George Couros has opened up a line of thinking that needs encouragement in our New Zealand setting – in his Being a Void that is Felt he stresses the need for each individual teacher to view themselves as uniquely valuable and so if they leave there will be a void where they once were in the school setting.
This void is strongly centred around their personal qualities and cultural input to school relationships and interactions – however each staff member can bring their own cultural inputs that in themselves give the school strength.These qualities add value to their teaching and sharing of learning and make them unique members of a school staff.
In our Aotearoa bi-cultural setting with its multi-cultural future everyone who teaches needs to be creating their own valuable cultural impact and adding value to the richness of people as they grow through schooling.The void Couros indicates can be in New Zealand schools the loss created when a trusted teacher moves on so their capacity to grow success for Maori succeeding as Maori goes with them. The void can be built around a teacher having the personal and cultural qualities to ensure all students and other teachers they are interacting with know that teacher appreciates and honours them for who they are and offers them the belief that innovation and personal growth will be noticed and important to that teacher.
Perhaps all too often the real value of a teacher’s impact on students is best understood through their ability to tap into the potential of each student. This ability being built on a certainty of relationship and trust as well as insight to the individual student needs as ways of being. e.g. The Impact of Teachers: A Story of Indelible Memories and Self-Esteem by Robert Brooks explores the value and richness of teacher actions and relationships with students. The caring adult in these situations will be remembered for many years and there can be a void left when that teacher connection is broken at the end of a year or when they leave.
Contribute to Your School with More than Teaching by Jordan Catapano opens the door on how teachers build their contribution and in fact how when they leave create a void. Expanding contribution beyond the standard classroom curriculum is an obvious thing to do but am I right in saying that the OECD demand on teachers time for assessment and reporting is shrinking the time and energy available for these contributions to the school community? I can remember the teachers who coached me in a range of sports and their impact on me has spread through many years but I fail to remember a single mathematics lesson of consequence.Perhaps the obsession with data and competing with other nations is actually eroding our schooling impact.
There is a void where once the widely contributing teacher stood!!
In Communities of Learning (CoLs) the contributions across the CoL seem to require teachers to be full and rich contributors to more then just their school. Are communities built on the value added by community members? If so how can we find the energy and commitment to our CoLs?
Perhaps we need to give priority to such things and stop doing some of the other things that keep teachers too busy.
Time for shared reflection on things that worked well could be a simple start. How do you…? Why do you…? Shared reflections using on line media could be powerful in opening up our minds to the thinking and actions of colleagues in other schools. Short and regular connection interspersed with some face to face interaction may well open up the flow of possibilities.
Are we beset with formal planned interaction or do we encourage informal and more spontaneous connections across many levels of the schools involved. In big schools do we have a history of interaction across the staff or do we tend to have many islands of interaction? Do we actively drive the responsibility for shared learning so all at all levels are interacting? All meaning all staff and all students.
Teacher impact in our schools will leave an interaction void when a teacher leaves but this should be quickly filled by others engaging in communication flows – these flows not being the same but will contribute to the growth of the educational community.
In other words the widely contributing teacher and student should not be an exception in schools where time is deliberately set aside for thinking and sharing reflections.