It’s about relationships.

Just a quick post to capture some reflections on one of the classes I had this year.

On returning to work this year I found that I had been given a yr13 “employment skills for job seekers 303 class” Term one was interesting. I was new to the course, it wasn’t very well resourced and the standards we had avaliable were pretty dull and boring. I had surveyed the class and was keen to co – construct the course for the year. My survey revealed that very few of them had actually wanted to do the course for its intended purpose of setting them up for employment. It was either “I thought it would be heaps of easy credits” or that they had to make up 5 subjects and that was all that they could do or they were just put into it.

There is alot to unpack in that and I find it challenging in many ways but this isn’t the place to record those thoughts right now.

This bunch also struggled with the idea of co-constructing a course. It was like the will to learn had been sucked out of them. So, I picked the most relevant and interesting standards on offer, made up the first terms course and we got into it.  After term 2, we set in place a structure where the students were interviewed to find out what interested them and then we found L3 assessments from external providers and my role became helping them with their learning. For some this opened amazing learning opportunities but this was probably a minority.

I was constantly surveying the students to see if their needs were being met or how we might do things differently but they were incredibly passive. What I deduced was that the value of school to these students was not NCEA L3, it was being part of a community, having a structure in their life, having a purpose. Some had pitched their tent and were camping out untill some inspiration about the rest of their life hit them. I should point out that this is a small cohort of students.

I found the situation quite challenging for  several reasons. Firstly, I like to set high expectations and to feel that I am contributing positively to students lives and secondly, there was pressure to use a punitive school system of punishment or coercion to motivate learning. This in my mind is why we have 17 and 18 year olds with no motivation to learn and to me doesn’t seem appropriate for students we are trying to set up for the real world.

To cut a long story short, I rationalised that it was better for these students to be in class with me where there was the chance they could glean how to be a tolerant and compassionate adult rather than at home on the sofa playong xbox. They might of even got something out of our “inspirational Friday’s” or the positive role modelling I was always mindful of. I learned a lot with this class and know I have a bit more to learn-not sure if I will get it again next year at this stage.

Anyway, the point of this story was to articulate that relationships matter. These guys finished school 2 weeks ago but today one of my students sent me this ted talk link. He was really difficult to get work out of over the year but I think he got what I was all about as a teacher.


2 responses to “It’s about relationships.

  1. Kia ora Craig, Your comment “I was constantly surveying the students to see if their needs were being met or how we might do things differently but they were incredibly passive” particularly resounds with me. I’ve have also found the same passive attitude in a number of my students who I’m encouraging to take ownership of their learning. My seniors particularly display limited personal motivation as such with their learning, it’s more of a situation of learning happening ‘to them’ and that they’re here for the social / community environment. I’d be interested to connect and collaborate on ideas you have in regards to helping students benefit from the community environment (relationships) of kura, while also owning their education so they’re no longer spectators.
    I’ve added you on twitter tonight so would be great to discuss in more detail if poss.
    Ngā mihi,
    Tuakana S.

    • Thanks for your comment. I suspect that this is a puzzle that might take me a while to figure out. One of my intuitive feelings at the moment is that from year 1 we potentially are teaching students (inadvertently) to learn for extrinsic reasons; either praise or fear of punishment and that this is destructive. My thinking is influenced by the work of Marshall Rosenberg on “non violent communication”. I have been Applying his stuff to all my classes since term two and my “interesting” yr9 class have responded really well. They started the year expecting me to “make” them do work. They loved every part of school except the bit where teachers were involved. Anyway, once I started tying to have empathy for them when they were struggling to meet my behavior or learning expectations and I started sharing what I was feeling and my needs that were behind it ie. i need to keep my job and I am feeling really worried that people might judge me as not doing a good job right now.

      I surveyed that class and they all noticed my efforts and wanted me to keep doing what i was doing. I am now always telling them how it is really important to me that i contribute positively to their lives and on the odd occasion some of them are starting to learn or be focused, not for my praise (because I will not give it – I will give gratitude tho) but because they want to contribute positively to my life. It’s the relationships and i guess we are getting the idea of “whanau”. not sure if I explained that very well but battery is low.


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