Report on the EC- Menz Summit held at Gems Shotover Country

16 to 18 March 2018

Friday 16 March
The conference began with kai, followed by the famous EC-MENz AGM. Again it was a most fabulous occasion with the report on events for 2017 being tabled along with the financials being presented.
An offer was received for the 2019 Summit to be hosted in Whanganui on the weekend of 17, 18, 19 May which was dutifully accepted. The meeting closed at 8.27 pm and the group adjourned to network and connect.

Saturday 17th March
The morning began with a session led by Karen Hayward (from Interlead) Titled “Getting Wired – Knowing your “Why” to up your motivation and Growing your resilience to thrive as a professional.
This was a fascinating session in which we were challenged to look at why we do what we do and how to keep the motivation to make a difference every day. The were to maximise the success of every learner is a big task and depends greatly on our shoulders as teachers. Karen highlighted recent stats that suggested more than 60% of New Zealand employees were not engaged in their work while another 15% were deemed to be totally disengaged. She then went on to discuss forms of motivation and how important Intrinsic Motivation is to drive our behaviour – with a strong connection to the “Tom Sawyer” effect where you turn work into play. Intrinsic behaviour also promotes greater physical and mental well being.

But to be Motivated Intrinsically teachers need Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

Autonomy is the desire to direct our own lives and it is acting with choice and Karen related that teachers need autonomy over Task, Time, Technique and from the team. If teachers have autonomy this has a powerful affect on performance and attitude and leads to engagement. If engaged then more likely to seek Mastery.

Mastery is defined as the urge to get better and better at something that matters. For Mastery to occur teachers need an inquiring mind, a willingness to experiment, to be open to finding fresh solutions and need to “be in the flow”- living in the moment, utterly in control and engaged. Karen also highlighted the need to find Goldilocks tasks which are defined as challenges not too hot and not too cold. She explained that if what staff must do exceeds their capabilities the result is anxiety and when the must do’s fall short of their capabilities they get bored. So this balance is very important in ensuring our teachers remain motivated and excited by their work – not over nor underwhelmed.

She defined Purpose as the yearning to do something that matters and doing it well. Being a professional with purpose is “doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them” Julius Erving.

Karen said those who that have purpose set goals – which are learning based not performance based. They choose their words carefully and talk of we rather than they and at the end of each day ask “was I better today than Yesterday”.

The next part of Karen's session was built around resilience and the impact change has on us.

Resilience was defined as “The ability to absorb high levels of disruptive change while displaying minimal dysfunctional behaviour” Daryl Connor.

Resilient people are not immune to change and are still impacted by it. Being resilient appears to result in the change not damaging them as much as others and they are able to see more opportunities than dangers in the turbulence of their environment.

They bounce back rather than become victims of change, The are able to maintain their physical and emotional health, they continue to achieve and their quality and productivity remain high. They remain more optimistic and are much calmer in periods of instability. In other words, resilient people tend to be optimistic and are more likely to view change as an opportunity whereas inflexible people tend to be pessimistic and view change as a danger.

The problem with danger orientated people is that they see change as a threat and can often feel victimised. Often they lack a strong sense of vision and purpose for their lives and struggle to re-orientate themselves when disruption happens. They have an either/or view of life and don’t cope with ambiguity or the grey aspects of life. They feel insecure in themselves and their ability to manage change. They are often reactive and blame others for the problems caused by change and they can be immobilised and react with fear denial and complacency.

Whereas opportunity orientated people view challenge as a natural part of life and can come to view it as an opportunity or advantage, they expect confusion and use their strong life vision to guide them through this. They see disruptions and problems as being a part of life and minimise negative events and its impact on their lives. They don’t invest time in an effort trying to change what they cant and are creative in overcoming obstacles. These people are just as vulnerable as the danger orientated people but the difference is in how they react to the dangers/challenges as they meet them.

By looking at motivation and resilience, this helped set the benchmark for performance as a professional in a rapidly changing world. Karen has a really simple model of professionalism in which she had a line and put the motivation and resilient attributes above it and said we must always aim to keep above the line – this is what professionalism is. We are naturally wired to go below the line and seek safety but we must be strong to keep in focus and at the end of each day ask ourselves “was I better today than yesterday?”.

The next session was led by Morgan, one of the staff at Gems Shotover country, recapping her journey that has led to their very own Forest School weekly session that is presently offered by their centre. This was a journey that began on a farm down south by Colac Bay, a teaching degree and experience in a London School and a bad Ofsted (English equivalent of ERO) report.

As a result of the bad report, a new programme was designed including the need for transformation of the outdoor area. After uninspiring designs by the professional designers, she spent time designing and improving the outdoor learning environment firstly in her home school, in the North East of London, and then in a neighbouring school. Within ten months the report was turned around and they went from a school needing special measures to one with a judgment of outstanding.

This was a good lesson in the importance of a quality outdoor environment that allowed children to test themselves. Whilst in England she completed papers on forest schools and when it was time to return home, a call from her former employer with the plan for a forest session was enough to bring her back to the future.

Morgan discussed the challenges of setting up the forest school and shared the many ideas she has gathered including the importance of looking for positives and focussing on the benefits as opposed to always looking at the risks. That is not to say that risks shouldn’t be considered – of course they are important but sometimes she considers the emphasis is heavily weighted on the dangers rather than the advantages. If we turn that emphasis around then the focus being on the benefits makes it a much more important learning experience.

Morgan then shared her paper forms to explain what they do to prepare and to ensure that risk is effectively planned for.

After this session, it was then up the hill behind the centre. This is a most wonderful hill that is on one side of the flight path of the aeroplanes landing in Queenstown. The 4 year olds at Gems climb this as a rite of passage and some of us older ones took their time to take in the sights as we meandered to the top.(There was a suggestion that there could be a café half way but no….that was local folklore and very disappointing …. however referring back to the previous session it was a wonderful motivation to keep going and pure resilience managed the ensuing disappointment!!!!) This was a wonderful and memorable way to finish the day.

A barbecue dinner again at night and time for more connection.

Sunday morning began with a discussion on strategies on how to promote Early Childhood as a great career option for men and these will be utilised throughout the year.