Monday, 16 February 2015

Teachers Matter Conference 2015

I know it has been quite a few weeks since I last wrote- I haven't been idle but focused on enjoying our summer in New Zealand and preparing for our new teaching year. A highlight of January was preparing for and attending the 10th Annual Teachers Matter Conference in Rotorua.
Karen Boyes in action in one of the workshop sessions

The conference was two full days of learning, connection and challenge. 

Silvia Rosenthal-Tolisano, of Langwitches fame, opened the conference. Her call to action wasn't the least bit subtle, through sharing stories of her own life and family she challenged us to change what we do in schools so our children will learn how to learn in meaningful ways that they need to as 21st century citizens who are likely to live into the 22nd century. We need to see modern learning as so much more than just knowing more stuff. Her call to action was built on by subsequent speakers and so the conference developed a thread that went something like this:

We need to change:
Hey there super cool teacher,
I need you to help give me the
opportunity to learn what
I need to in a meaningful way so I
can thrive in the world
I will live in! 

  • because the world has changed and it isn't going to change back 
  • our kids have changed and they need something different from us now! 

We need to take risks:

  • our kids need to be allowed to and supported to take risks 
  • risk adversity is something we are faced with more and more with our young people and how can you learn and solve problems if you are afraid to try something new? 

We need to make connections:

  • with our students, with their lives and what is important to them 
  • through sharing our stories and the stories of others 

We need to change:

  • there are so many challenges, where do you start?  
  • just take one step on the path to change... just one step at a time... but do it NOW! 

Steve Gurney shared some of his stories to support the notion that risk taking is healthy for our young people and we are doing them a disservice by protecting them from failure. Steve is an adventurer, inventor, engineer, risk taker and in sharing his story conveyed that by embracing our failures as part of our learning journey we can grow and achieve so much more than if we sit in the warmth of our comfort zone. We need to find ways to let our children learn to get comfortable with the uncertain and uncomfortable. As Steve spoke I realised this is not only such an important message for all of our children but for us as educators and parents as well. We need to take risks too, especially if we are committed to changing what we do for our children, we have to get out of our comfort zone and into the growth zone by embracing risk and failure as part of the adventure.

My Gen Alpha... ready to
take on some new challenges! 
The next keynote speaker was Michael McQueen who discussed generational differences and highlighted some challenges and opportunities presented for modern teachers with the young people that now sit in our classrooms. There were many moments where I smiled as I related to what was being shared, my son is apparently a Gen Alpha kid and when Michael was talking about them I recognised so much. Our children now are able to access so much information so they have a width of knowledge but not so much a depth, as Silvia had spoken about the day before it is not about knowledge itself but what you do with it that is important (I loved the term AMPLIFY that she used when taking information/knowledge and doing something with it then sharing it, which I guess I am trying to do here) Michael spoke about our kids being connected, and that when they ask 'why do we need to know this' it isn't just to be annoying, it is a genuine question and "because I told you so" isn't a sufficient answer any more as the notion of truth has changed. Our kids can check facts online before you can even start to defend your position. He reinforced the need to share stories as a way to bridge the gap between their truth and yours, sharing a perspective of the truth rather than declaring it as an absolute.

Our last keynote speaker was Chic Foote, a passionate clever educationalist who is driven by the need for relevance, meaning and authenticity to create real learning opportunities for our children. She helped pull the threads together with the advice to start somewhere, just one thing, and then build from there. Just one thing.

In amongst these thought proding and provoking presentations were a marvellous mixture of workshop presenters who gave us some opportunities to explore different topics in more depth... all things that worked in with what the keynote presenters were offering us. Ideas and learning that we could take back into our classrooms and schools (and homes) to start shifting and changing. I am only sad that I could not attend more of these myself.

I was impressed by the energy in the room, watching teachers actively sharing their learning and ideas with others, participating in the various forums provided and reflecting on their own practice. I felt proud to be a teacher in amongst this group and wished so much that reporters and politicians would see and feel what I did about the teachers in this room over these two days.

Karen Boyes, founder and director of Spectrum Education and the Teachers Matter conferences, ensured that this conference was about honouring teachers as well. As Karen said 'teaching is the profession that makes all other professions possible' and so the TM Conference is about creating a place to energise for the new year, make connections, learn and be given the opportunity to be inspired by some fantastic presenters. She has done this for ten years with determination, energy and enthusiasm and I am extremely grateful to have attended and been a part of this adventure particularly in recent years. For me it was a wonderful two days that I had prepared for in advance and am still processing three weeks later... thank you Karen.

Karen in action 
Below are some poems I wrote during the conference to summarise the keynote speakers and thank them, as Silvia pointed out it was another way of creating and then sharing learning/knowledge which I hadn't considered at all but it makes sense... there are so many ways we can respond to what we have learned and share our insights to create new understandings.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Global citizen, global teacher
Digital diva, connected leader
Sharing with us, some of the new rules
That we need to consider for the kids in our schools
Embracing the MOST IMPORTANT skill
Learning how to learn, so we will…
Teach for the NOW
Learning anytime, anywhere, anyhow

Steve Gurney
Inspirational goal setter who breaks *some/most* of the rules
Steve has asked us to take risks so we don’t become fools
Learning through your stories will stay with us heaps
And we’ll pass on what we have learned with our peeps
Success comes from belief and determination in pursuit
Of your dreams and desires with the attitude you choose
Check in on your beliefs and the changes you have made
Be curious and keep trying. You could just amaze.
Failure, Risk and Mistakes are part of the trip
So get out there, have a go, try again and let rip!

Michael McQueen
You started us with a trip down memory lane
And illustrated some key shifts with generational change
Truth, Resilience, Affirmation and Risk have moved
So this sets post modern challenges for us in classrooms
Story telling to offer guidance and share lessons for living
Build confidence, allow risk and let go of esteem giving
Our kids are different, they’re switched on and know heaps
But keep in mind that it’s wide and not deep
They’re also plugged in, grown up and empowered young peeps
Changing climate of classrooms and parenting too
Teachers are changing so embrace colleagues older and new
For helping us build empathy across generations we thank you

Chic Foote
Thank you Chic for helping us to see
That we need to look ahead and at our own history
Overwhelmed is a word many of us are likely to feel
Thanks for acknowledging this and keeping it real
Thank you for sharing your stories with us
Reinforcing that relationships and empathy build trust
We’ve celebrated where we have got to and reflected on where we’ve come
Then we will take action so we grow and have more fun
ONE THING you said, take action we will
With ONE THING for a start up this challenging hill
Embracing the future one step at a time
One step is a start so we will all shine

End of conference
Simply the best is what we’re about
But it isn’t perfection we looking out……………… for.
The best are the learners, dreamers and risk takers
Those that connect and become mistake makers
We are excited, overwhelmed and challenged it’s true
And that’d just the presenters, so how about you???
Let’s take what we’ve learned, share our stories and grow

You are simply the best so go out there and GLOW…….. like the stars you are!!! 


  1. What a wonderful summary of a fab 2 days - thanks so much :-)

    1. Thank you for creating this opportunity for teachers to learn adn engage with so many brilliant presenters... I know you put so much energy into doing this Karen and am very grateful to you xx

    2. I am also very proud to be part of this great event- thanks for the opportunities to stretch and grow :)