go half way to being anything like any of these people, I would be a rich woman.

Learning #edblognz #cenz15

#EdBlogNZ Challenge WK 1 
Think about your teaching practice. How has it evolved over time? What are you currently working on developing in your practice? What tools have you used during this inquiry time? Blog about it!
This is a big question!  How long have you got?
Of course my teaching practice has evolved over time, but I think that I always tend towards my preferences and my natural style. That means that over the last 30 years I have responded to new trends, learned from my peers, reflected on my practice and picked and chosen what fits with my basic philosophy about learning.  I don’t think I’ve always been honest about the things I’ve found challenging and faced up to them.  Have I improved my practice, have I transformed my practice? Have I helped my peers and my students?  I hope so.
writing on a whiteboard table in a meeting
I love learning when I am passionate about something.  When I first started teaching I was so passionate about languages that I found it difficult to understand why 25 of the 30 kids in front of me really couldn’t care less about learning French. They were there because they had to be and some showed a glimmer of interest especially when they could get me to digress and tell stories of when I lived in France rather than learning grammar, and some were blatantly bored.  It started to wear me down after a while and I was forced to think outside the box to find ways to motivate, to inspire and to .. yes, make my life easier and more pleasant. After all how many hours a week could I spend in front of bored, resentful, reluctant faces and not get ground down?
I used to hate grammar when I was at school but I found myself teaching the way that I had been taught at secondary school and the way that I had been taught to teach at Uni. It didn’t really work except for the 5 in the class who were as passionate as me.
So, I dug deep and thought about where my passion first came from.  Way back as a nine year old my school was part of a pilot scheme for teaching French to Primary School children.  The scheme was ahead of its time.  No writing, no reading. Speaking and listening, practice and role play, total immersion and a very passionate, very new and very trendy teacher!  Miss Francis (now Larraine Biscombe) has clearly continued to hone her teaching expertise but it was her passion that got me hooked all those years ago.
Active, problem-solving, task-based learning. I had to fit it in with the expectations of a relatively restrictive National Curriculum and by no means did I suddenly have 30 passionate francophiles in front of me but some of those reluctant learners started to show interest, engage and I started to enjoy teaching again.
Fast forward to NZ 2011 and suddenly I find myself teaching Spanish not French. Not a fluent Spanish speaker, no longer the master of my domain and task-based learning took on a whole new perspective.  When you don’t know everything you have to make a decision;
  • Fake it until you make it
  • Man up and learn alongside your students

I went for the 2nd option.  It had worked with my challenging groups of low ability boys when we explored using computers, video cameras and digital recorders to liven up French lessons in the early 2000s.  Plus I am no good at lying and a classroom full of curious, demanding teenagers will soon find you out so honesty is the best policy.  We learned together, exploring, finding out, researching, teaching each other. The fact that I was taking a risk to speak in a language in which I was not proficient meant that they were mostly prepared to as well.

So, how does this link to where I am today?  At the same time as learning Spanish I was supporting teachers in my school to integrate digital technologies into their teaching programmes.  Using technology in the classroom scares a lot of teachers. They are afraid that they don’t know enough and will appear foolish in front of their students. Encouraging them to accept that they don’t have to be experts about everything, that they can admit that they don’t know and be willing to explore alongside their students is huge.  As we strove to transform practice and were discussing it over morning tea one day one of my colleagues said of how she felt,

“I feel quite liberated now, much more liberated as a teacher than I did before.  That I could walk into a class and I didn’t know everything and the learning still worked, in fact it worked better, being inspired by those experiences, that’s what’s changed the way I teach completely”.

So that’s where I am now.  Honing my craft.  Listening, speaking, connecting, communicating, failing, risking, challenging myself, improving my practice, aiming for transformation. Learning.