It was a simple concept based on a timeless principle, blessed to be a blessing. The idea for the conference came about last year. In 2015 I became an Apple Distinguished Educator. This was exciting for me, not because of the title or recognition, rather because of the community of exemplary educators and innovative ideas which I would now be immersed in. I could not wait for the opportunity to sit in
the same room with as many like-minded educators as I could and harvest from them what they were doing in their classrooms and schools. The power of conversation. The joy of inspiration.
My Christian upbringing and fundamental belief that we are not here on Earth to live a selfish existence continually leads me to question how we can help others. So, while I could not wait to get everyone together I really hoped we could use this gathering to bless and inspire others.
An opportunity to take the quality of educators who would be meeting at Elim Christian College and the ‘Blessed to be a Blessing’ principle and somehow unleash the collective experiences and innovative thinking on our local community. Hence the birthing of the concept for the two-day gathering, INSPiRED_2_INSPiRE.
My greatest hope, beyond the impact of this past weekend, is that similar gatherings would be replicated up and down New Zealand.
The actual INSPiRED_2_INSPiRE gathering happened over two days. The first day was the gathering of the Apple Distinguished Educators in an informal conversation. We shared what we were doing in our classes. What we were doing right now that excited us about innovative education (‘innovative education’ was the theme of the get together) and what each of us was looking to as the ‘next big thing’ in education.
Our Friday was filled with detailed stories of how innovation in the classroom was raising both achievement and engagement for all students. How innovative approaches to education were affecting the nation's most vulnerable children in a decile 1A school in Napier, how the development of school TV station was allowing for the development of competencies a new level of engagement in the local community of a school in Dunedin and how teachers were using the golden hours of the day (5am to 7am) to create resources. Resources which are having an impact on not just their own students but a global community. There were stories of ADEs who were involved in redefining education for people in the most deprived communities on the planet. Yes, the conversation was indeed inspirational.
So many inspirational stories, so many inspirational educators in the room. I was taken with what it actually was it was that made each of these educators inspirational. The underlying behaviour of all those who shared the room was one of the belief that if we took the time out to UNTHINK what we ‘know’ in education and rebuild it from a perspective of what is best for our students we just might make a positive difference to our students.
Each teacher and educational leader in the room believed what they did in their classroom yesterday informed what we would do today. What we did yesterday was definitely not the blueprint for today. This is true reflective practice. Dr Carol Dweck would affirm that each of the educators in the room would have a Growth Mindset.
They were all educators who did not allow ‘what I’ve always done’ influence what they did in the classroom. An understanding of how students learn and how to best engage them in the learning process was fundamentally important in planning. Understanding of metacognition and how to effectively use tools are much, much more important for these educators than how they taught the same unit in the past. Whether formalised or not, the innovative educators in the room with me all had very effective teaching as inquiry processes in place.
This process was supported with curiosity in how technology can be effectively used in the classroom. It was an honour to begin the same room as many educators who were prepared to sacrifice their own time to give their students the best shot at success. Not only their own students but through the resources they create and share, students on a global scale.
We may be a small country but our ideas have always been large.
While day one of the gathering was indeed inspirational and a blessing, day two exceeded all expectations.
As planned, we opened the door of our conversations and ideas for Saturday Morning. And as a result, 100 educators mainly from our local East Auckland community walked through the door for their own dose of inspiration. Each of the Day One educators shared their best practices in a series of workshops. It was a thing of beauty. Inspired educators inspiring educators. Everyone left the morning with new ideas for their classroom on Monday.
The idea is simple. To get a group of the best educators in a particular field of education in a room to share best practise and hopes for the future. Then open the doors to the wider community. Create a space for inspired educators to inspire other educators. Our INSPiRED_2_INSPiRE mini-conference will be held in Napier next year. However between now and then it would be incredible if someone would host the nation's most inspired literacy teachers, someone else the nation's most inspired accounting educators and someone else the nation's most inspired SENCOs. Host them for an inspiring conversation together and then open the door to the local community so other educators can be inspired by the collective wisdom and experience of the group.
We are blessed to be a blessing. We are inspiring to inspire.