Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Teachers solve problems - it's what they do!
by Steve Saville and Rebecca Thomas
‘Imagination is the foundation of everything that is uniquely and distinctively human.
-Sir Ken Robinson, The Element
Teachers putting their imagination to work and coming up with new solutions to problems has been evident throughout this time of disruption, providing hope in what often seems like a bleak landscape. They are the unsung heroes of their own story, swimming against the tide of despair.
Good and bad things happen to everyone, the trick to surviving the bad things is how we look at them and the attitude we meet the challenges with. Beneath the exhausted exterior, teachers continue to innovate and create in the face of a crisis. Thank you.
Watching their struggles from a distance, determined to be helpful, we have been offering teachers and leaders a range of quirky tools on our website engainglearningvoices.com in the hope that something we provide might support their efforts.
As we created the tools, we hoped that they would become a spark - never intending them to be instructional manuals or fixed lesson plans. Instead, our purpose was to design tools that would be the fuel for the fire; enabling teachers to continue to be magic weavers even when they were so tired.
Lately we have had the pleasure to see just how creatively our educators' imaginations have been used. Nothing has made us prouder. Hearing how the tools we designed have been adapted to suit the school's context and need has been a highlight of our journey. This is the empowerment we hoped for.
With smiles, teachers proudly described how they took our suggestions and used them to create their own narratives. One teacher used our Pulse Tool to explore stories around what they saw happening in the classroom. Whilst observing the session one little girl said to me, “Whaea, where is the teacher in this picture?” another girl replied, “Why isn’t it obvious, she’s the one taking the picture!” The novel ideas children shared about each character was unique and also allowed a window into their world.
‘The Pulse Tool’ from Engaging Learning Voices designed to help students talk about their feelings.
A primary school started to use The Garden Tool to unpack what they needed to do to give their students more agency. In another school they also innovated The Garden Tool to explore what their ‘weeds’ and ‘flowers’ were in mathematics. Using these weeds and flowers they planned lessons where children could learn, solve and create new learning to make maths meaningful.
A Secondary school also took the Garden Tool, that was initially designed for staff use, and adapted it to work as part of the re-engagement process for their learners. They used it to enable the students to identify their own ‘flowers and weeds’ as a way in to re-engage with school; reflecting on the challenges that they would face in 2022. One of their visual efforts can be seen below. The breakthrough moment came when a learner looked at their visual and realised that if Covid was not in the picture then they were left with a garden of flowers. The visualisation was empowering for the students as they were able to identify their own problem space and give meaning and structure to it.
All of these stories are a testament to teachers dedication, innovation and creativity even though they are fighting off sickness and trying to keep afloat with policy changes.
Physical school has changed dramatically over the past two years, adaptations made to systems and environments have been ongoing. Despite these challenges teachers have battled on. Now is a good time to pause and take a moment to show our appreciation to the profession.
The road to recovery will be long, there will be more obstacles to come; supporting wellbeing, dealing with learning loss and continuing to meet the extra demands. Think about how we can all work together on these issues… most importantly over the next few weeks of this term - smile and thank them for their bravery.
For our part we will continue to listen and respond with tools that schools can hopefully adapt to suit their context.