08 June 2013

TeachMeetNZ in Saudi Arabia

One thing I have always been spoilt for choice for in New Zealand at both of the organisations I worked for  (CORE Education and Play and Learn Early Education Centres) was the ample opportunities for professional development. Both orgnisations emphasised the importance of ongoing professional development and created an organisation culture that valued learning. 

My move to Saudi Arabia has been incredibly positive. I have met fantastic educators from all around the world and with only 4 months up my sleeve I know I have a huge amount to still learn. 

Recently on Twitter the EduCamp hashtags have started to pop up - #EduCampHB, #EduCampCHCH, #EduCampTT and #EduCampAKL. Upon seeing these I immediately felt like I was missing out on something and quickly subscribed to the hashtags so I could attend virtually. With the 9 hour time difference and the difference in working weeks I've had to settle for 'delayed coverage'. Something is better than nothing right?

Thankfully Sonya @vanschaijik caught wind of my desperate need for PD and invited me to the 2nd #TeachMeetNZ. Thank you Sonya! The build up over Twitter was incredibly exciting, the difference not putting me off (5am Saud Time and 2pm NZ Time) and the presentations on the morning truly inspiring. Thank you to those that shared a snippet of what their teaching world. Each presented shared something that I hope to reflect on and adopt in my teaching practice.

How wonderful is the internet that I could attend a workshop from the other side of the world, be inspired and motivated just as we are rounding off the academic year in Saudi Arabia and everyone is heading off on Summer Vacation. And I can revisit my learning because it's been posted on Youtube.

06 June 2013

Edtalks Reflection

For viewers of EDtalks

Which city do you teach in?
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Which sector do you teach in

Would you class your school as rural/urban or Large/small
Small International school

Why do you view the digital stories?
Inspiration, Provocation and Information

In what ways have you used the digital stories?
I have used EDtalks in a variety of contexts. Most of my use has been as an individual. I enjoy browsing through the videos, looking at what’s new and being inspired and provoked by speakers and their content. I generally look at the Conference channel after Learnin@School, Ulearn or other conferences and catch up on the keynotes that I have missed by not being at the conference, or revisit some of the keynotes that were inspiring at the conferences I did attend.

When working with teams as a Regional Facilitator for CORE Education I used the videos to support ideas the teams would come up with. For example, if they were interested in ICT in ECE I would refer them to Tania Coutts’ EDtalk http://www.edtalks.org/video/ece-and-ict#.UbDB3faSDkQ or http://www.edtalks.org/video/tara-fagan-why-ict-early-childhood-education#.UbDEOPaSDkQ and unpack some of the reasons why the team would like to explore technology in their educational setting.

In my current position as a teacher in an International School in Saudi Arabia I have used EDtalks to support some of the ideas/learning/teaching strategies I am using in my classroom. I then email these to individual colleagues or the team. The school has a website that is a base for inspirational videos and articles. Our PYP (Primary Years Programme) Coordinator who manages this site has uploaded/embedded or linked to a number of EDtalks videos so that these are shared with the wider team (4 schools on 4 different sites).

The recent EDtalks on Pasifika/Maori learners has provoked my thinking in the context of our new county and new school environment. My husband (Niuean) and I (Cook Island Maori and NZ Maori) both have had experience in teaching Maori/Pasifika students and have lived in Mangere/Otara (high population of Pasifika/Maori peoples) for all of our lives. After listening to stories of exciting adventures from friends that had started teaching overseas in International Schools we decided we wanted to seek teaching positions overseas too. We were offered positions at The KAUST School and after a lot of research decided we wanted to take on the challenge. After four months I’ve reflected on a few things:

International Mindedness: The great thing about living in a compound and being in an International School community is that there are no labels -  you’re Pasifika, your from Otara etc. Everyone is literally from all over the world, we’ve come together and we’re all very keen to learn from each other. The IB curriculum focuses heavily on the notion of international mindedness. Ive always strongly believe that celebrating difference is important, honouring diversity – being here has made me thing about changing my mindset – can we celebrate commonalities and the things that are the same about our cultures. Will this change the notion of them to us?

Pasifika  - Where did this term come from? When my own children talk in class about their cultural backgrounds they say they are NZ. Maori, Niuean, Cook Island – because they know these cultures/countries are very different. They know that when we are at various houses there are certain things that are acceptable and not acceptable. For example – covering our mirrors at night time is something they have learned from their Niuean family. No sitting on tables is something they have learned from their Maori family. They’re not aware that they are Pasifika. Has this term been used by education to ‘lump’ us all together. What does this do for statistics? And educational successes. In our school, students say they are from Saudi Arabia, Dubai or Lebanon – they don’t label themselves as Middle Eastern.

What does being here do for my children? My children do not know that statistically they are the struggling students. That because they are Maori - statistically they won’t finish school, and because they are Niuean/Cook Island that they may go to Year 12 but come out with no formal qualifications. They are in Saudi Arabia, making friends with children from all over the world – and they are learners.

For many years I have kept an online reflection blog. I will reflect on various aspects of my teaching, facilitation or ideas that I am processing. On several occasions I have used an EDTalk to complement my reflection or support my ideas. I have used this blog in various jobs – facilitator, professional services manager and teacher.  My online reflection is a valuable resource for my own learning. The power of having an online reflection blog means that I can include EDTalks videos with ease, such a fantastic that has made the process of reflection a powerful experience.

Some examples of the effect or outcomes of my use of stories?

• Personally
Every EDtalk video I watch I get something from it – it can inspire me, it can confirm my thinking, it can provoke my thinking, it can challenge my thinking. There are numerous examples of how these videos have affected me personally as a teacher, as a parent and as a community member.

Choose one particular story you have watched:

For what reason did you choose to watch this story?
I was unable to attend the Educational Leaders Forum 2011 conference in New Zealand but wanted to tune in on some of the speakers that presented. I chose this story as I had heard good feedback via Twitter.  The title of the video “Leadership and struggling students” appealed to me as a Maori/Pasifika teacher/learner, mother to Maori/Pasifika children and a teacher in a centre that had a high population of Maori and Pasifika students.

• What did you hope would be the result of watching the story?
I was hoping to get a bit of inspiration about leadership in general, and in my role as a professional services manager I was looking at supporting my team of teachers to interrogate their own leadership qualities especially when it came to our struggling students.

• How effective was the digital story at achieving this result for you?
Paul Dalziel’s quote -  “Leadership is not about doing things but about ensuring that things get done” was exactly the message my teams needed to hear. Leadership is about supporting others to be creative and collaborative, it’s about ongoing professional development and up skilling yourself. A simple message, yet so powerful – when we unpacked this message and what it might look like in practice in the context of our own centre it revealed a few things that needed to be addressed – how do we communicate with everyone (team of 7 teachers with different start and finish times), what does ‘collaborative’ look like for us?

As a result of this EDtalk I looked at other videos that showed up on the related links and found these to be equally as valuable.

Stephen Capper’s talk http://www.edtalks.org/video/stephen-capper-effective-leadership#.UbDkKfaSDkQ was a bite-size talk with powerful messages:

*Vision – where is the organization going? Is this still relevant?
*Empathy & Collaboration came up as a theme in both of the leadership talks.