Tuakana teina and mentoring

I’ve just read this blog post from Karyn Gray: Ma te tuakana te teina e totika. Ma te teina te tuakana e totika.

It’s well worth a read, but I really wanted to share one key point from it.

Karyn talks about some of her mentors and mentions that 3 of them are younger than her and some are less experienced, but this does not matter. Karyn is still able to learn from them and be challenged.

“Tuakana teina is not about age or even about experience. Its about knowing who is going to challenge you in a constructive way and help you continue to learn regardless of your position or theirs.”

This is mentoring. This is the mentor/mentee relationship. It’s also a reminder that both the mentor and the mentee can benefit from this relationship.

In my wider work I often work with teachers/school leaders who have far more experience (and age) than I do. Sometimes I wonder how I can be helping/supporting/guiding them, and yes, nerves can be there sometimes! This post has reminded me that we ALL have something to offer. It’s also not about having all the answers but working together to work through the issue/focus they currently have.

Should the Key Competencies be integrated into teacher professional learning?

10191190673_2cba7027f9_zI’ve been working on a workshop for use in a school around integrating the key competencies (KCs) into learning using digital technologies. This got me thinking about whether I should be purposefully considering the KCs in regards to teacher professional learning.

Question: Should the Key Competencies be integrated into teacher professional learning?

  • Are the KCs only relevant to school age students?
  • As a lifelong learner, shouldn’t I also be wanting to continue to develop these competencies in myself?

The Key Competencies page from the New Zealand Curriculum website states (emphasis mine):

People use these competencies to live, learn, work, and contribute as active members of their communities. More complex than skills, the competencies draw also on knowledge, attitudes, and values in ways that lead to action. They are not separate or stand-alone. They are the key to learning in every learning area.

The competencies continue to develop over time, shaped by interactions with people, places, ideas, and things.

Let’s take a look at the KCs… (all quotes below from Key Competencies page on NZC website)

Thinking

Thinking is about using creative, critical, and metacognitive processes to make sense of information, experiences, and ideas. These processes can be applied to purposes such as developing understanding, making decisions, shaping actions, or constructing knowledge. Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of this competency.

In teacher professional learning, I don’t want teachers to take everything at face value. I want them to think, to question, to critically examine what is being suggested/demonstrated. I want them to question their own ideas, beliefs, philosophies and practices. It sounds obvious, but teachers have got to continue thinking critically. It’s a part of growing professionally.

Using language, symbols, and texts

Using language, symbols, and texts is about working with and making meaning of the codes in which knowledge is expressed. Languages and symbols are systems for representing and communicating information, experiences, and ideas. People use languages and symbols to produce texts of all kinds: written, oral/aural, and visual; informative and imaginative; informal and formal; mathematical, scientific, and technological.

Teachers do this daily. Not only do they support students to make meaning of the codes expressed in learning material, they also have to interpret the codes given through student body language, sometimes jumbled ideas/questions and more. In teacher professional learning it’s important for teachers to be able to make meaning of what is being shared within their own contexts for their particular group of students and their needs.

Managing self

This competency is associated with self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners. It is integral to self-assessment.

If I’m running a teacher professional development workshop it is usually made quickly clear to me those teachers who don’t have a “can-do” attitude (at least towards the digital technology I’m using/introducing). They are nervous, and quite honestly, some of them don’t appear to see themselves as capable learners. Until now, I’ve always considered this as simply a lack of confidence but perhaps it’s more than that? It makes me wonder what I can do to help teachers manage themselves and boost their self-motivation.

Relating to others

Relating to others is about interacting effectively with a diverse range of people in a variety of contexts. This competency includes the ability to listen actively, recognise different points of view, negotiate, and share ideas.

Going into different schools is straight away putting myself in front of a “diverse range of people in a variety of contexts”. So I can see this important to me. For teachers in those settings, I guess I make that context change. Our teachers though will always have a diverse range of people in front of them and (at least) each year will have a different range of people as classes change. While the context might seem the same each year (it’s their classroom after all), the fact their is a new range of students means that the context will change. Those students have different needs and it’s so important that teachers continue to be able to relate to others.

Participating and contributing

This competency is about being actively involved in communities. Communities include family, wh?nau, and school and those based, for example, on a common interest or culture. They may be drawn together for purposes such as learning, work, celebration, or recreation. They may be local, national, or global. This competency includes a capacity to contribute appropriately as a group member, to make connections with others, and to create opportunities for others in the group.

This is big for me. When in a teacher professional learning situation it is quite important that those in the room are able and willing to participate and contribute otherwise the session can fall flat very quickly. Yes, there is a need for good facilitation, but the active involvement is also critical. It’s also important that teachers don’t wall themselves off in their classroom but become involved in their school community both on campus and with the wider community. Being actively involved in subject associations, as well as professional learning networks (PLN) is so important to help ensure we continue to be lifelong learners and continue to think and question what we (and others) are doing for our students. How can we grow effectively without making those connections to others?

My challenge

So now the challenge to myself is to ensure that I purposefully consider how the KCs can be integrated into the professional learning workshops I facilitate. I need to think about how I am helping those I’m working with grow professionally.

 

Image source: Flickr – Denise Krebs CC BY 2.0

Stop finding solutions!

How To Escape Problems
I mentioned in an earlier post that I want to question more. This includes in my general day-to-day work. I’ve still got a long way to go with it, however both as a facilitator and virtual mentor I see the need to ask good questions and even answer questions with a question to guide whoever I’m working with to find their own solutions.

I was just thinking about how I seem to be hard-wired to try to find solutions. It’s a bit like what the marriage/relationship books say. When your wife comes to tell you a problem she doesn’t want you to fix it! Except… I think that often when teachers/school leaders are telling me a problem they are wanting me to come up with a solution.

But is that my job? Am I there to solve their problems or perhaps to help them see things in a different light?

While I’m not likely to come out with a, “this is the answer you’ve been looking for!”, I do suggest things that they could try or give examples of other schools or teachers that might help. But perhaps I need to be putting things back on them a little more? Should I be questioning their questions? Or maybe paraphrasing or rephrasing what they have told me so that they can hear a slightly different perspective?

Somewhere I can work on this is at home. My children often come to me and my wife and tell them a problem they have. They often don’t ask for help or sometimes even try to find a solution to their problem. I will often try to guide them to find their own solutions (with varying degrees of success).

I know that sometimes I just need someone to bounce ideas and thoughts off of. Perhaps we should be doing this more. Help guide those we work with, whether they be children, teenagers or adults, to find their own solutions instead of relying on others to always be there to help them out.

What do you do when people come to you with their problems?