I always feel uncomfortable when people start talking about leadership. Especially if it happens to be in the context of events that have the tag ‘Emerging Leader’ ‘Young Leader’ or ‘Future Leader.’ Leaders have interesting things to say, leaders have responsibilities, leaders don’t forget to take the class roll after lunch.
I think opinionated geek is the most accurate description.
When I heard that #ignition2012 was happening during the April school holidays I couldn’t wait to book my flights vven though the dreaded ‘leader’ tag was attached to the event. The reason? Two days of un-conference .
Ever since I went to my first unconference back in July 2011 I’ve been hooked on the format. As a learner there’s nothing more engaging than being able to choose what to learn, when and from who. As an attendee I much prefer being an active participant at a conference than sitting as an audience member patiently waiting for the Q&A session to contribute to the conversation. Yes the person up the front might have something important to say but unconferences embrace the idea that the sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.
Which is what made #ignition2012 so exciting.
All those hierarchies that our model of industrial system of schooling built up over the last century or so vanished. At #ignition2012 it if you were veteran teacher of scholarship level physics at a large-inner city high school or someone in their first year of teaching five year olds their ABCs at a rural country school. Everyone was there with a common purpose to make New Zealand schools awesomeness incubators.
I love teachers from such a diverse range of contexts quite readily give up two days of their holidays to spend time at #ignition2012 learning and growing together. Nobody was required to be there and yet we were there. Some teachers traveled great distances to participate and the result was a giant melting pot of professional learning. There were sessions on e-portfolios building apps for learning and looking at applying augmented reality into the classroom. We discussed the Ultra Fast Broadband inquiry and talked about the conditions that lead to success for Maori students. In short it this was teacher professional development on steroids.
#Ignition2012 undoubtedly highlighted that the greatest strength of the New Zealand schooling system, institutional autonomy, is also its Achilles Heel. New Zealand schools and the educators within them don’t talk to each other nearly as much as we should. I think this is particularly the case for Beginning Teachers who can easily become isolated in our classrooms/schools with very little contact with those beyond our own bubbles. #Ignition2012 gave teachers an opportunity to connect with other teachers we would normally not be in contact with and the result was a bazaar of ideas to improve teaching and learning in New Zealand.
Moreover for those teachers on twitter and other social media, it allowed us to reconnect and put faces with profile pictures. It provided that real-life human component that is not there in online conversations. Coming together in real life is to quote the amazing @annekenn MAGIC.
What was really inspiring for me is knowing that there are other teachers out there in our schooling system who are dissatisfied with our schools and think we can do better. When I read about the latest policy developments in New Zealand education like the introduction of Charter Schools and Teach First New Zealand I often get despondent that the only new ideas for schooling are coming from the business sector. Ultimately discussions over how we train teachers or school governance is going to make very little difference to the shape of education. It’s the teachers who are in there with our students each day who need to ‘be the change’ in our schools.
#Ignition2012 shows that there are passionate New Zealand teachers out there who have no interest in perserving status quo in New Zealand schools. We know we can do better and in the case of Maori and Pasifika students in particular we know that system must do better. There are more teachers out who want to make New Zealand schools awesomeness incubators.
I hope next year you can come join us next year armed with your teaspoon.
“I honestly believe that the future is going to be millions of little things saving us. I imagine a big seesaw, and at one end of this seesaw is on the ground with a basket half-full of big rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air. It’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. And some of us got teaspoons, and we’re trying to fill up sand. A lot of people are laughing at us, and they say, “Ah, people like you have been trying to do that for thousands of years, and it’s leaking out as fast as you’re putting it in.” But we’re saying, “We’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time.” And we think, “One of these years, you’ll see that whole seesaw go zooop in the other direction.” And people will say, “Gee, how did it happen so suddenly?” Us and all our little teaspoons…” Pete Seeger.
My profound thanks goes to the organizers of #ignition2012 in particular to @mosbourne and the crew at Albany Senior High School. A big shout out also goes to Russell Stanners, Tony Bacon and Abbie Reynolds from @vodafoneNZ for supporting my attendance.