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Why we dread teacher only days

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

by Rebecca Thomas (image by Jason Rosewell)

Call back days, curriculum refresh days, PLD, TODs, Accord days, are all met with the same feeling: What new changes will we have to cram into our already burdened week and where will we spread this pressure in our work-life balance aerial dance moves?

Senior leaders and PLD providers spend hours awake reading through the new guidelines, policies and initiatives, wondering how to make the messages appear less daunting and more engaging - nobody really enjoys talking through PowerPoint slides, or distributing admin jobs and playground rosters.

Our most recent teacher only day to squeeze in at a time when we are all exhausted is advertised as:

Dedicated time to understand, prepare and engage with changes across The New Zealand Curriculum refresh, the redesign of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, and shifts to strengthen NCEA. They are opportunities for kaiako to share ideas and expertise, and to grow their confidence in implementing the upcoming curriculum and assessment changes.’

To help make it easier for schools there are pre-prepared resources and slides and PDFs to hand out and talk at, but ultimately the person leading the kōrero on the day only knows as much as you do - they just read it a few days/hours before you. They don’t have all the answers, they don’t know the big picture or the end point, it wasn’t co constructed with them in the room, they can only invite you to unpack someone else's guide.

Now this blog isn’t a dig at the valid information we need to process; it is not a criticism at the Ministry. One thing I have learned over the past few weeks is that driving a wedge between educators and the 'powers that be' by slating their initiatives and taking aim at their decision making is counter productive to the direction we all need to head for our students who need us to be united.

Instead, what I want to do for those people left to roll out and take charge on these call back days is enlighten them in the way adults learn: andragogy - it shouldn’t be a secret.

Maybe some of the following words here will make you use the pre prepared resources in more pedagogically imaginative ways? Maybe it will shed some light on ways to help us all engage and 'buy into' what is coming our way? Maybe it will build collaborative leadership efficacy?

Training and teaching adults is a lot harder than taking an assembly filled with hundreds of fidgety students and watchful parents. Teaching teachers to be empowered and engaged in any messages of delivery when their heads are thinking about finishing laminating that Term 2 display, not catching an illness for Easter, or re-organising that cupboard that spits paper out every time it is opened, will require more than chunks of allotted time broken up by a sugar laden morning tea.

When teaching/training adults there are some things that you can be mindful of before you plan what the day might look like:

#1 Adults are independent and strive for autonomy and self direction

#2 Adults bring a wealth of experience with them

#3 Adults use their own and others’ experience and internal processes such as: self reflection, environment scanning, interactions with others, to problem solve tasks

#4 Motivation comes from within, adults like to be creative and find novel solutions whilst working with others

In a nutshell teachers/adults learn more when they have some control over their learning experience. In response to the points above, follow two simple steps. Yes, they appear really obvious, but without them you run the risk of neglecting all of the four facts above.

#1 Clearly lay out the focus and success criteria for the day BEFORE the day arrives. It is important that the adults in the room know why they are coming together and what is expected of them.

#2 Begin with a story, your school story. Narrative Pedagogy brings together the joys, purpose and power of adults in the room sharing some mahi. Stories help teachers to see their own identity in someone else's world; it creates a safe space and distance for them to theorize. Which is why Engaging Learning Voices advocate for schools to, ‘Never Surrender Their Story’ as they face challenging changes ahead. Understanding your identity, the land you stand on, your tūrangawaewae as a group can then help drive and inform sustainable growth, change and development moving forward. Take time for this.

If you don’t take the time to unpack who you are as a school, who you are as a staff, what you stand for as a group of educators, it will be hard to engage with any changes ahead.

Our advice for your upcoming TOD is not to rush into unpacking the documents online, but to allow the stories of your teachers to be heard first. Give them a voice. Explore their professional identity, explore how the group/school was formed and unpack what that means to your community and learners, what common goals do you share? Celebrate where you have come from, and where you are going. Doing this will be a lot more meaningful than talking to someone’s materials to a roomful of tired teachers with no sense of identity, or purpose.

Pause before the changes ahead, reflect and review where you are all at, own it.

Take the smaller snippet from the MOE TOD advert ‘opportunities for kaiako to share ideas and expertise’, make that your focus before you unwrap what is to come.

To support you in this process any of the following tools have been designed with andragogic principles and narrative pedagogy at their heart, giving you a chance to pause, listen and reflect and helping you to own the changes ahead.

Disclaimer: None of these tools require PowerPoints or ice-breakers, just stories, fun and engagement!

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