Updated: Jun 1, 2022
By Rebecca Thomas
Experiences from Term 1 across the motu have something in common, they are variable.
We owe it to ourselves, our students and our futures to bring a conversation about, ‘what has happened to us/teaching over the past two years’ to the forefront. Engaging in this kōrero will foster efficacy and professionalism, as we slowly return to calm.
Creating dialogue between us, instead of being in a rush to move on, is where we will find our solidarity and growth, our resolve and understanding. Sometimes in education we move on, or are encouraged to move on, before we are ready and before we can find common ground to move forward.
After having read this report from Cambridge, The Covid-19 Learning Crisis as a Challenge and an Opportunity for Schools: several times at the start of the pandemic, amidst the chaos of Omicron, and as we settle back down to routines - I have seen something different every time. Experience reveals new things.
Initially, I saw the need to come together and visualise our problem space using voices around us - we did. Last term, I took from it the need to have tools to help us find new ideas - we created them. This term I discovered, hidden between the words, the reason Term 1 was especially tough for us all.
Classroom norms play a part in shaping educational practice. When these norms were forced to bend and morph with our circumstances it revealed the multidimensional nature of our 'interactional norms' within physical school, that in turn guide classroom practice.
For some, on a good day:
It may be normal to have 30 students in a room
It may be normal to have one teacher
It may be normal to have assembly on Friday, or catch up with whānau on the playground if needed
It may be normal to share kai from the same plate
With the disruption challenging some of these norms there may have been possibilities that began to develop; ‘possibility perspective’.
Maybe flexible ways of working; shared routines; efficacy; coaching opportunities; empathy and responsiveness were flowers that blossomed. Will the pressure to return to 'normal' prevent us from cultivating and nurturing these gifts?
On the other hand, some ‘disagreeable’ norms (weeds) may be brewing:
It may be normal to have poor attendance
It may be normal for students to be resigned about learning
It may be normal for gaps and disparities to increase
It may be normal to experience learning loss
Creating dialogue here might help us take responsibility over problems like these, creating dialogue here might give us ownership.
If we don’t take this opportunity to examine our norms, if we don’t take this time to share our experiences, if we don’t create the norms we desire to help learning prosper, we may find someone else is pursuing us to adopt their new norms for the future.
‘How did it get so late so soon?’
Watching schools return to calm this term has been the best thing about the last two weeks. Smiles replacing masks; sparkles in eyes joining together in waiata; powhīri in person; physical school is bouncing back as we interact with the people/things we love.
Extend this love, embrace it with an ethic of care that helps us to reconnect - not catch up, or get lost in a sea of paperwork. Spend time showing communities our schools love having children in it, but equally don’t miss out on opportunities that may have shown us ‘possibility perspectives’.
Look back and reflect,
so you can move forward
If you like, our free Garden Tool can help you find them.