I kept it relatively hidden... but I applied for a new job last week. I love my students and the staff I work with at Heights - but it was a new opportunity. Something I'd been waiting for. Something I had seriously wanted as part of my overall development as a kaiako.
Like I did with Hobsonville Point Secondary School at the first #edchatnz conference, I fell in love with Rototuna Junior High School at the recent conference. It's not just the space, or the fact that it's new or that it would be an awesome experience to start afresh without restrictions of history or school culture, access etc ... it's a combination of all this and then the fact that you're collaborating with some incredibly amazing kaiako who want to create opportunities for authentic learning and authentic contexts and relevant learning experiences for students.
When I came out of the interview I naively thought it had gone well. I was all smiles. Buzzing the rest of the day. Surely this should have been the first warning sign. I'd later cringed at how I'd answered the 'What do you do outside of teaching..?' - I have a dog called Mia, a cat called Zo and I read a lot. ... Not the best. There was heaps I didn't say.
It had been a long time since I'd done an interview. I'd been circled before by some interested parties a couple years ago but at the time I was exceedingly happy with where I was during my time at Heights that I allowed those trying to entice me into a new position to ask those questions about change and my ideas for future possibilities without too much weighing on the possibility I might actually want or need to move schools. Because I didn't want to move schools before. I would love to stay at Heights for a long time. To be so embedded that I become a Heights institution. But I know at Heights I feel crazy comfortable and I've actually become quite complacent. I got used to the ebb and flow. There wasn't any BIG change in sight and I was happy doing my own thing in my class, with a captive audience for my terribly punny jokes. I've become part of the school. My students adore my teaching and am always having refugee students seek out my help or asking to come into my classes. It's just that we're taking such a long time to get to where I'd like to see Heights be at. I know we can get there... I just don't want to still be waiting well into my 30s... or 40s and then regret the fact that I didn't try to go somewhere else for new possibilities. I'm an impatient person at best when it comes to change, despite how patient I am with my students and their development and I need to keep pushing myself to be the best teacher I can be.
And so... when I got the call on Monday night after a day of absolute bliss and hope and excitement of a possibility... I was a little gutted. Because it was a lost opportunity. All weekend, even prior to handing in my application, I kept reminding myself to stay close to the ground and not allow myself to be carried away by the dreams and clouds drifting away.... I did... kind of. But that hope - it's infecting. That kind of feeling is something I hadn't felt in such a long time. There are so many amazing things happening in the world of education and I so desperately want to be part of it all. Despite all the cool things we do and learn about in our little space in our classroom, despite my students loving the learning, despite all of this.. I still would like to try my hand at something new. Always a learner... and this unfortunately (mostly fortunately now that I've had time to digest everything..) has been a learning curve. One which I will be thankful for in the future.
The morning after - Tuesday... I had made the decision that it would be okay. That I was okay with not getting it. I was still gutted for sure. But like anything, I'd learn from this. I was still trying to figure out what the things were that I needed to work on in order to get a job like that in the future, but I went to school, heavy hearted, knowing full well my students and colleagues would bolster me and reenergise me. Reminding me why I love teaching. Reminding me why I do all this. Why I get so involved and so laden by the stresses and pressure to keep working towards being a better teacher.
I'd given my students (only my Y12 classes..as they had the most to lose with me leaving with their high level and amount of internals etc) the heads up that I was thinking about applying for a new job... I'd told them I had an interview... and now was happy in a way I could assuage them and stop them giving me dirty, upset and accusingly traitorous looks by telling them that I actually didn't get the job. They were beyond happy by the way. Gutted for me. Happy for themselves. I knew all this. And... now we're back to normal. I think now though there is this feeling of slight untrust that I need to nut out because I've made it my mission as a teacher not to be the one that will ever abandon them. Which is why during the interview I brought up the issue around the start date because I was uncomfortable about leaving them before their end of year exams if I'd gotten the job...
Yesterday afternoon I finally got the guts up to ask for some feedback after the interview and particularly around gaining a bit more clarification around what I might need to do in order to develop more experience in what was called 'extended pedagogy'. The term was new to me and I wasn't too sure what they'd meant by it. I get it now though. And I'm still kicking myself. Because I can SO EASILY explain myself when it is in this mode of explanation through writing. Ask me face to face though and I sound ridiculous. If we're talking about something I'm crazy passionate about - there are no stops or starts in what I'm saying. I can talk for hours. I'll talk your head off. No umming - no stuttering. I know I used to be able to articulate myself well. I did. Before. So... I need to build these skills up again. I've been using stronger verbal questioning skills with my students as a way to redevelop those connections in the neurons... and even so... gosh. Maybe I just need to suck it up and ask for clarification whenever I'm unsure rather than reverting to that meek, passive person I used to be while growing up...
