Yes, welcome to Ease Education.
So, why Ease Education?
That’s easy. I love teaching. I love working with children. And recently, I started to enjoy it even more.
The catalyst for my new found passion for teaching came about when I began working with younger children. I had to quickly update my curriculum knowledge and adapt it to cater to those younger minds. At the same time though, I noticed something interesting; regardless of the age group that I was working with, there was one ‘thing’ that didn’t change.
That ‘thing’ was, ‘the role of positive relationships in fostering great learning’. Regardless of what level the children were at ‘developmentally’, it became increasingly apparent to me that the way we related to one another was the critical and constant factor in determining the quality of the learning that was going on.
The role and importance of ‘relationship’ was not a new thing to me. But that shift in year level gave me a stronger sense of its value. By this stage in my teaching career, I had had enough experience at ‘the chalkface’ to have gathered, what I considered to be, a relatively high level of expertise and confidence in teaching. This left me with some spare capacity to be able to reflect more critically and effectively on my teaching practice.
A couple of other things also happened around that time too.
I could feel that I was at risk of burning out. I knew that I couldn’t sustain such a high level of input, and remain in teaching over the long term. It wasn’t sustainable for myself or my family. I had to start working smarter, and do so without compromising the children’s learning.
I also became better at listening; to experts, to researchers, to colleagues, to parents and most importantly, to children. What a revelation. The impact of better listening was profound. Combined with the other factors, the change in my teaching style and the quality of the learning taking place was truly transformative.
Mind you, the classroom still feels chaotic. But in a more calm way. It still feels exhausting. But in a more rewarding way. It all just feels easier. It feels like there is more choice now on how the class operates and functions.
Hence, Ease Education: Teaching at a Human Scale.
I have created Ease to be a place to share the deliberate acts of teaching and relationship that I have found to have had a positive impact on the culture of learning in the classroom. To share those strategies that are making our class a fun place to be and consequently, an easier more productive learning environment. For everyone. And it really means everyone. It’s all about inclusivity.
This new way of working accommodates those children who think differently or who have different interests or different needs. Because all children come to school with different life experiences, expectations and emotional needs. ‘Teaching at a Human Scale’ allows for all those differences to be catered for. As a class, we are all on a journey together. And it’s this journey of exploration that I want to share.
Of course, when I use the word learning, I mean learning in the most broad definition that the New Zealand curriculum documents currently give teachers license to implement.
The New Zealand Early Childhood Education curriculum (Te Whariki) and the New Zealand Curriculum (for years 1-13) are held in high regard in teaching communities the world over, for the freedom and flexibility they give teachers.
But that flexibility doesn’t always get transferred to the classroom. Teachers often find themselves working in a system that is effectively at odds with what these curriculum documents offer. The child-centred principles enshrined within these documents are not matched by the day to day actions in the classroom. I fear that those wonderful principles are at risk of becoming so diluted as to become meaningless.
Administrators’ penchant for teachers to be ticking achievement boxes, has practically boxed them in. Politicians’ penchant for creating ‘world class learners’ has led to an education system that looks increasingly dehumanised. Parents’ penchant for having ‘selective amnesia’ of their own schooling experience, consigns their own children to repeating the same misadventures on the pathway to adulthood and the ‘real’ world.
There is no shortage of evidence that justifies why we should be doing our utmost to put children at the centre of their learning and humanising the teaching process. The research and literature that promotes child-centred learning implores us to teach with our hearts as well as our heads.
And that’s where Ease comes in. I have taken that first tentative step towards exploring the ‘how’; how is it possible to truly and genuinely, put children at the centre of their learning experience?
I want Ease to be a meeting space/testing ground where the child-centred literature and educational philosophies intersect with the realities of daily life in the classroom. I want Ease to be a place to explore ways of humanising the teaching process.
To do so requires the support of the administrators and school communities. There is a need to educate the administrators, teachers and parents. There is a need to expose them to the research and literature. We need to highlight the existence of a viable alternative; that there is a better, easier way that will benefit all parties and most importantly, the children. We need to give administrators, teachers and parents opportunities to explore these different ways of working.
It’s time to take some calculated risks and to give yourself permission. There is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Finally, while Ease Education is mainly focused on primary school-aged children, specifically new entrants, the content being shared here can be applied to all age levels, and even beyond the classroom.
Ease Education: Teaching at a Human Scale