A Focus for Change
In the beginning weeks of The Mind Lab by Unitec’s Postgraduate Certification in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning), we are asked to think about the New Zealand Curriculum’s Key Competencies (KCs). Using a Google Form each cohort considers which KCs they see as strengths and pinpoint those they would like to develop over the next 32-weeks of the course.
‘Thinking’ was the KS that I decided I identified with most. In a leadership sense, I perceived that my strengths in creativity and thinking outside the box helped to spark enthusiasm and positivity in others. In my practice, I tried to always be consciously aware of the metacognition involved in learning and considered how I might use this to lead a particular innovation or idea in a way that was respectful to teacher learners and helped them to make their own connections with the innovation.
When asked to reflect critically on strengths of practice, I decided to make a shift of focus toward designing learning experiences that focussed outside my own personal strengths. Up until this time, I had felt an inert lean in my teaching, toward activities of a ‘thinking’ focus. However, in order to facilitate the growth of well-balanced learners, it is important to focus on the area of relative stillness in our own personal growth – for me, this was ‘Participating and Contributing’ and ‘Relating to Others’.
“Exposing our weaknesses can be painful. This process takes effort. We must learn to feel comfortable in the discomfort of not knowing.” Renee Raroa
Key Changes in Practice
- Seek knowledge: I quickly realised that I did not have all the answers on this one. Colleagues, mentors, family, friends, students and professional learning networks play a big part in helping to evolve practice.
- Feel the fear and do it anyway: Deciding to make a conscious decision to jump into those situations where we feel less confident participating. Adopting the ‘fake it till you make it’ mentality means that the doors to possibility are opened.
- Relationships! Relationships!: Feeling part of a community and being connected to students, colleagues, whānau can make or break one’s ability to contribute. Feeling valued can be key to helping unlock our ability to participate and contribute.
So, what do we do when developing an action plan to reach these goals? Look for the unseen – those areas of our practice that we usually are not attentive to. Then ask questions. What were the needs of the community we want to connect with, participate in and relate to? What strengths can we draw on to find value in ourselves first?
Digital Technologies. This was one skill that infiltrated every learning area, however, the confidence of many teachers with this was very low. I had realised the power of online and collaborative learning through distance teacher training. I was by no means an expert, but, I had recently experienced firsthand the change in mindset needed to make that fearless leap into the unknowns that can accompany using digital technologies for teaching and learning.
Recognising the vulnerabilities that were present in myself and that there were different strengths and weaknesses for teachers at every level, helped me to make connections with my colleagues as fellow learners. I soon found myself an e-leader within my school. The next challenge was to take up an opportunity to become a facilitator of Learning with Digital Technologies for CORE Education. One year later I reflect on my target KC’s – ‘Participating and Contributing’ and ‘Relating to Others’. In my new role working across schools in Te Tairawhiti and beyond, I am relating to a whole range of new persons and personalities as I participate and support change.
“It is by working on our weaknesses that we experience the most profound growth.” Renee Raroa (2016).