The very incredible new Principal of RSHS called me tonight to talk me through some of the feedback around the interview. It was mostly things I'd already told myself off about on the drive home after conference... but the clarification around what I needed to know was that extended pedagogy stuff. It's not really a new term. It's the fact that I didn't really explain myself in the interview. I didn't show how everything was interconnected. I didn't answer the questions well. Maybe in that moment I didn't even really know what the questions were trying to dig at. It's the same rookie mistake that my students make when going into their exams. They completely miss the point. And I think that's what happened to me.
She mentioned about my strengths in cultural responsiveness and relational pedagogy - a section I didn't even need to answer in the interview as I'd obviously covered it in enough depth just by talking about myself and my manaaki for my students.
But why didn't I then use this as a base for all of the other questions? In everything I do... MindLab, Kia Eke Panuku, Restorative Practice, inquiry and goal setting, reflections, planning, teaching and learning processes.... this strength of mine is at the core. Because I connect so INCREDIBLY well with my students. Why did I think it was a good idea to nekeneke without any actual connection to the kaupapa? Gah. Ko hoha au. Hoha with myself. Because I know this stuff. I know it so well. I could spout off so much of Russell Bishop and Mere Berryman's research. I can explain the areas around the Mana Potential and Rock and Water programmes and how I use these as a base for my restorative practice pedagogy and empathy modelling with students. I can easily share areas around moments where I've shown high expectations with my students - they too can easily ariticulate this. Because I never ever give up on them. So much so that when I found out one of my students had left today and it was a massive surprise to me... my students said it was because she didn't want to tell me because she knew I'd be disappointed in her. Disappointed in myself that another student was lost to me. Lost and I had no way of helping them achieve their full potential.
The Principal discussed the answers I gave around how I'd dealt with conflict with a student and how I'd extend students, and how I'd use inquiry to form judgements based on evidence collated by student data. I messed these questions up because I didn't really get the question. I was listening for what I thought they wanted to hear... not for what the question really was. I wasn't showcasing myself at all.
I have no idea why I brought up the conflict that hasn't really been resolved yet with one of my students... It's still weighing on my mind. It's still bugging me that there is that space that won't be filled from her side where she is unwilling to cross and go back to normal. Why didn't I talk about how I don't call students out for silly behaviours rather than that one time I did and it blew up in my face. Why didn't I talk about how I encourage my students to push themselves when they give up. How I contacted the parents of one student when I was just getting nowhere with him at school in my normal humourous joking manner of prodding along... and found out him and his mates were doing stupid stuff to each other and how this helped open a new kettle of fish where I reopened the dialogue I'd created with these parents last year when I'd taught him in a junior class.
Why didn't I talk about the time last year with one of the most loyal students I have now? How she seriously did not like me last year commenting on her work while she was doing her resubmission. How we got on the same page with our frustrations of the requirements set by her teacher around what was acceptable... and how we tried to nekeneke by using digital modes for her assessment... and were both gutted when it didn't work... and she had to revert her VERY awesome assessment to something more basic, more handdrawn... and which although she achieved... she would have gotten an Excellence with her digital version because of how she'd edited it... How she has been an inquiry student for me for a long time because she has issues with accepting praise when she's done something well, or when she thinks she's not good enough... how she was a phenomenal help in our extra-curricular dance competition and raised herself to a leadership position quickly, being her humble and quiet self, and her angry and frustrated self when other students weren't paying attention to what us teachers were trying to say...How this year she has grown astronomically in her confidence levels and is beginning to believe in herself finally.
I know I didn't answer the question properly around how I extend students - I'd thought the question was more around the expectations of the parents.. I should have clarified the question to ensure I was being clear from the get go. I winged that question and that was the question which I could have easily connected with. I talked about how the students need to push themselves to their full potential. At no point did I mention I help scaffold them to get there where they can fly solo. I could have talked about our awesome sticker charts that we have in class that I've developed as an inquiry over the past two years and how these show the progression of student achievement and overall development. How these sticker charts, while back to basics, are a visual reminder of how we're going as a class. How these charts are a constant reminder of the students I need to pull up with the rest of us and the students who need constant pushing forward to reach their crazy awesome potential.
