Sunday, 17 May 2015

Failure to Launch

I didn't take a lot of big risks as a child.  I was shy and my mother was happy to let me sit back; she was disabled and couldn't run after us.  She adored being a mum and doing everything for us.  I remember being scared about learning to swim, playing with children I didn't know and catching a bus by myself into town.

All that changed when tragically, I had to stand on my own two feet.  I became a risk taker. I had to. I couldn't wait for someone else to do it for me.  I couldn't wait for someone else to lead me gently by the hand.

My husband to be took it to another level; he was happy to kayak over water falls or leap out of an aeroplane.  I white water rafted and took a kayak course (not my thing but I had a go).  I went from the initially scary arena of publicly speaking in a classroom to speaking in front of a hall full of people.

Having my own children brought home to me how much I needed to demonstrate risk taking: I tried things I had never dared do: luging, roller coasters, water skiing, leaping from a high jumping rock. I wanted my children to be risk takers.  I wanted them to give things a go.

The New Zealand Curriculum document has a similar vision for our young people:

Ministry of Education, New Zealand Curriculum, Crown 2007, page 8.

Being enterprising, seizing opportunities, developing life competencies, being confident, connected and actively involved, are all features of risk takers.  And as actions speak louder than words, it is up to us to model these attributes.  Teachers, like parents, need to role model risk taking.

It's something I think about a lot as I watch the widening digital divide and the polarities between traditional schooling and "modern learning" pedagogy.  Take the news article from AGS in the Herald last week:
The reporter misses the point about "bean bag lessons".  It's not about the furniture; it's about being lifelong learners and owning the learning; having a growth mindset and always telling myself that I can still do better, that I can't be complacent with the traditional. That regurgitation type assessment is not going to equip our children to come up with the creative solutions our ever-changing world needs.  Sure, our education system works for some, but other news articles in our media remind us that we haven't got it right for everyone.

And it is about me.  Everyone counts.  I first heard the term "imposter syndrome" a few years ago when I laughed when it was suggested that I could hold the workshop on "teaching as inquiry" for our cluster principals.  I didn't think I was good enough. But I took the risk and took the step.

Educamp Hawkes Bay brought this to forefront to me.  At educampnz, a group of New Zealand educators, who aren't complacent with accepting the traditional "winners and losers" model of education, join together to share and explore new ideas.  Just being there is the first step; they are there in their own time and they share without financial recompense. Often it means long travel and a tank of petrol.

The content is determined by those who take the risk to stand up in front of their fellow to share ideas. Workshop timetables are determined by the audience of teacher learners. Presenters present the workshops with little warning.  They are just happy to share and discuss.

You still meet people in the group who are "first timers" and feel nervous.  I hear the words, "Oh, I'd have nothing to offer." Yet others embrace them into the flock and remind them that there are no celebrity presenters, that we are all learners together.  

New faces appear on the Twitter feed and are followed by the old hands. Risk is encouraged!

And some of the content is about taking risk and trying something new.  Nick Mason (@fuse711) and Troy Duckworth (@tewakatroy) talk about developing learner agency and pedagogy in their collaborative working practice at Russell Street in Palmerston North.  They have gone much further than "beanbag lessons".

Sometimes it's about changing up something traditional to make it fit better with today's learners, as with Jo Makinson's Literacy Evolution (@JoMakinson).

Phil Jones (@MrPhilJones) leads discussion about the place of 3d printers - using today's tools today. 

So come on folks, have a go. Don't wait for the help sheet.  Don't wait for the directions. Take the first step.  The view will be worth it!