Updated: May 21, 2022
by Rebecca Thomas and Steve Saville
''Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.'' - Bob Marley
So much has happened, so quickly, since the first glimpse of Covid met the world in January 2020. At that particular moment in time, we both started a new job with the same company as educational consultants.
Having spent all of our lives inside a school in a variety of roles, transitioning to being an educational consultant at a time when schools were locked down was a daunting career change. Without an existing list of schools we had relationships with as consultants, we both busied ourselves with writing lesson plans and scripts for TVNZ home Learning Channel, Papa Kāinga.
To us, it didn't feel like we were doing enough!
Determined that there must be a more proactive way to support our educators from our lock downed homes, we floated the idea of doing some online workshops to gauge how our leaders and teachers were navigating this strange new environment. It was important for us to hear their voices, so we could work out what support would be helpful. Our consultancy company, Cognition Education, kindly set up frequent free webinars as a way we could reach them; quickly we learned how to navigate the technology, as we listened to the voices intently.
Hearing the range of experiences and challenges schools across New Zealand were met with, we realised that no matter how unique their contexts, the disparities and struggles were the same. Schools and leaders were doing their best to support their communities, as the very notion of physical ‘school’ began morphing dynamically before our eyes into the online learning experience, and the world of video conferencing we are all too familiar with today.
Watching the world being reactive to the pandemic, we began tuning in to academic researchers and educational role models for some strength. No matter where we looked, everything seemed in a hypersensitive state. Frustrated and wanting to do more, we both felt obliged to give our educators a manual, or guidebook, to help support them in this time of need. The beginnings of our resource book, 'Which Voice', - that we created in our own time outside of work - began.
The book was a way we felt could empower schools to take action by allowing them to collect the voices of their communities (just as we had) to see how learning was going for them. We wanted a formative assessment bank of tools that were easy to follow, adapt, quick to gather data from, to help reveal a story, their story. By listening to these voices schools could then build up action plans, celebrate successes and forge a way forward without waiting for a government policy or health initiative to distract them from their core purpose of teaching and learning.
Wishing to raise a smile and light up the dark, we knew this book needed to add some humour to schools’ predicaments, The was also a need to build a bridge between academic research and what realities were unfolding in our schools. Steve began drawing some key characters and our ideas evolved into fictional, but very relatable scenarios. Werewere School - our quirky universe - became alive.
Keen to keep hold of our creative license and wishing to give our schools something unbiased, something created by educators for educators, and something in response to the real voices of the chalk face, we decided to self-publish and promote our own product.
Never having embarked on such a big mission before, we began learning all that we could about publishing and building websites. The hardest mission was to try our best to get our tool book into the hands of the people who needed it the most.
Two years later, our growing website, Engaging Learning Voices, has reached nearly 7000 educators across a range of countries, but most importantly, made a difference to the profession we love. You can hear some of the impactful stories our teachers and leaders have shared with us here on our Your Voice page.
As our website continues to grow, as we continue to create responsive resources, we promise to continue to amplify your voices - because teaching and learning matters so much and your voices, your stories need to be told.