Wow! 32 weeks done and dusted! It doesn’t seem like that long ago when we all started our Mind Lab journey and what a journey it has been. It’s been a challenging year both professionally and personally trying to keep up with everything happening around me. In saying that, I haven’t been alone as the Mind Lab has provided me with a sense of belonging. It’s been great being a part of the online Google+ community but even more than that I have really enjoyed being a part of the Wellington Mind Lab community. What an amazing bunch of educators and friends who are constantly pushing the boundaries both professionally and personally! Many of the assignments have been challenging not only academically but finding the time to sit down and complete them. Despite that, all those assignments were incredibly valuable (even the literature review which definitely caused a few sleepless nights!!!).
Reflecting is an important part of life. It’s embedded within our HPE curriculum and is something we encourage our students to do in order to improve. It’s no different for us- Osterman and Kottkamp (1993) describe reflective practices as a professional development practice. I even chose to look at reflective thinking and the Experiential Learning Cycle as part of my first Mind Lab assignment. As with any NZ teacher, reflecting on the Practicing Teacher Criteria (Ministry of Education, nd) comes with the job. I always find it hard to select one or two to reflect on individually as with most things in education, the interrelationships between the criteria are numerous. The two that go best with my Mind Lab journey would be Criteria 4 (Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice) and Criteria 5 (Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning).
So, how have I demonstrated a commitment to ongoing professional learning. I think it goes without saying but attending the Mind Lab and completing the assignments has made me far more aware of my professional practice and how to think more critically about what I’m doing and why. It has catapulted me into a Innovative Learning Practices committee within my school where it has sometimes felt as though I’m looked to for answers (I definitely don’t always have them!). This has made me very aware of the needs and fears of many people on our staff and because of this I have teamed up with another colleague to plan where we see value and where to next.We are both in it to help make positive change for our learners and teachers- it’s not a short term fix.
I guess this leads in quite nicely to Criteria 5 and showing leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning. We had quite the turnover of staff at the end of last year leading to many Provisionally Certified Teachers (or newbies as I like to call them) joining the ranks. While it has been challenging having many new teachers around, it’s also been inspiring to watch the staff learn from each other- inexperienced and experienced alike. I myself have thoroughly enjoyed the fresh take on things but have also been a port of call for our HPE newbies and also the not so newbies. Mind Lab has provided me with knowledge around change leadership and the opportunity/excuse to apply and evaluate it. I found this one of the most useful aspects of the course and have discovered that leadership, specifically leading change, is something I am genuinely interested in.
My next step for the future of my professional learning? Get a small group of teachers from a couple of different departments and get some junior cross curricular units in the pipeline for next year. The only way to learn is to do. I also want to get some student blogs/portfolios going. What has become apparent is that Mind Lab was purely a vehicle to kick start this journey. I don’t need an excuse to evaluate my practice or leadership (although nothing like a deadline to get the creative juices flowing!). The Mind Lab has prepared me with knowledge of where to go, who to ask and some key tools to utilise along the way.
Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California.Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files.
Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/