I could have talked more about the fact that despite my strengths being with encouraging my students who are struggling, I am also getting VERY good at more in-depth higher order thinking questioning skills with my students to make them think DEEPER and with a stronger focus around building the audience and overall purpose into EVERYTHING they discuss and share. I could have talked about how we've developed entire programmes together as a class based on student interests and how these overwhelmingly have enhanced my teaching as I've developed stronger and more in depth foci around my own teaching style and the needs of my students. How I've become so much more aware of my reverting back into traditional modes of teaching because of the restrictions placed on us and how asserting my knowledge around building 21st century skills in regards to collaboration, participation and overall thinking skills have helped to develop more enhanced learning opportunities for all students.
I also could have explained my use of assessment data to talk about my inquiries and how these relate back to so many different areas where I have strengths... how I created a Google Form for my Year 12 Alternative English class to evaluate my teaching and their learning processes. How the questions were framed in a way to ensure full student evaluation of their learning within my class and how I've used culturally responsive pedagogies in order to ensure better outcomes for all students. How this use of qualitative data outlined certain areas and issues in my practice that I had known but had ignored - particularly how I believe my Y13 students in that class will be fine, how I try to let them figure things out before helping them too quickly. How this actually doesn't make them feel safe or comfortable in the learning just yet. How I try to scaffold them to make them feel more comfortable and ready to fly solo. Using this data and the achievement of certain internal assessments to graph the results and then analyse the data in our professional learning groups showed that I can discuss the intricacies of relational pedagogy and more importantly the critical lens of AKO and Mana Motuhake. Why oh WHY did I not bring these up? Why didn't I elaborate further around this?
The last question I messed up was around integrated learning programmes and particularly how I've been part of enabling these. I talked about the Year 9 Heights programme of induction around English, Social Studies and Science. While this was cool, I could have talked about how I'm currently collaborating with the health and physical education department and particular colleagues to enable our students to succeed in both English and Health to ensure our students are making the most of their learning opportunities and how my fabulous colleague Sam and I have been discussing the need to share our resources (which we have at differing times - start of this year and a couple weeks ago) to help define the skills in which our students are using in our individual classes to try to connect their learning on a level platform - not so much single cell subjects... I could have talked about how I've been discussing the same kind of thing with my colleagues in the Music department about their performance standard and how we could use it for our Visual Verbal standard. More than just doubling up on the credits... or double dipping as others put it... how we want to change the way we're teaching and learning to ensure that our students get the best deal. That they learn that many of the skills we're all teaching in the different learning areas are actually connected - how they're interdisciplinary skills.
All of this annoys me.. because I know this stuff. I know it so well. I talk to anyone who will listen about this stuff. Because I believe in it so much. I absolutely detest deficit theorizing. I refuse to ever believe that a student doesn't want to learn. They just haven't been given the right opportunity yet. Sometimes sure a student lacks the motivation... but again this comes down to encouragement of their efforts rather than their ability. Growth MINDSET! Why didn't I bring this up - the Class Dojo geek that I am. Gah.
I think overall, like she said, it comes down to interviewing skills. I wasn't ready for the interview - usually I do so so much prep before I even apply to a new school. I embed myself so completely within their website, and any and all research I can find, that I know the mission and school charter better than many of the current staff at the school I'm applying at. True story. It had been a while since my last interview. I was nervous. God was I nervous. But I don't think I was hungry enough for it. I am now. Because that opportunity while lost... isn't the last one. There will be more opportunities. It's an expanding school. Next time I will be ready. I will articulate myself clearly. I will be clearly spoken. I will have a range of experience to gather from and nekeneke properly by connecting everything to my overall whakaaro. I will be absolutely sure it's what I want. I will dive headfirst. Because that's what I'm like... all or nothing.
For now though... my students are happy. My Principal is happy. My colleagues are happy too. It didn't quite feel like the right timing this time. It kind of felt like a false start in a race where I tried to outstrip the bullet in the gun before it was even shot out of the barrel. I wasn't quite ready. Eager, always. But ready? Not quite yet.
Ngā mihi nui to all those who helped me with my application. I'm sorry I let you down. I will do better next time. To those who supported me post-interview and post-interview result too - it's not an easy thing putting yourself out there and I'm glad I did it if only for the interview experience. Massive thanks to the leadership team at RSHS for the opportunity and for the chance to share who I am with you. I look forward to seeing where you all go in your planning for the rest of the year and can't wait to hear about the awesome things that will be happening there. Lastly, massive thanks to the RSHS principal who took time out of her day to talk me through the feedback from the interview. Not all Principals would do this and it meant a lot. Ngā mihi nunui ki a koe e whaea.