Teachers are learners at heart: Part 2

Issue: Volume 93, Number 8

Posted: 19 May 2014
Reference #: 1H9ctL

Applications are open now for the 2015 round of study awards and sabbaticals. Education Gazette taps the thoughts of several primary teachers who benefitted last year.

Study awards and sabbatical opportunities can support you to complete further study, which will improve your confidence in yourself and your ability to get the best from your students – and that means increased job satisfaction.

Last issue, Education Gazette looked at the experience of two secondary teachers who’d been through a course of further study made possible with a study award; this time, we look at three primary teachers who’ve come back to class rejuvenated, and with an expanded tool kit.

Deborah Neal, Raumati South School

Deborah Neal took term 1 of 2013 off to undertake her final two papers to complete a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning Primary. She says that, as she had been working herself very hard completing one paper per semester on top of her full-time teaching commitments, the study award was just what she needed to put everything she had into the home stretch of her qualification.

The two papers that Deborah completed for her Bachelor of Teaching and Learning Primary in term 1 were ‘gifted and talented education’ and ‘teaching students with social and behavioural problems’. Learning components she studied included plenty of theory and practice in a range of education situations, which she says has helped immensely in improving her pedagogy.

“The papers I took have helped me adapt my teaching practice so that it suits a wider range of student needs. I have moved between new entrants, Year 1, Year 3, and Year 4 over the course of my study, and the knowledge gained has helped embed for me a sound understanding of how children ‘tick’, the importance of transition from early childhood education to primary, policy writing, and many practical aspects of behaviour modifications.

“I am staff rep on the board of trustees, and some of the study has helped in the understanding of how a school works (policy, charters, etc.) as well as having more up-to-date knowledge that can be shared. For example, we needed to work on how we help our gifted and talented students, and I have been asking for staff professional development in this area, which is happening this year. Knowing the process and resources available will help immensely.”

Deborah says that her study has given her new insight into what it means to be a young learner in what can be a big and intimidating world.

“The most important thing that has come from this is how it feels to be a new learner, and how it feels when you don’t understand what you need to be doing. This feeling of panic inhibits new learning, and there are students every day who have this feeling about subjects at school. I learnt to recognise this in my students and put in place scaffolds so that students know what to do if they feel like this. Teachers who don’t put themselves in a position where they are outside their learning comfort zone can tend to forget what it’s like to feel out of their depth in a classroom.”

The benefits Deborah has taken away from her time off don’t stop with her classroom practice. Deborah says that the study break has breathed new life into her, both at school and at home. “The time away from the classroom gave me time to... solely focus on one thing... I went back to school with renewed energy for my job.”

Susan Jull, Green Bay Primary School

Susan Jull is another teacher who reports that applying for a study award allowed her the freedom to get her qualification done, and return to school with new ideas. She received a 24-week Primary Principals’ and Teachers’ Study award, and she used the time to complete four core papers toward her Bachelor of Education (Teaching). Susan also completed two papers during holiday block courses.

When asked to explain the changes she’s been able to make to her teaching programme, style, and approach as a result of her study, Susan is momentarily stumped.

“Wow, that is a massive question. My study has had far-reaching implications for my practice and programme. I am now using much more peer teacher and self-feedback in my programme; this is always a challenge helping to guide students into quality feedback which will help to enhance learning and self-monitoring. I feel like I still have a long way to go as transposing the theory into practice takes time and perseverance.”

Susan says that, more importantly, it’s her students who’ve most appreciably benefited from her study break. She says that she returned to school revitalised, full of new learning ideas. Gaining a much more robust understanding of the teacher inquiry process is having a positive impact in her class too, she adds.

As has repeatedly been noted by the teachers who have spoken to the Education Gazette about study awards, increased confidence in her practice and ability has helped Susan rediscover her passion for education, which is surely the key to professional satisfaction in teaching.

“As teachers, we are always reflecting on our teaching, on how we can improve our practice. However, I am now more consciously reflective, running things through my professional filter, my values and beliefs around teaching, rather than just going with the status quo. I have returned to teaching feeling much more confident in sharing my point of view about things.”

Susan didn’t hesitate when asked whether she would recommend applying for a study award.

“Yes, yes, yes! Having the uninterrupted time to spend on study was amazing. To have the time to fully immerse myself in learning with fewer pressures allowed me to fully benefit from the study. Being paid to study was simply amazing!”

Cherelle Gibson, Clyde School

Teachers and principals can also be supported in their professional learning through a sabbatical. A sabbatical provides the opportunity to spend 10 weeks completing a professional learning activity, and the chance for reflection and rejuvenation.
Cherelle Gibson received a 2013 Primary Teachers’ Sabbatical and says that it was an opportunity to spend time focussing on something she loves.

Cherelle’s sabbatical project was to investigate and explore the use of ICT in the Junior School and enhance her leadership in children’s learning in numeracy and literacy at Clyde School.

Cherelle explains, “I am more aware of using ICT in my classroom programme, I spend more time sourcing new ideas to better engage my children in their learning especially the reluctant learners. I have more confidence in trying new ideas and love my class blog site. My children are getting more exposure to new uses for ICT in their daily programme.

“This break allowed me to have time to reflect on what I have done, am doing, and will do in the last 10 years of my teaching career. I wasn’t terribly confident in using ICT in my classroom but now I will give anything a go and I find I have the confidence to make something work or to source help! It’s very exciting!”

She highly recommends applying for a sabbatical to others. “I felt so humble to have been awarded one and to have that time to focus on myself and time for that rejuvenation was invaluable, not only to myself but to my children and future children I shall teach!

“It gives you the opportunity and time, too, to focus on something you love; I had so much fun putting my proposal together!”

Cherelle recommends that people think about their proposals very carefully in order to get the most out of their study, and to focus on a topic they’re passionate about. “Make the most of your time – don’t waste one moment as it goes very quickly!”

Visit TeachNZ(external link) to find out more about how to apply, criteria and timeframes.

  • Secondary and Area School Study Awards and Sabbaticals – close Monday 9 June
  • Primary Study Awards and Sabbaticals – close Monday 7 July
  • Secondary and Area Teacher Study Support Grants – closing Monday 22 September.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:15 AM, 19 May 2014

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