Thursday, April 21, 2005
Innovative Conference: 'Embracing the Unknown'.
I have just returned from the ‘deep south’ – Invercargill, where I was one of a number of New Zealand educators presenting at the Southland ICT2 Conference, ‘Imaginative and Lifelong Thinkers’.
It was by any criteria a wonderful experience and we all learnt things as well!
It was great to be part of a teacher’s conference which had such a clear focus on teaching and learning and, although I couldn’t attend other people workshops, from what I heard they were all appreciated. Certainly I enjoyed my part in the programme.
According to Marlene Campbell, the Conference Convener, it was to be chance for Southland teachers to reflect on their daily practice and to help them focus on issues facing their students in the future. It was also an opportunity for teachers to ‘bridge the crevasse of what we need to do to create happy, successful and resilient student learners’ and for their classrooms to ‘walk the talk of innovation and change’.
It was also an opportunity for teachers to break down the isolation between each other by sharing whatever new knowledge they gained. Over 400 teachers, 96% from Southland, took advantage of the opportunity and there was even a waiting list! It was an impressive turn out.
Keynotes provided excellent motivation. Dr Sven Henson introduced the concept of resilience as a key competence – and how the unity between the brain, the body and emotions interact to drive creativity, decisions and action. American Educators, Renate and Geoffrey Caine, covered the general principles of learning, based on brain research, that provide powerful and reassuring ideas for the teachers present. Learning is natural – the secret is to tap into and develop further students natural learning traits. Why is it that traditional or academic learning fail to capitalize on these natural abilities?
Barbara Coloroso gave a dynamic presentation about the importance of treating students with respect and the need to give them a positive sense of personal power in their own lives. Students, she believes, can make appropriate choices to enable them to stand up for themselves and exercise their own rights while respecting the legitimate needs of others. Barbara’s presentation was illustrated by such events as the Columbine school shootings!
Michael Parmenter, who lived his early years in Southland, concluded the Conference with a dramatic and inspiring ‘presentation’ relating to the story of his own life. It was all about the importance of creativity. Michael’s life has not been an easy one but what stood out as a lesson for us all as educators was the importance of valuing each student’s talents, passions, dreams and creativity. In Michael’s case it was dance. Currently he is being acclaimed for presenting his own story in a creative and inspirational way.
Resilience, natural learning, respecting students, and creativity were the vital themes of the conference - and of course collegiality and fun. Marlene and her committee did a great job! Thanks Alison, Kerry (superb MC!), Alan, Peter and Dave.
I sense that teachers are once again, after a decade of educational confusion, adding their voices to the educational debate. Southland has the leadership and teachers who could well make Southland a national centre of educational innovation. Southland could become the ‘envy of their northern colleagues’ in the words of the president of their sponsors the Invercargill Licensing Trust.
I hope so. I would be happy to return – even if for the wonderful Southern hospitality!