Around 400 teachers and school staff took part in a dynamic professional learning and development (PLD) event in Wellington in April, which included a kōrero from psychologist Nigel Latta about managing stress and workload.

Kuda Paradza and Jody Plummer from Onslow College at a teaching dance workshop.

Te Kāhui Ako o Tarikākā is a cluster that covers schools from Crofton Downs to Churton Park in Wellington’s northern suburbs.

Rāroa Intermediate teacher Abby de Groot-McKenzie is one of the organisers and an across-school leader for the Kāhui Ako. She says while there have been professional groups within their cluster before, one of the main focuses of the Kāhui Ako is having the opportunity to build relationships and share teacher practice across a pathway with a future focus.

“Most of the primary schools in the cluster feed into Rāroa Intermediate and many students then go across the road to Onslow College, so to be able to share our skills and talents across our cluster is going to benefit all the kids,” explains Abby.

The Expo was held at Rāroa Intermediate and Onslow College on a teacher-only day. Abby describes the atmosphere as ‘phenomenal’.

Brayden Ward, a teacher aide at Rāroa Intermediate, enjoyed the activities during the Expo.

“There were people, sunshine, and singing – we started with a powhiri. I think people felt valued and that it was done in a way that had that importance placed on it – there was a lot of thought put behind it to really make it a special day for everyone.

“On the day, you saw people making new connections, swapping email addresses and phone numbers. There was lots of smiles and laughter. I’ve heard that people are already contacting other teachers at schools around points of interest,” says Abby.

Sharing passions

Teachers were invited to run workshops on teaching and learning practices they are passionate about.

Workshops included unpacking the new Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curriculum, laser cutting basics, engaging students in maths and teaching through a te ao Māori lens.

“Because we didn’t put parameters on experience and didn’t frame what they had to look like, there were definitely a variety of sessions. There were some experts that had been doing things for many years and that was their passion; there were some beginning teachers at the start of their journey and they wanted to share things that worked for them,” says Abby.

Barry Clarke and Jeremy Coenen from West Park School got hands-on during one of the workshops.

People participated with open eyes and fresh minds, and found plenty to reflect on.

“What was really good was the buzz afterwards – it helped a lot of people rethink what they do and why they do it. It was quite a reflective task in that it either affirmed what they were doing – ‘yup I’m on a similar track, this is really good’, or ‘this person showed me a different avenue, I wonder how I could integrate that into my practice, or my teaching’.

“Teachers are time-poor. We’re pretty loaded with things happening in our own schools so it’s such a good opportunity being in a Kāhui Ako to be able to have that allocated time to connect with other teachers and other schools. It’s almost a privilege to have that time set aside to professionally grow in a different way,” she says.

Inclusive environment

Anybody who worked at a school in Te Kāhui Ako o Tarikākā was invited to attend – this included support staff, office staff and teacher aides.

Michelle Tietjens from Johnsonville School.

“It was a really inclusive environment. I think teacher aides got a real buzz out of connecting with other teacher aides, and being part of professional development where they can be in a classroom and feel they know a bit more of the background behind something, or they can take something away and give it a go.

“It put the lens on them as professionals as well because they work with some of our most gifted and challenging students, so they deserve that time and energy put into them,” says Abby.

Shared achievement objectives

Abby was most inspired by people’s openness and willingness to build relationships and share and reflect on their practice.

“There was positivity and motivation from everyone I spoke to. It really gave me hope moving forward when we get into community of practice groups around being able to hit some targets of the achievement challenges that we’re working on,” she says.

Abby is hopeful the Expo will strengthen relationships across the cluster as a community of practice, working towards four achievement challenges: strong and secure cultural identities and sense of belonging; wellbeing; empowered, confident and capable learners; and equitable outcomes for all.

“It’s really building that hub of support and relationships around those four cluster objectives, which will help strengthen us as children transition through the different schools from new entrants to Year 13 students,” she says.

Tips and tricks

The day ended with a presentation by Nigel Latta.

“It was mostly about stress after Covid-19 and how it affects us as teachers, and our students and a few tips and tricks around that. It was more of a light-hearted reconfirming of wellbeing to send everybody off with.

“It was a great day – it was great that it was on a teacher-only day, so it wasn’t an add-on. It was a great social catch-up too because people knew people from other schools,” concludes Abby.

Education Gazette, Volume 100, Issue 7. Reprinted with the permission of the Ministry of Education.

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