Sunday, 15 March 2015

The First Day

For so long, the first day seemed an eternity away. However in these last few weeks there has been a flurry of docs, emails, meetings and peer checks! Some of the things we have been nutting out are:
  • Attendance registers
  • Whānau information session
  • Learning Maps project related 'stuff'
  • Relievers
  • Reminders for the first day
  • Transportation
  • Devices
  • And, of course, planning day #1
Along the way there have been many discussions and reflections about our purpose (is it reflected in our planning?), our kaupapa (what about if people want to visit?). Are we clear to our audience, be they whānau, students, principals, colleagues? How can we communicate clearly and succinctly but not overwhelm with emails? These will be constantly evolving processes and we will ask for feedback to streamline this from all participants.

Whānau information session

We were very nervous and excited to be holding an information session for students and whānau of AoN. We had made a poster for each child which had their face and a statement from their teachers about why they are awesome learners. We got goose-pimples from some of the beautiful things teachers said about their children. These were displayed on the doors as people came in to our learning space.

It was awesome! Parents and children loved looking for themselves and others they knew. It was great to see parents from different schools re-connect. We were very excited to have our principals and colleagues attend, too.

We prepared a presentation to guide us through some information and then left the floor open for questions. Thankfully none were too hairy! People looked around the venue and we heard people starting to talk about what their hobbies and passions might be. Next time we would see them all would be our first day.

Day One!

The thought of working in an environment with two other teachers would have unnerved me a year ago. I would have wondered how it would be possible - lots of teachers like control and to a degree I fit into this category! This fear of loss of control led me to think of all the pitfalls of working in one space with others. Over the last six months my perception of this has slowly changed. This all started with going to U-Learn when I saw people co-presenting and listened to other teachers discuss working in a collaborative learning environment. I gradually started to rethink my viewpoint and focus more on what is possible.

Today was our first day actually teaching together. Leading up to the start of AoN we have obviously worked closely together, discussing, planning, thinking, rethinking BUT today was the first day in action! I felt supported. I felt calm - the feeling that you are in a team and everyone is working together towards the same aim was reassuring. I felt inspired, watching how Kelly and Clare worked alongside students and seeing their enthusiasm. The benefits of teaching in this collaborative way really stood out for me today. I wondered what were the ingredients that led to this? Whilst my experience was positive, I have heard of challenges that can come with working in a collaborative environment. So what led to us being able to work so effectively together? 
  • We had a common vision - in the initial planning stages of AoN we talked in length about what we wanted the students to get out of AoN. We knew we wanted the focus to be on developing active learners and we had rigorous discussions around what it meant to be an active learner. We were all on the same page!
  • There was a genuine feeling in the group that we were all there to learn from each other and a big part of this project was that we see ourselves as learners too. Not once did I feel judged, afraid to ask questions or worried about how I would be perceived. I believe this trust and openness is essential when working in a collaborative environment.
  • We have fun together - a few weeks ago we had our whanau evening. We were all feeling a little on edge hoping that families would be in support and that what we had to say would be well received. When I arrived at the venue Kelly and Clare had bought us all a fancy dress item to wear when we were setting up! (see pic!) Having fun is an important part of work and Kelly and Clare are really great at making sure this happens.
  • The respect for each other is highly apparent. We all see value in what each of us do and how each of us think. 
  • We know that we don’t always have to think the same thing; we don’t always have to agree and when we do disagree often these conversations are the most interesting to explore! 
  • Our collaborative reflections combined with our desire to learn and grow means that 'learning talk' is clearly visible in our conversations. This is exciting! (Teacher talk to improve teaching practices: Annan, Kuin Lai & Robinson
The above are just a few of the ingredients which I believe will foster an effective collaborative learning environment. I'm sure there are others. 

I am really excited to see how the way in which we work together over the next 13 weeks develops. I am interested in discovering what is possible in an environment where there is not just one teacher but three! Even three teachers can't hold the knowledge or expertise needed by 48 students! What happens when we start to introduce other people? Experts from the community? Whānau? Teachers from within the cluster? With the mind power of all these people surely the potential learning for our students is more far reaching? 

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