Thursday, 29 September 2016

Reflections #nzla16 and some navel gazing

Enlightening and thought-provoking - that's my summary on the 3 1/2 days at #nzla16. I am incredibly thankful to my school for giving me the opportunity to attend, and the TTLA Committee for selecting my proposal as one of the presentations. With my children being teenagers, they did not really care whether mum was home during the day or not (as long as the internet was working lol), so attending such events, especially when it's local, just down the road at Waitangi, is quite easy  for me nowadays.

Presentations and keynotes resonated with me on different levels:
  • Learning and teaching literacy
  • Learning and teaching in general
  • Personal
In my day-to-day life teaching in a y2/3 ILE, the first is probably top priority. As our school uses Sheena Cameron's approach to writing, and I also use her approach for reading, we had recently purchased an early copy of the Oral Language book which I had already borrowed and madly scribbled notes about (guess what, I now bought my own copy - highly recommend it!). Louise and Sheena's resources are very practical and user friendly, and their presentations added to what I had already learnt from the resources.
Another session that resonated with me a lot was by Andrea O'Hagan, called Seeing Spells Success. I had a particular child in our ILE in mind when I registered for the session, and I believe her NLP approach could be very helpful for this child as well as the other students. I will definitely follow this up further.

Most of the keynotes were extremely inspiring for teaching in general as well as on a personal level. +Karen Spencer spoke eloquently, as always, about navigating digital spaces safely, steering away from the icebergs as well as the scaremongering so common in popular media. I had heard Nathan Mikaere Wallis speak previously (at least twice), and I used to follow information from The Brainwave Trust, but more in an ECE context. It was great to hear him speak about brain development, learning, risk and resilience factors, looking at it from a primary school perspective. Having grown up in a country where schooling does not start before the age of at least 6, his explanation of how the brain develops, when the brain is ready for literacy etc. was especially interesting. None of us would deny that high expectations are great, but are our expectations, at least partly stipulated by NS, developmentally appropriate? I also had heard Marcus Akuhata Brown speak several years ago, and it was very thought provoking to hear him speak again about breaking through and shattering glass lids of low expectations.

Marcus Akuhata Brown's keynote also resonated with me on a very personal level. Internationally the common stereotype of Germans are a bit like elbows out, striving for the top, highly efficient, not being shy of blowing your own trumpet. Yet after 19 1/2y in Aotearoa New Zealand, I would find this very arrogant, and I really struggle to see myself as even 'good enough', leave alone talk about it out loud. What glass lid have I put on myself? How did it get there? Is the fact that I have changed jobs so regularly over the years, usually when I had started feeling comfortable in that particular role, a mechanism to keep a self-made glass lid over me? [An interesting side note is that in the legal sense I am actually no longer German at all as I only have a Kiwi passport nowadays, yet, anyone who hears me speak clearly recognises I was not born in Aotearoa New Zealand]. 
Another very important point he made was about the connection to a place we call home, a tūrangawaewae. While in his case, as with many other Māori, his home is where his family comes from, after a year in Australia our family has clearly decided that our 'home', our 'tūrangawaewae', is the Far North district, especially the mid north around Kerikeri and Kaikohe. I have previously thought and written about some of the limitations living in a rural, economically challenge region brings with it, yet we chose to return 'home' to all of this. It is where we feel we belong, and it is where we plan for our children to complete their education and spread their wings from. The Far North is the area where I want to make a difference and for what I want to make a difference - despite my accent :)

In preparation for #Ulearn16 I just skim read through some of my past Ulearn reflections, especially this from #Ulearn13. With the demands of my day-to-day teaching job I have retreated somewhat back into the hermit cave, but I can't wait to get out more, because if we truly want to make a difference to the learners we are working with, wherever that 'home' we are operating from might be, we need to connect and we need to learn with and from others.