I was fortunate to attend the keynote by Chrissie Butler where she challenged us to take a mental walk around our schools and their environments as she spoke. She spoke of us as educators as developing an acute sensitivity to individual differences in order to drive design decisions. This means that we should be looking for a framework to support the deliberate design for variability. As a teacher, I should be providing options for recruiting interest, optimising individual choice and selecting options to help minimise distractions.
She really challenged me in my thinking of how am I using our environment to do so and as I was frantically tidying up tables and chairs after our presentation, I stopped and thought about some of the following points in her presentation:
- What defines the bicultural space? How are the learners' individual stories being represented? Are there spaces for everyone to make connections? Does it feel like a safe environment to meet the needs of the whole person?
- This safety extends to both gender and sexualities - Chrissie challenged us to stop speaking in the binary and more as a 'we'. This also links with being a community.
- Equitable access for all - she shared a great quote from Timoti Harris: 'Steps will naturally exclude some, a ramp allows all to enter'. Again I have started to look at our space with a new lens and will continue to observe throughout the first few weeks of this term.
- Sensitivity to sensory needs - it was great to be reminded of this as I feel that I have become accustomed to the background noise in the hubs. For some learners, this is a major distraction so how can we use the space more effectively to support them with their learning? It also made me more mindful of the learners that use the noise to slip into the background. Are there ways that I can connect with these learners in a way that enables them to feel comfortable but also makes me more aware of their needs when teaching?
This final quote from the presentation really stuck out for me - 'Nothing for me without me.' I do centre my practice around using student voice however as I was putting the tables and chairs back into the spaces that they sat for Term One, I had to walk away. This notion is key as I am not the only individual in the space and our learners needs to feel that they have a voice in the design of their space. So instead of finishing the task, I just made sure things were back in an orderly fashion where we could use some time next week to look at the design and see if we can improve on anything for Term Two. I am looking forward to the learners' input and feedback as I know they will have some great insight into how they want this to look like!
After the keynote, Latai and I were able to share with a group about our journeys so far as beginning teachers in an ILE. This was the 2.0 version of a presentation we gave last year at the University of Auckland We asked the group to share with us the reasons why they chose to attend our session and it was a mix of those who were also new to teaching or those who had or were transitioning into an ILE setting. Feedback from the previous year was that people appreciated the stories that teachers told about real life situations so one of the main activities we ran was giving groups scenarios that they discussed and brought back to the wider group to share. These scenarios were examples from our first year and after everyone shared, we gave our insights based on our experiences.
I was grateful for the opportunity to present as I do need the practice of public speaking however co presenting takes a bit of the nerves away and this was a good example of how hub teams work together to complement each others' abilities as well as the generating and sharing of collective insights.