Lessons learnt

We’ve been really fortunate in setting up our new school to be able to visit so many amazing schools. I think for me, the biggest revelation educationally has been the visits to our contributing primary schools. Not only are we fortunate to be based in a primary school at the moment, but we are also connecting with students and teachers in the other primary schools which will feed into Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

I feel embarrassed to say that I continue to be blown away by primary schools.

The students are so engaged, the learning is visible and celebrated. I am more and more convinced that all secondary school teachers should connect with primary, and probably tertiary as well. The more we know about each stage of education in New Zealand, the more we can share pedagogy, innovation and best practice.

I have been known in the past to fall into the secondary school teacher mindset thinking that the ‘real’ learning happened at secondary school. My thinking was turned around when I embarked on my Masters in Education a few years ago where I was the only secondary teacher in one of my papers. The ease with which these amazing teachers were able to draw on a range of research and practitioner based evidence to support their ideas humbled and inspired me, I have never made so many notes of things to go and look up in any other academic setting.

I guess that this started me thinking about my own preparation for education in New Zealand. Like most New Zealand trained secondary teachers, I completed my Diploma in Education over a year, straight after finishing my degree. It was intense. I really enjoyed it and I can say I learnt a lot. However, a few terms into my first year I was convinced that I had learnt nothing, I was ill prepared and the job as a shoe salesperson was still an option.  Further into my teaching career, this abated but I still feel that I have only scratched the surface in terms of what I should know or could know.

Therefore, another lesson I have learned in the last few weeks at Hobsonville Point Secondary School is the importance of reading. This was not new to me; I came from a school where big decisions were always based on sound research and as a professional learning leader, HOD and recently completed Masters student, I did my fair share. I think for me the lesson is that all teachers need time to read. I have really enjoyed the academic and professional reading that we are currently doing. I like to approach things in a robust manner and make notes to collect my thoughts as I go. These are here in case anyone ever wants to look at them.

The biggest difference over the last few weeks has been time. I harp on about it all the time. Time is my nemesis. I like to be busy and have occasionally struggled with the lack of frenzy (which is a usual lament of teachers in term 3).  The time to read, to think, to ponder, to plot and to plan has been invaluable and for me, has made this the most enjoyable term three of my teaching career. The difference is that what I am reading is so relevant to the here and now, it has immediate practical ramifications and sings to my soul in terms of the vision of the school. However, the luxury is that there is no need to processed and pondered by a set deadline. We have the must-do readings, the should dos and the could dos. If something sparks an interest, that is where you should mosey academically.

If I have learned anything in the last few weeks, it is this:

1. all teachers should have the option to do what we are doing. A sabbatical term to reinvigorate your practice would have so many potential spin-offs for students in New Zealand. I know that these are options for long-serving teachers but a school based sabbatical could be the way to go.

2. Secondary teachers should engage with their primary counterparts. Be humble. Observe and listen – there is a lot of learning to do here.

3. Read. Read widely and often. Read a variety of texts, from very academic tomes to Ministry of Education publications (these are actually really good)

4. Use teacher PD time effectively – talk about education, link to research where possible, talk and talk some more. When you’re sick of talking, listen.

Dali’s Persistence of Memory